A View From The Rez: Artist Statement

These photographs were made while visiting Pine Ridge Reservation, tribal home of the Oglala Lakota Sioux People. Since 1992, I have been traveling there regularly to visit the Reddest family of Lost Dog Creek. As an outsider it is always an honor to be welcomed into their home.

Knowing the critical debates, which arise with photographers entering the lives of indigenous people living under less fortunate circumstances has made it difficult to allow myself to exhibit the images I make on the Rez. These proud people live in one of the poorest counties in the United States, literally the third world within the borders of the richest country on earth. Among all the poverty and hardship I am drawn by the humble nature and sincere kindness of these proud people. I find visiting them valuable and rejuvenating, for me it is rejuvenating as a reminder of what is really important in life.

These images are dedicated to the memory of two elders who befriended me, Grandfather Eugene Reddest and Uncle Tommy Crow. I am grateful for their openness and ability to have lived with basic simplicity. It truly was an inspiration to have known them.

During one of the last times we shared together Grandfather Eugene wanted to know how I would use the photographs I had made of his family and friends. I let him know I expected they would only be as momentos for his family, friends and myself to keep. He requested that I should try to find ways to use them, which might help his family and people. This exhibit is an early attempt at bringing this work to a point where it may have some value as he hoped. The work here is only a beginning of an ongoing project. I hope to include the voices and images of others as I continue to work.

Mitakye Oyasin
(All my relations)

John Willis

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