Home > Book Recommendations, Photography > Book Recommendation: Faces from the Land

Book Recommendation: Faces from the Land

Faces from the Land: Twenty Years of Powwow Tradition by Ben and Linda Marra is acollection of simple documentary photographs that were carefully and lovingly executed over the course of two decades.  Dancers stand in front of the same brown sweep backdrop with even lighting, their faces framed by their dance regalia, and their personalities shine in the photographs.  The book indicates the couple started the photography and documentary process in 1988; the copyright date of the book is 2009.  Each dancer is quoted in the book, excerpts from interviews are included with the portraits.  This book is so beautiful, I would want to take a stack of them to give away as gifts if I were traveling abroad.

I was once talking to a Women’s Northern Traditional dancer with a heavily beaded elk dress.  I asked her if she knew how much her dress weighed and she laughed.  She told me that after a year she had wondered that herself and had bundled it up into the hanging tray of grocery store scale.  The dress alone weighed in at 55 pounds [25 Kgs].  She loved the beaded dress so much and loved dancing, she told me she never would have thought the dress was that heavy.  You see that love of Powwow culture in this book.

Here is an endorsement from the book’s main website which also has more photography portfolios available to view including the ones shown below:

“The power of a portrait comes from the interaction of photographer and subject. Without mutual cooperation such images lack integrity and dignity. I have never seen a Marra portrait of a reluctant, embarrassed, or hostile subject. The people he photographs look into his camera and trust him to bring out their individuality and confidence in their milieu. Thank heavens for photographers like Edward S. Curtis and Ben Marra. They have enriched our visual heritage of American Indians and offer an enduring tribute to their subjects.”

Joanna Cohan Scherer
Emerita Anthropologist
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D.C.

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