This is my trusted Hasselblad camera, that I’ve used since I was 23 or 24. I got my first job photographing factory workers for a computer company called Quantum.
You must all be wondering why a Jewish girl from a Republican tribe in Los Angeles found her way to Africa. I am not going to talk so much about my photography, but I want to tell you about my lifelong journey to portrait indigenous people struggling all over the world for their land, their air,
their water, their rights. Many of them will disappear. I want to capture these tribes in transition during this fleeting period of history.
Although I came from an affluent family, two of my father’s sisters had a terminal illness and so we had an early understanding of mortality. My father’s middle sister died when I was 12 and was my first mentor, the first person to really influence me. When I was 19 my dad’s second
sister died of breast cancer, and that really changed me because I wondered if maybe my life would be short and I had to live every day to its fullest. So I went back to Stanford and decided not to study psychology but to follow photography.
The next transitional part of my life was in my late 20s. I had the privilige of studying with the Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr. for his work during the Vietnam war. It made me realize that even though I had been in advertising, art could transform people in a more meaningful way.
Shortly after, I had a dream that I was swimming with an ancient pod of dolphins and I heard the direct words imparted to me that my mission in life would be to work with the ancient ones, and that my job would be to be their voice. Traditional people are inherently close to the earth. They are the keepers of the dream. They are also the canary in the mine, if they perish so do we. For example, if we are dealing with nuclear issues all over the planet, tribal areas are also impacted. I hope when you feel these images that what you feel the essence of the person – a homeopathic healing dose of their DNA that is being transferred to you. In this photograph, her spirit is going out to millions of people.
I feel very much that this work is starting to be a voice for people that don’t always have that voice. I want to tell you a little bit about a project that is my life’s passion and dream that comes from my still photography work with indigenous people. About ten years ago, I read a book
“In the Absence of the Sacred” by Jerry Manders and in that book there’s a chapter where he talks about Hawaii. I learned about young people that gave their lives to stop the bombing of an island called Kaho’olawe that was never on the maps, I was so fascinated I flew up to meet the author and he introduced me to the people in Hawaii. Their story was one of a culture nearly decimated, and it was right in our backyard. We stay in the hotels, we see the dances, but we don’t realize that Hawaiians were beaten for speaking their language, the hula was outlawed because it was too sensual. President Bush Sr. returned the island, Clinton made an apology for all that has been done.
I am in the process of making a feature film of this story based on the life of George Helm, Jr. who was the Martin Luther King, Jr. of the Native Hawaiian people. Many believe he was assassinated in the 1970s. Hawaii is the epicenter of the rainbow melting pot where Barack Obama had his coming of age. Like Obama, George was a powerful visionary and his legacy helped shape Obama’s view of the world.
My images are about the divine breath. We are becoming one tribe. The true meaning of Aloha is the divine breath of God. The word for foreigner means to be without breath. I truly believe that our world is merging and we are connected in so many ways. I would like to leave you with a very brief clip of George Helm. I want you to see that the indigenous story is here in our own backyard. This feature film will tell a universal story of peace.
One of the things that happened this year because of the exhibition is that I was urged to form a non-profit organization called Tribes in Transition to further this historic work of documenting cultures in transition. I look forward to speaking to you in the days to come to hear your ideas and thoughts. I hope you will help me in this endeavor.