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

In 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.

Since 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.”

By 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?
In 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.

How do you go about preparing for the interviews and portrait shoots that make up this project? Did you connect with your subjects prior?

To 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!

As 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?
Winning 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.

Read the Full Interview

Photographers 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.
The 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.
DEADLINE: June 15, 2017 at 12am PST


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