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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

People In Color


Nevada Wier is the quintessential traveler and global adventurer. Among her recent destinations are the outer, less-known areas of Burma and India.

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Mon Prince Tolei Konyak of the Konyak Naga Tribe, Nagaland, India.
In Outer India, she ventures into new lands with new methods. She has used infrared photography with stunning results. In Nagaland, a part of India as distant from Mumbai as it is distinct, her desaturated photos emphasize the unique culture. Wier celebrates an India that's more tribal and diverse than most Westerners would expect. Mumbai may be the second-most populous city in the world, but many of the one billion Indians don't venture far from their village homes or fall within any singular definition of what is "Indian."

For the Outer India project, Wier captured images and themes you'd never expect. She embraces the juxtaposition of the tribal culture in the modern world— ancient weapons in the hands of tribal children wearing the clothes you'd see at any middle school in the U.S. Her images remind us that it's not an omnipresent Western culture invading these remote areas; it's the global youth culture permeating everything at once.

Says Wier, "It doesn't strike me as odd; those juxtapositions seem very normal to me. But I'm not trying to mythologize cultures. Exotic and remote mean so much to so many people. Someone who has never left Los Angeles will find Santa Fe exotic. I don't think there are many untouched places left."

So she's documenting what she does see. The Naga people, who were once headhunters, have embraced Christianity—but have old skulls hidden among family. There are tribal children who listen to stories from the tattooed and scarred elders—but tune into Naga Idol on television. Says Wier, "Of course I want to document that culture—the elders who are the last tattooed—but I'm more interested in how the youth are going to retain their cultural traditions and still make their own way in this world."

To punctuate this point, Wier took a photograph of a young man in khaki pants as part of the Outer India project. This boy, a member of the tribe's royal family, is adorned with beads and the trophies of a great ancient hunter. They were probably passed down through generations, from his tattooed father and other elder tribesmen. And his underwear rises above his pants, like an adolescent boy in Any City, USA.

Nevada Wier sees in color—in her favorite blues, which she seeks to bring out in tribal cultures dominated by reds and earthy browns. She sees in desaturated grays and subtle hues manipulated by light. She even sees color that's unseen to the human eye through infrared photography. She travels and photographs and then she packs up her bags again and comes home. And then we can see in color, too.

You can see images from Nevada Wier's Outer India project, learn about photo tours and workshops, and see her incredible collection of global images on her website at www.nevadawier.com.

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