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Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Lucie Foundation>> Interview with Morgan Levy, 2015 Emerging Artist Scholarship Recipient
Interview with 2015 Emerging Artist Scholarship Recipient, Morgan Rachel Levy
As Soft As The Earth Is
the 1940’s the U.S. government forcibly relocated the affiliated
Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes to construct the Garrison Dam. It
was an area the tribes had occupied for centuries. In a matter of years
the land was flooded and the their ancestral home vanished under water.
February 2015 I’ve traveled four times to the Fort Berthold Indian
Reservation to focus on this series entitled As Soft As The Earth Is. I
was initially drawn to North Dakota out of curiosity, wanting to
understand the scars fracking left on the land and the community. I’ve
learned in the past two years that oil fits into a larger, more complex
and intergenerational story of disenfranchisement, loss, trauma, and
resilience. To address this history, which is written across the
landscape of Fort Berthold, I’ve photographed the earth and the body of
water that flows through the reservation. I have also photographed and
interviewed community members who, like the landscape, carry the weight
of history. Conversations with residents have underscored that while
fracking is destructive and disruptive, decade of disenfranchisement by
the government had already traumatized the community. As one individual
remarked, “the tribe’s been through so many involuntary transitions,
we’ve barely been able to get stabilized before another jolt hits.”
combining portraits, landscapes, and excerpts from interviews, I’ve
tried to visualize and evoke the experience of loss over generations.
What drew you to pursue a project on this subject?
late 2014 the New York Times published a series of articles about the
downside of the oil boom. Throughout these articles the act of scarring
came up repeatedly; individuals scared from injuries working on oil
rigs, the landscape scared from fracking and water waste spills. And it
just struck a chord. I felt there was a bigger more complex story to
tell about the people living through this kind of trauma and so I was
pulled north. Thanks to my very dear friend Teresa, I was able to
connect directly with people on Ft. Berthold, as coincidentally this is
where her family is from.
do you go about preparing for the interviews and portrait shoots that
make up this project? Did you connect with your subjects prior?
prepare for the interviews, I read a fair amount of non-fiction and
news articles on the subject though there is always more one could read!
an outsider in this community my primary goal was to learn as much as
possible about the history of the M.H.A. Nation and its residents’
personal experiences through conversations with the people living
through this change. A vital part of my process has been to spend
extended time with my subjects prior to photographing them as I’m trying
to translate sentiments and ideas expressed verbally into visual
imagery. I’m trying to create photographs that I hope fairly represent
the various attitudes of the community.
Has winning the Lucie Scholarship impacted your career, and if yes, how?
the Lucie Scholarship, like winning any award, is a wonderful form of
validation that encourages you to keep moving forward. I was able to
continue this work on Ft. Berthold thanks to this scholarship, and I’m
sure this experience will have unforeseeable positive impacts on my
career in the future.
make images. Visionaries teach you how to see. The Lucie Foundation is
proud to support emerging talent with vision and dynamic ideas that
challenge and progress the art form of still photography into work that
compels. Our support of photography is broad, from Fine Art to
Documentary and Photojournalism, to digital and film-based works. Our
concern is to support emerging photographers producing work that is at
once gripping, and original.
Lucie Foundation is proud to offer three cash grants to support the
work of emerging photographers – one $2,500 scholarship with an open
theme and two $1000 scholarships for photographers working in the fields
of Fine Art or Documentary/Photojournalism.