Cultural Context and Photography

I became a photographer because of my passion for people and the cultures of the world. Photography has given me access to all sorts of people from various cultures and backgrounds. My camera is my tool – my means to my end. And that is to tell peoples’ stories through my images – whether they be still or moving.

I was going through some images this week that I had shot in Easter Island a few years ago. Easter Island had always been a destination high on my list of “must sees” and it lived up to my every expectation. It was remote and wild with a constant wind that energized me. A place in the world that somehow felt untouched, unlike so many other destinations in the world that have suffered from the negative effects of the onslaught of visitors due to their own intrigue or beauty. In Easter Island the culture still felt real.

The first few days my partner and I spent driving around the island, which isn’t hard to do because of the virtue of its size. In the main town, I noticed that most of the people I saw out and about were men. Men with exotic looks riding through town bareback on horses with their long black hair blowing in the wind. It was quite a provocative sight speaking both as a photographer and as a woman.

After attending a dance performance one evening I made arrangements to photograph one of the dancers – out in the natural environs of the island. I wanted to capture the spirit and the feeling of the people and the land. Tom, my partner and I met up with our subject who was in typical “western” attire and not made up. He asked us if we would transport his “weapons” in our vehicle as he couldn’t manage that on his scooter, and we obliged.

He followed behind us on his scooter to the location that we had previously scouted and then he proceeded to strip down to nothing. Here we were in this incredible wild environment between an extinct volcano and the sea with a native man totally naked standing in the road – applying his makeup, using the side mirror of our car. I instinctively knew that even though these were not the images that I had planned in my head – these were images that told the story of his culture in a unique context.

We went on to photograph a wonderful array of environmental portraits and at the end of the day we took a “crew” photo of our little group. And then he got back on his modern day scooter, in all his tribal glory and I took a few parting shots. It’s days like this that is why I became a photographer.

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