Dr.Blueberry and I are in Taos, NM for a conference this week, and tomorrow (which also happens to be my birthday), we're headed down to the Pueblo Reservation. We're going as a group with other conference-goers, and some of them are a little fussy about not being able to take pictures (it's a visual communication conference, so they are all about the visual imagery).
They're upset about pictures, while I'm struggling with the idea of going to look at people, as though they are caged (like animals in a zoo, for instance) and there for my viewing pleasure.
I'm feeling a bit dramatic about these feelings, and my dearest friend suggest I might blog about it, rather she suggested I might make some notes about how I'm feeling and make some sort of research project out of the experience. It's a really great idea, but honestly, I don't know how I feel about that either. So I'll start with the blog for now, and see where it goes.
About the picture taking: The Pueblos are saying that because we're academics who study visual imagery, we're professionals, which means instead of the $6 camera fee, the fee is around $300. And, the $6 camera fee is only for amateur photos that will be used only for personal use--no academic use, no publication, no reproduction, etc. allowed. This leads me to the conclusion that I cannot take a camera at all. I am by no means a professional photographer; some of the conference attendees clearly are. But, I blog, I post the pictures I take, I sometimes use them for academic purposes, etc. etc. So, the decision is easy: Remove the temptation to use photographs by not taking photographs. And, we can buy postcards with pueblo images at the reservation. Yes, they might cost a bit more money than if I took it myself, but given that selling "things" is a way for the Native American nation to make money, I'm ok with that!
It's the spectacle that concerns me most: the event, the scheme, the image that is regarded only for its impact. Spectacle, academically, is associated with Aristotle's tragedy. I wonder about the tragedy of Native Americans, who had their lands taken from them by white folks....I ponder the tragedy of living off the land that was theirs, was not theirs, and is now theirs again, but only by paying taxes to a government that barely recognizes them as natives to this country, let alone as human. And, then I think about the tragedy that the only reason the Pueblo Indians invite us (spectators) onto their reservation is because they need to make money to pay the government (there is a charge, after all, to visit the reservation).
This post will not be the end of this conversation...I'm really struggling with this issue.