Yasuomi Hashimura’s series Native Americans is the culmination of over half a decade’s worth of work. Between 1983 and 1989, Hashimura traveled to various Native American reservations (primarily to the White Mountain and Navajo tribes) to meet with, live among, and photograph the indigenous population. Hashimura initially had no intention of creating a series of work there; he simply wanted to go and to meet these people he had heard so much about. To do so had been a deeply held longing that Hashimura carried with him since his childhood in Japan. Finding himself based in America by the 1980’s Hashimura was able to often stay for one or two weeks at a time on these reservations, witnessing both the day-to-day living of the tribespeople, as well as observing their ancient rituals, ceremonies and traditions.
Both document and fine art series, Native Americans looks at social change, tradition and nature through Hashimura’s unique lens. Hashimura’s subjects are held within a wide, sprawling landscape of reddened rock, a tapestry of sedimentary layers and an expanse of endless blue skies. Upon closer inspection, we see aged, detailed faces with deep lines, not too dissimilar from the mountains all around. Each picture depicts a landscape of change, a literal landscape, a figurative landscape, a political landscape and a psychological landscape. These images present the results of transformation both in the historic long term and in the immediate now. On one hand we have the immense beauty of the native people in an incredible location, while on the other we are presented with scenes of poverty, upset and harsh living therein. It is Hashimura’s ability to render both of these aspects with the same care and artistic nuance that elevates these images from essential documentary work to the rungs of fine art.
“I salute the light within your eyes where the whole Universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am that place within me, we shall be one.”
- Crazy Horse, Oglala Lakota Sioux (circa 1840-1877)