“Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field” Reveals Contemporary Issues Through the Lenses of Three Indigenous Photographers

October 19, 2022
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Exterior of Heye Center building

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York presents “Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field,” an exhibition of photo essays by three Indigenous photojournalists. “Developing Stories” was originally expected to open at the museum in March 2020 and a version of it exists as an online exhibition. The upcoming installation of the show will be presented Nov. 3–March 12, 2023 and will bring all three essays together in one gallery. In addition to the original content, the exhibition will be enhanced with an audio tour and a multi-media component featuring the three photojournalists discussing their images. The photographers will appear at a public program Q&A event Feb. 4, 2023.

Photo Essays 

  • Russel Albert Daniels (Diné descent and Ho-Chunk descent), “The Genízaro Pueblo of Abiquiú.” Daniels brings attention to a nearly 300-year-old community in New Mexico that was born out of violence and slavery. In this essay, he examines how, through annual festivals and feasts and their relationship to the land, Genízaros—detribalized descendants of freed Native American slaves—have maintained their sense of history and identity to the present day.
  • Tailyr Irvine (Salish and Kootenai), “Reservation Mathematics: Navigating Love in Native America.” Irvine examines the legacy of U.S. government regulations affecting Native Americans’ most personal decisions. Specifically, she focuses on the challenge blood quantum requirements (the amount of tribal affiliation in a person’s ancestry) pose for young Native American couples who want children and want them enrolled in their tribe. In early 1900s, the U.S. government began imposing this system on tribes as a means of defining and limiting citizenship. While some tribes still use this method for determining eligibility for tribal enrollment, other Native nations use documentation of a person’s descent from an enrollee on a designated tribal roll or census records.
  • Donovan Quintero (Diné), “The COVID-19 Outbreak in the Navajo Nation.” Photographer and journalist for the Navajo Times, Quintero explores how the pandemic affected the everyday lives of the Diné over the course of a year. The images highlight the resiliency of the Diné and the critical roles played by healthcare workers, police, council members, and unsung heroes of the pandemic.

About the Exhibition 

“Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field” is a series of photo essays created by Native photojournalists in collaboration with the National Museum of the American Indian. Each photographer explores an issue that is of deep personal interest and touches the lives of Native people in a specific community. The essays feature compelling photography and thought-provoking insights into contemporary Native life and, in so doing, nuanced perspectives on American experiences that are largely invisible to mainstream society.

“Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field” is curated by Cecile R. Ganteaume. Collaborators Tristan Ahtone (Kiowa), Editor at Large at Grist and John Smock, director of photojournalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York, provided editorial and technical expertise to the museum and photojournalists throughout the development of each photo essay.

About the Museum

In partnership with Native peoples and their allies, the National Museum of the American Indian fosters a richer shared human experience through a more informed understanding of Native peoples. The museum strives towards equity and social justice for the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere through education, inspiration and empowerment. For additional information about the museum, visit americanindian.si.edu. Follow the museum via social media at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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Lisa Austin

(212) 514-3826


Becky Haberacker

(202) 633-5183


Note to editors: Photos are available at this link.