Photographer Dana Gluckstein Presents Guest Lecture at BYU MOA
Guest Post by Dallin R. Adams, MOA Marketing Intern
It was a great pleasure to host such an incredible photographer, and even greater person, here at the BYU Museum of Art on Friday, May 18, 2018, at the opening of the exhibition Dana Gluckstein—DIGNITY: Tribes in Transition. Dana Gluckstein presented at Guest Artist Lecture at the MOA that evening, speaking about her career and the experiences she’s had that have shaped her.
In his introduction of Dana Gluckstein, MOA curator Kenneth Hartvigsen said, “The beauty of these photographs arises not only from Dana’s technical abilities, but from the strength of her character and her commitment to the people that she photographs.” Attendees at her lecture can attest to this sentiment. Gluckstein’s photographs are beautiful not only because of her technical skill, but largely because they reveal a part of the person’s very soul. The insights into the cultures and lives of Indigenous Peoples through her photography is astounding.
Early in her twenties, Gluckstein began photographing those she refers to as “the ancient ones, those that had a wisdom and knowledge that was different than how [she] was raised.” She felt that this work was her calling, that by learning from different peoples and their cultures, she could find the wisdom and knowledge she was searching for.
Through her work, she has been able to find that wisdom by using her camera to “stop time and create an authentic moment.” She describes these authentic moments as “an exchange between human beings that says ‘We are one. We are really the same.’” This message is one that she has continued to learn throughout her entire career. She described the honor it has been for her to spend time with and learn from such wonderful people throughout the world. “Ancient ones have an incredible gift to give us,” she said. “That gift is that we are all connected. We must fight to keep that connection.”
As part of her personal calling and mission Gluckstein has done just that—she has fought to maintain the connection with all the peoples of the world. Through her art she has brought the voice of Tribal and Indigenous People to far-reaching places across the globe, to places where their voices had not been heard. Sharing the cultures, the lives, the experiences of Indigenous Peoples has led to a United Nations declaration and brought forth policy changes in multiple countries.
After describing her career and life experiences at BYU, Gluckstein then opened up her presentation for questions from the audience.
One member of the audience asked Dana why it was that she chose to photograph the specific groups of Indigenous Peoples that she did.
Dana replied that “we have to start out with the still, small voice inside of us.” Although she was a psychology major at Stanford, there was something that drew her to photography. This love of photography led her to San Francisco where she began photographing for design companies. Those companies sent her to faraway places to take pictures of their factories.
During one work assignment, she finished early and found herself wanting to visit Haiti, near where she was staying. In her words, she “felt on fire photographing the amazing, beautiful people there. I was so moved by the spirit of the people. So profoundly hurt by the level of poverty, but that was where I created the first image of the Haitian lady, which became the cover of the book [DIGNITY] years later.”
As a young artist, she was not really sure why she chose the people she did. Only years later did she begin to understand why she was led there: to learn from people who understood that we must think about the earth and the future of our children. People who respect the earth and one another. People who realize that we are not as different as it may seem, but that we are one.
Another audience member expressed a concern. She asked, “It feels like these days individuals cannot make a difference…. How do we change the world?”
Dana responded by saying, “The journey is a long one, and we just must not give up. Our humanity is based on not giving up. We have to begin having the conversations in our communities and in our families that are the hard ones.” We need to make an honest effort and do the best that each of us can do personally. We need to come together and recognize that “we all revere life.”
She noted that change can be difficult, and the changes may come slowly. For our benefit, she suggested that “we need to make sure that we keep in balance the work that we do to help the planet, and our own personal caregiving, or else we will burn out. It’s not going to change overnight, so keep in balance, take care of yourself.”
All those in attendance with Dana that night were enlightened by her words and experiences. “Dana has achieved something remarkable with this body of work,” said museum curator Kenneth Hartvigsen, “and when you experience DIGNITY: Tribes in Transition I hope you pay attention not only to what you see, but also to what you feel. This is a truly special, profound exhibition, and I believe that if you allow it to this is an exhibition that can change your life.”
Dana Gluckstein—DIGNITY: Tribes in Transition is open at the BYU Museum of Art through Septembe 29, 2018.