Michelle Vignes is a documentary photographer
and photojournalist who lives in San Francisco.
Here she presents selections from
two of her ongoing bodies of work.
This is an essay about the vivid atmosphere of Oakland's music.
Oakland still reigns among the primary capitals of the music world, although
here, as elsewhere, its sounds have gone underground. Music born
of the sweat of black slaves working on the plantations in the
South, a century later became the music of black workers in the factories in
the North and West.
"Each person upon this earth had ancestors who lived in close harmony with all of nature. For too many, this basic tie between man, spirit and creation has been forgotton. The spirit, the very blood cries out for us to re-examine ourselves in relation to our environment and to one another.
The Indian occupation of Alcatraz island was an attempt of Indian people to awaken the nation and show the owrld that the Indian spirit would live for ever." --Peter Blue Cloud
I went for the first time as a photojournalist to document this event on Alcatraz. This was also the first time I realized that we all live on Indian land, and I was taken within the sacred hoop, what we call a circle. From this point, I followed the attempts by Indian people to show the reawakening of their pride, re-educating non-native Indians to these changes.
I went to Wounded Knee and to many historical events that became part of the circle. There are things happening in the present day which have a link to the past. Non-Indians would say it is only coincidence. Indian people say that is is the completion of a circle. This view of the sacred hoop makes history especially important to native people.
The history I am showing also centers around women. I learned that the First Woman is the most powerful among the spiritual figures, because she represents regeneration. The Earth is the mother, and the Moon is the grandmother.
It is also through a return to spirituality that Indians work to protect their cultural heritage, their pride of their origins and culture. This struggle is not only important so that Indians can survive, but for all of us. We need to hold on to the culture and sense of values that we are losing.
Through these images I chose to penetrate more deeply in daily life, both in reservations and in the city, showing the reality of native American life and its daily struggles, as well as their changing role in our society. I have attempted to stay away from the romantic version of Indian life that exists only in white society's imagination.
--Gerald Vizenor (Anishinabe)