“Indigenous Photography: The importance of Self Representation in the Native American Community.”

May 13, 2021 11:00 am



Ticket Price: Free

Join us as artist Cara Romero presents our May lecture.

“My greater intention is to create critical visibility for modern Natives, to get away from that one-story narrative, and to dig into our multiple identities.  Our stories are entrenched in our ancestry, and traditional ways of knowing, and how they manifest today, that’s what’s important to me.”  – Cara Romero

Cara Romero, a Chemehuevi artist from Santa Fe, New Mexico, known for her dramatic digital photography that examines Indigenous life through a contemporary lens, is our Friends Lecture Series speaker for May.

Ms. Romero was born in Inglewood, California, and grew up between the rural Chemehuevi reservation in the Mojave Desert of California and the urban sprawl of Houston, Texas. Her identity informs her photography, a blend of fine art and editorial styles, shaped by years of study and a visceral approach to representing Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultural memory, collective history, and lived experiences from a Native American female perspective.

Romero has made an ongoing series of First American Girl portraits to examine past representations of Indigenous women as dolls and reclaim their Native identities. The portraits are of real Native American women, photographed in life-sized doll boxes and include personal accessories.


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Cara Romero gets away from that “one story narrative of Native Americans” with “Water Memory,” 2015 that is part of a series of photographs that talks about twin histories: The flooding of tribal lands to construct US dams; and the pumping of resources from Native soils, by extractive industries.  She is from a tribe that was flooded out of ancestral lands to create Lake Havasu, a reservoir on the Colorado River between Colorado and Arizona.  This series was pivotal for Romero because it brought her work to the attention of the Smithsonian.  After that, her art became an examination of things that were important to her- things that scared her, but she knew to be true.  She started working with female figures.  She wanted to break through the exploitative white male lens that had dominated Native American photography for over 100 years.

The National Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the American Museum of Britain all hold her work in their collections.  She has won multiple first-place awards at the Santa Fe Indian Market.  In 2019, Ms. Romero was an artist in residence at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  In addition to her work as a photographer, Romero directs the Indigeneity Program at Bioneers, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Fe that is dedicated to climate change issues.

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