Published July 27, 2016
LOS ANGELES – Pamela J. Peters is an Indigenous multimedia documentarian from the Navajo Reservation currently living in Los Angeles. Her work explores the lives and the diversity of the contemporary American Indians experience in contrast to ethnographic ephemera.
Peters’ current project, Real NDNZ Re-Take Hollywood, showcases photographs that disrupt and decolonize clichéd portrayals of Native Americans. This series “re-takes,” or recreates classic portraits of movie stars of yesteryear by replacing those past film icons with contemporary Native American actors. Photographing “Real NDNZ” in the elegant clothes and iconic poses of James Dean, Audrey Hepburn, and others from the classic period of Hollywood film—rather than in the buckskin, feathers, and painted faces featured in most Hollywood westerns—deconstructs time-worn, demeaning representations and opens up new possibilities for seeing Indigenous peoples as contemporary, creative Indian people.
Peters aims to dismantle that perception of how the public views American Indian people, and has been quoted as saying, “The idea of the relic stereotypical Indian needs to change and this project is an intervention of the negative representation of Indians that has been the norm in mass media. Even today, films such as The Ridiculous Six and The Revenant only showcase Indians as relics of the past with storylines with as Indians as obstacles to progress. I, however, would like people to think critically about my photos, and hear the young performers’ stories about how they navigate an extremely competitive field of entertainment. Furthermore, I want society to know that we are many nations, with many stories, and that we can make a conscious choice to reshape perceptions of modern Indians today.”
Her seven participants are from various tribal nations living in Los Angeles today including Dakota, Cherokee, Crow, Blackfeet, Shoshone, and Seminole. Noah Watts, for example, from the Crow /Blackfeet tribe is a talented actor and musician who can be compared with James Dean, or even Elvis Presley. Shayna Jackson, from the Dakota and Cree nations, shares a striking resembles to the spirit of a classical Audrey Hepburn. Deja Jones, a young talent new to Los Angeles, resembles a very exotic Eva Gardner, and Kholan Studie from the Cherokee nation, has been compared to a young Tony Curtis. Krista Hazelwood from the Seminole nation has the allure of a young Eartha Kitt. and JaNae Collins from the Dakota nation possesses the glamour of a young Jane Russell, or when partnering with her boyfriend Brian Vallie (Crow Nation) they evoke the style of Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in a Bonnie & Clyde match up.
All participants have a passion to work in the film industry, but they also have ties to their tribal communities and enjoy sharing their respective backgrounds with each other. Peters’ project provides viewers with a glimpse into their lives as they maintain their heritage connections as they pursue their dreams, and get a sense of the diversity of the Indian experience today.
Peters will give a preview of her work at These Days LA at 118 Winston Street, Los Angeles, 90013 from Aug 4th to 7thfrom 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. . Information about the show can be found online at https://thesedaysla.com Her exhibit will showcase 24 images and a short video of her project which will be shown through each day. In addition, on Saturday, Aug 6th live art and drumming will be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. (More photos can been seen at www.realndnz.com).
This project is a continuation of Peters’ overall objective of showcasing contemporary American Indians living in Los Angeles. This project is the second chapter of her series on NDNZ living in Los Angeles. She continues to seek funding to expand this project further at https://www.gofundme.com/realndnz where donations can be made.