Will Wilson’s timeless portraits of Native Americans

Photographer Will Wilson is challenging people’s perceptions of Native Americans through his iconic photography of indigenous peoples in stark contrast to the “frozen in time” imagery of photographers of yesteryear.

Will Wilson, a Diné photographer who spent his formative years living in the Navajo Nation, launched the Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange to question and expand upon the image of Native and indigenous people popularised by photographer Edward Curtis, who was prolific in the early 1900s.

The photographer has used an old photographic process known as wet plate to capture his sitters – modern day indigenous peoples in modern day times.

Will Wilson’s project challenges the stereotypes of Native Americans depicted by Edward Curtis in his “mythical” imagery, which to this day still appears to influence people’s perceptions of who indigenous peoples are and their lifestyle.

Using the old photographic format of wet plat, which even pre-dates Edward Curtis’ era, Will Wilson has created a portfolio that is engaging, insightful and alive, capturing the true energy and essence of indigenous peoples in this time and in this place. The subjects are “not frozen in time”, but what Will Wilson has captured is a collection of timeless portraits rather.

Will Wilson says: “As an indigenous artist working in the 21st century…I am impatient with the way that American culture remains enamored of one particular moment in a photographic exchange between Euro-American and Aboriginal American societies: the decades from 1907 to 1930 when photographer Edward S. Curtis produced his magisterial opus The North American Indian.”

Will Wilson continues: “For many people even today, Native people remain frozen in time in Curtis’ photos. Other Native artists have produced photographic responses to Curtis’s oeuvre, usually using humor as a catalyst to melt the lacquered romanticism of these stereotypical portraits.

“I seek to do something different. I intend to resume the documentary mission of Curtis from the standpoint of a 21st century indigenous, trans-customary, cultural practitioner. I want to supplant Curtis’s Settler gaze and the remarkable body of ethnographic material he compiled with a contemporary vision of Native North America.”

All images: © Will Wilson

Will Wilson

Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer who specialises in sustainable lifestyle and living, music, entertainments and wellbeing. Rosalind also works as a spiritual life coach and intuitive advisor helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com

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