Ojibwe Stories Project
As the end of the semester at Kent State University fast approaches, I am up to my eyeballs in my final project. It will be a real struggle to get it all done in a timely manner. For whatever reason, I must secretly love tormenting myself by making things way more complicated than they need to be. I couldn’t just decide to photograph children, or the homeless, or life on a rural Ohioan farm. No, that would make too much sense. Instead, I decide to create dioramas illustrating 20 of my favorite Ojibwe and other midwestern Native American stories. The dioramas are constructed by layering drawings, cut out pieces of photos and props. I then photograph each one in black and white for my final image. The 20 complete images will be edited down to the best 15 for presentation as my final portfolio for Intro to Fine Art Photography, due May 3.
I don’t expect anyone viewing the images to grasp the concept behind any of these stories. I am more concerned with sparking interest, however brief, over the unusual behaviors of the animals and dreamlike quality I am working to achieve in each scene. For example, in the work-in-progess above, Turtle hears the birds talking about flying south for the winter and all the good things they’ll enjoy when they reach their destination. Turtle wants a piece of the action and begs the birds to take him along. Since Turtle has a very strong bite, never letting go unless he wants to, Crow and Blackbird volunteer to carry him with a stick in his mouth. However, as Turtle is flown through the sky over the changing landscape, he is amazed by all the natural wonders he sees from his new vantage point. What were the places they passed? How much farther did they need to go? Unable to contain himself any longer, he opens his mouth to ask, only to plunge back to Mother Earth far below. Upon landing, he strikes a large rock beside a pond, cracking his smooth back into many segments. To soothe his wounds and hide his embarrassment, he crawls into the pond and buries himself in the mud to sleep for the winter and forget his foolish desire to migrate like a bird. To this day, Turtle still buries himself every winter in the mud to sleep and still wears cracks upon his back as a reminder that sometimes it is better to keep one’s mouth shut! (This is a great one for those long family trips in answer to the umpteenth “Are we there yet?”)