I am a self-taught photo-based artist and curator and my career in the visual arts began in 1979 following a life changing car accident that left me unable to work again. I turned to my interest in photography to begin a new life and focus on confronting photo-based stereotypes of aboriginal people. My research of photographic history pointed out two significant absences that would become the point of departure: The first was photographs depicting aboriginal people living in cities and the absence of images produced by aboriginal people. I was frustrated by the silence and challenged to stimulate conversations that did not exist.
I was born in Buffalo, New York and I am also an enrolled member of the Six Nations Reserve, my work would eventually lead to self-describe myself as an urban-Iroquois and finding a balance between the Iroquois identity my elders at Six Nations instilled me with as a teenager and the agency of survival in the city, in essence my career began with a goal of weaving a new story from the fragmented cultural elements left in the wake of North American colonialism.
From the inception of my practice I was influenced by the work of American photographer Edward S. Curtis, whose seminal work The North American Indian, would create a tension point for me. The idea was not to recreate a modern version of his study of tribal culture but to consider what he did “not” photograph and move forward. My intent of engaging the people he photographed was to break through its stasis with a post-colonial conversation on Indian-ness. My series “The Conversation” is the result of my 33 year journey.