In fall 2011, seven American Indian youth living in the greater Los Angeles area were given digital cameras. After a week of brainstorming sessions and photography instruction, they generated five themes around which they would create a series of images.
The themes were:
- Where we come from
- Things we want to ignore
- Ways we avoid violence
The youths gave the InSight researchers approximately 1,900 photographs and selected from their images the ones they wanted to represent the group’s themes. The selected images represent a deep and intimate engagement with the photographers’ location, identity, families (including pets), and dreams for the future. They are visual meditations on the structuring of violence through urban landscapes and surrounding poverties, as well as the importance of relationships, particularly with friends and family members.
Photography can reveal ways in which the world is constructed – through systems of meaning, optical vantage points, visual manipulation, and the contextual terms of presentation and reception. Its elasticity bears relevance in fields as varied as art, ethnography, state surveillance, citizen journalism, memory and recollection, debates around (visual) empiricism, and the significance of communal rituals and bonding. Visual literacy, digital acuity, and critical faculties can be crucial for contemporary cultural citizenship.
The InSight project was a collaboration between UCLA’s Gender Studies Department and the American Indian Studies Center with support and assistance from the American Indian Community Council, Los Angeles.