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silenced by any means
silenced by any means

Photograph Information Photographer's Comments
Challenge: Authority (Basic Editing I)
Camera: Fujifilm FinePix S7000
Location: Owyhee, NV
Date: Nov 23, 2004
Aperture: 3
ISO: 400
Shutter: 1/17
Galleries: Political, Persuasive
Date Uploaded: Nov 23, 2004

I teach on the Duck Valley Reservation and my students have been reseaching and studying the issue of the use of Native images by non-native organizations as mascots and logos.

The true history, which you won't find in any school textbook, is that the term "redskins" refers to the bloody body part, ususally the scalp, of a Native man, woman, or child, for which our government paid a bounty, essentially paying individuals to HUNT and KILL other humans. The gruesome act of scalping is falsely attributed to Natives, when in fact, it was Europeans who first introduced the act. Take a look at European customs in war and it is easy to see the truth.

This image is a response to the many times that Natives have been silenced by any means. Most recently, a well written bill in California regarding the use of Native images by non-native organizations passed the legislature, but was callously vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

The 18 year old male in this photo agreed to have his image used in this contest in the hopes that people will recognized the true horrific history and respect the wishes of those Natives who do not want their image used as cartoons or mascots.

I cropped, desaturated, manipulated the curves, and adjusted the brightness and contrast.

Place: 122 out of 149
Avg (all users): 4.4965
Avg (commenters): 6.3333
Avg (participants): 4.4156
Avg (non-participants): 4.5263
Views since voting: 1077
Views during voting: 396
Votes: 286
Comments: 7
Favorites: 0

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12/07/2004 12:31:13 AM
I would echo some scalvert's concerns about the communication of the specifics. Though I likely would guess that your model was Native American, I couldn't be sure (perhaps, Native American or Mexican American or even Arab American). While I don't think the ambiguity takes away from the emotional impact of the photo, I think the overall political impact would have been stronger with more specificity (a lesson I learned with my entry).

I'd would want to be careful about avoiding stereotype while giving the viewer enough information to get the visual metaphor. Perhaps a more targetted title would help or perhaps incorportating some of the tools of oppression (treaties, casino gambling, beer, the Lone Ranger, etc.) into the photo could also help. Adding the emblems of oppression I think avoid some of the stereotyping that making your model look more "Indian" would create.

I like the intent of you and your students to try to disembody the hand. I wonder if the same effect could have been achieved with a headless person (in perhaps a suit) standing behind your model. It could still convey the anonimity of power/authority while giving more visual cues about who is who in the photo.

But all of these are just thoughts on how a good photo might be further strengthened and focused - well done to you and your students.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
12/04/2004 12:19:33 PM
What a great way to tie in this site with your class, and a perfect concept for Authority! To your students who thought that the absence of comments was indicative of public indifference, I'd say the downfall of this image was actually a lack of communication, not the message. To me, it's not readily apparent that it's a statement about Native Americans- the subject could just as easily be any minority, or maybe teens in general.

Imagine if you had used stereotypical caricatures as your models: Native American dress, maybe face paint and redder skin (even if it means using makeup). That would make the white hand appear whiter without the need to overexpose, and you could even use a red, white and blue coat sleeve (Uncle Sam) for the hand. If the dress was apparent enough, then you could work in black and white or sepia for an Old West look (more symbolism). THEN you'd get plenty of comments and, with better lighting, maybe a ribbon.

Yes, I understand the situation is just as relevant now as 150 years ago, but it's simply harder to communicate "Indian" without some visual cues that everyone can understand. Keep trying! ;-)
  Photographer found comment helpful.
12/01/2004 11:17:04 PM
fyi a 6...... noted this foto during voting, I suspected that it was Native American subject, (now confirmed)having taught Jr High at Cheyenne River Res in Eagle Butte, SD, - a important experience for me. The collaboration of students and teacher on this image makes sense as a learning experience but the result also gives a character to the image that is an unusual gift to this challenge and site. I am most happy that a connection has been made, especially with a picture that contains such honest expression of the idea, both in the title and in the powerful image. My initial impression of the picture was that its only detriment was size. Use of the full 640 pixal size tends to be important in a format and matrix that is small to begin with. As for the editing, composition, colour etc. I can only say that the learning process goes on and on, both in making images and in looking at them. For me this is very good work, with some impressive thought behind it.
  Photographer found comment helpful.
12/01/2004 10:26:46 AM
My seniors actually helped me determine the composition of this picture, the light source, and to blow out the whites on the hand so that it looks even more disconnected and disembodied (from a brain).

This challenge gave my students a chance to look at image as symbol and how to look beyond the intial image to the message, intent, or meaning. We were fascinated at how few comments it got, the fewest of any of my submissions so far. That fact validated what they suspected, that very few people care about their plight. That, although heartbreaking, actually works in our favor since I spend a great deal of time encouraging them to speak up and out for what they believe in. Natives tend to be very quiet, in large part, due to the violent and bloody repercussions that their people have faced in the past. The importance of an educated mind, a powerful vocabulary, a confident spirit, an ability to choose one's battles well, and a determined soul are the essence of my classes. Thanks to all who pass this way and offer support.
 Comments Made During the Challenge
11/25/2004 06:57:03 PM
An excellent political statement. One of the best in this challenge!!!!
  Photographer found comment helpful.
11/25/2004 05:19:05 AM
interesting take on the challenge, showing the result of authority being applied, as opposed to authority itself. the expression is suitable. i wonder if the image would be stronger if cropped into to just the hand and eyes--if you're going to go that route, why not go all the way?
  Photographer found comment helpful.
11/24/2004 08:03:34 AM
Whites seem a bit blown out.

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