The winning image from our 10th Annual Photo Contest is so intense, it’s hard to believe it’s about a boy.
Chances to photograph traditional Native dances in the pueblos of New Mexico are rare, so when the opportunity arose to shoot Tewa tribal members during a ceremony, Teake Zuidema jumped on it.
The result is a stunner. The winning shot in this year’s C&I Photo Contest, Greyhawk From Ohkay Owingeh, captures 10-year-old Lauren Greyhawk in June 2013 at the end of a long day of dancing in the summer heat, his eyes showing fatigue — but no lack of intensity — after hours in his costume and face paint.
Zuidema, a native of Holland, was working on a story for a Dutch travel magazine, keeping an eye out for opportunities to photograph Native American culture. While he was hoping to document a tribal dance, he wasn’t holding his breath, as photography is usually verboten at such ceremonies. Then, a friend gave him some good news.
“I found out about this event, which is in Ohkay Owingeh [a Tewa pueblo north of Santa Fe]. They celebrate John the Baptist, who is the saint of the pueblo,” he says. “They do this particular dance, which is called the Comanche Dance. I heard that you’re allowed to take pictures there, so that’s why I showed up.”
The entire community turns out for the public event, watching as participants dressed in elaborate powwow regalia repeat the dance throughout the village over the course of the day. Amid all of the colorful movement, something about Greyhawk caught Zuidema’s eye.
“He was so intense and seemed so completely into the whole dance thing,” Zuidema says. “I could just see how much it mattered to him to be participating in this event.” The youngster’s serious disposition and dramatic tears of painted blood lend gravity to the portrait Zuidema took with a 70-mm lens on his Nikon D600.
After he sent Greyhawk the pictures, Greyhawk’s family invited him to come again the following year, an offer the photographer gladly accepted last summer. He took more photos of the dancer, this time following the boy throughout the course of the ceremony, snapping his first images as Greyhawk’s father, Raymond Chavez, applied his face paint.
Such encounters and relationships are Zuidema’s bread and butter. After studying cultural anthropology with the equivalent of a minor in video, film, and photography, he fell in love with taking pictures as part of his work and got a job with a Dutch magazine that sent him all over the world. He is primarily interested in indigenous cultures and has also documented the Maya in Mexico, tribes in the Amazon, and Lakota on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Earlier this year, the Pittsburgh-based photographer traveled to Central America to do a story on the forest through which a Chinese billionaire plans to dig the proposed Nicaragua Canal.
As for Greyhawk, he is preparing for June 24, when the pueblo will once again celebrate by performing the Comanche Dance. His mother, Patricia Maestes, says he has a special affinity for the dance because it allows more individual expression than others, which usually require participants to wear matching attire and face paint.
“It’s not so traditional,” Greyhawk says. “It’s really fun making your own costume with a bunch of different colors, and you can design them any way you want. Choosing your face paint is one of the funnest parts.”
From the February/March 2015 issue.