A photographer has created a series of magnificent portraits after attending several Native American powwows.
Clark Dunbar was looking to update his portfolio by taking portraits of American Indians in full regalia. After attending a powwow, he tells PetaPixel that he became “absolutely hooked” on the people there.
“Their sense of traditions, family, and culture is amazing (along with the stories, dance, and other events happening),” he says.
“So it quickly became a passion project to expand — the early reaction/response just enhanced that it was something I really needed to do.”
A powow is a Native American gathering giving tribe members the opportunity to eat, dance, and sing while honoring their heritage.
Dunbar attended powwows in Montana where dozens of tribes were represented from all over the U.S. and Canada.
“The process is to arrange with the powwow organizers for permission to attend and set up my little — mini-studio (a canopy tent),” he explains.
“Once there I have a few prints on display to help showcase the project and style — at which point we set up the portrait sessions — I also will wander around looking for individuals to invite for the sessions.”
“I carry my phone with a gallery of images from the earlier sessions to show. Once we start shooting the portraits, there’s more discussion, stories, jokes being told, laughter, and of course asking them to help recruit/refer a few more for the project,” he continues.
“A lot of the sessions become family events with kids, uncles, aunts, etc – all contributing to the process.”
Dunbar uses a Canon R5 with a 24-70mm Sigma Art lens attached as well as using a softbox light with a reflector.
“The background in the camera is a mid-gray to help separate for the editing process in Photoshop,” he says.
“All the editing and grading is done in RAW, before final background replacement and ’spotting’ is done in Photoshop.
“All the lighting in the session is designed to pull out the character — so a lot of subtle placement decisions with the light and the subject.”
Dunbar says the thing he likes most about the project is the people who have “wonderful character and story.”
“I’m really proud of the reaction that the Native American community has given the images and the project,” he adds.
“Being able to show off this amazing culture in these images — opens a lot of eyes. So many people don’t know the power and connectivity these communities have to keep their traditions and culture alive and to educate their children on those values.
“I’ve been humbled by the amazing positive reactions and responses of my peers, friends, and industry — totally unexpected.”
More of Dunbar’s work can be found on his Instagram.
Image credits: Photographs by Clark Dunbar