In 2005, I founded a photography program for youths on Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. In this ongoing program, my students and I photograph together and are all subjects and photographers. Our favorite locations are the fields and abandoned buildings on the fringes of town, forgotten places thick with the past that lend themselves to imaginary games and textured photographs.
The absence of an adult presence is evident in both the childrenâ€™s play and our images. Empowered by the safety of this small town, children explore freely and develop a community of young people that operates largely without adult intervention.
Children have a unique ability to experience love and joy alongside pain without compartmentalizing their experiences. I seek to convey this complexity. My images explore play as a vehicle through which youth reveal and negotiate their emotions.
Over the course of five years, my students and I have documented our relationships with one another and this land. The validity and meaning of my images are linked to the shared context of their creation. Ultimately, my work will be exhibited alongside the childrenâ€™s photographs, which present the other parts of the whole.