If you haven’t read Ian Frazier’s “Great Plains” then take the time to do so. My second dance with Frazier came in the form of “On the Rez,” a book that drove me crazy in all the right ways. First off, working on a reservation has always been something that lurked in the back of my mind as if one day it might actually happen. The reality is it probably won’t, which is why books like this are so good. Frazier devotes major chunks of his life to spending time on the Pine Ridge Reservation, researching, experiencing and just hanging with friends. He’s an observer of patterns, details and minutia that equal a well balanced story that’s both honest and personal.
A part of me wonders what it’s like to do work like this without needing/wanting to make images, but the other part of me realizes the danger is the same. What you put in print is going to hurt in some way shape or form, and the lives of those you are recording are soft, fleshy and human. When damage is done it’s almost impossible to repair. Work like this demands trust, honor and the ability to say things that hold sharp edges, things that inflict when the eyes translate to the brain, but regardless of their threat level they still need to be said.
My recent decision to return to attempting to make new bodies of work has my mind racing about potential stories. Books like this are fuel. My stories won’t come close to what Frazier has done, but the book offers both insight and a much needed spark.