Gold 2017 / Editorial / Environmental


  • Photographer
    Tama Baldwin
  • Prizes
    Gold in Editorial/Environmental

The images in Watershed are of the Oceti Sacowin Camp of Prayer and Ceremony on the edge of the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. The Standing Rock Sioux, which suffered a massacre by the US Army on that land in the 19th century, are once again under siege by the government. This time a private company is running an oil pipeline through land belonging to the Sioux people right through sacred sites and burial grounds belonging to them and directly across the Missouri River just above their reservation, potentially endangering their water supply. They established the ceremonial camp to attempt to block the passage of the pipeline through their land, but the government has brought in a militarized police force along with a private security firm to brutalize the Sioux standing their ground on land they have every legal right to occupy. The police brutality has been well documented by international press, but I chose to focus specifically on the two mile long line of klieg lights brought in to psychologically disrupt the people living in the camp. This disruption of the darkness--the use of lights as a weapon--was of particular interest to me because it served more to illuminate the horror of a government turned against its own citizens than to disrupt this improvisational city which had blossomed to over ten thousand inhabitants on this weekend in December, 2016 when these images were taken. The lights illuminate the bizarre convergence of the past and the present--with images of tipis and suburban mini vans side-by side. They also create the specter of a potential totalitarian future with images of razor wire and klieg lights wrapped around a burial mound.