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Wednesday, 21 October 2009


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That's a great picture, but I'd bet a pretty penny that it is far better in print than online. That looks like a prime candidate for the position of "Official Example of the Limits of Low Resolution, High Compression Online JPEGs".


Yes, and a prime example of how color doesn't help when it isn't right.


Feeling a little depressed with the onset of winter, Mike?
First the albatross; now this.

In both cases, the beauty of the images in stark contrast to their profoundly disturbing content served to expose a global embarrassment that many of us, in our comfortable surroundings rarely come in contact with. Worldwide contempt and disregard for our environment is analogous to the treatment that's been doled out to indigenous peoples. I wish I had a solution, but all I can do right now is to shake my head and hope that I can live a life that doesn't contribute to the problem. I'm open to suggestions.

Thank you for linking to these two issues.

you guys are funny... "Low Resolution, High Compression Online JPEGs" is the first thing that comes to mind when you see this story.
Dig a bit deeper for commentary guys.

Don't sell our readers short...as many as 50,000 people will see this post here today, and as many as 200,000 will see it before it scrolls off the page. I know many of them are capable of being moved by the content of your work. In any event the work will find its own audience from among ours.

It's always tough when the very first comment under a thread happens a superficial one (I just publish them in the order in which they come in). On the other hand, Adam (who is a frequent commenter and often very thoughtful and insightful) is also telling you something real. It might be analogous to being distracted by typos in a translation of Tolstoy; i.e., that poor color is distracting at least a few sensitive viewers from the message of the photographs. It's a trivial point, but not a meaningless one.

For myself, I was moved by your work to make a large (for me, that is, which means "large" only in the Little Drummer Boy sense) donation to the Red Cloud School after seeing your work. Despite which, I'm distracted by the poor quality of the JPEGs as well, I have to admit. What I see on the Times site and your site are all I can see of the work: it's the only way I can experience it. We don't have the advantage you have, of having the experience of the originals in our heads to fall back on.


Two of my favorite books, "On th Rez" and "Great Plains". Marvelous stuff!

Well, I'll own up and relay to the wider world what I said to Mike when I passed this interview & images his way:

"It really spoke to me a lot, the anguish he felt in seeing the poverty these people come from, the images of violence and neglect and lost people, contrasted with images of a strong and powerful culture that has a lot to offer. His words also brought a lot of things up in my mind, about the photographers role in saving a subject from some catastrophe, and our role as an observer and documenter versus being an active force for change."

I grew up in Saskatoon & Edmonton, up in Canada, where most of the "Indians" you meet on a day-to-day basis are either indigent, addicted, drunk, any number of stereotypes whether rightfully earned or not. That's almost the general consensus up her at times, not that all Indians are this way, but that many if not most are. Success stories are few and far between, and life on the reserves local is rough and cruel at times. The only stories we see on the news are of gang shootings, abandoned children, murders, abuse, neglect, and the like. I know in my heart that this is not the true story of these people, but it is the prevailing narrative that's out there.

This summer, I had the opportunity to see and hear from a musical group known as the Northen Cree Singers (www.northerncree.com). Their story, and the experience if hearing them sing live, has made me want to understand more about Native culture. I’ve only made some of the most tentative steps so far, reading a few books (I’ll be sure to search out Mike’s suggestions) and scouring the web for what positive stories I can find. Sadly, while the positive examples are there to be found and the stories are profound, they are far too often lost amid the larger social issues that Natives (and we as fellow Canadian citizens) are facing today.

While sympathy and respect don’t necessarily solve any problems, they’re what I’ve found, and they’re what I have to offer. Thanks for the opportunity to experience your images, Aaron.

I have spent most of my life among the poor, first in homestead country in northern Canada, and after escaping into the oilfield, in Africa and Latin America.
My favourite subjects are the kids in these places, but I have a more optimistic outlook. These people are not all condemned, although the odds are against them. Aaron is too depressed for me.

I hope that people take a little time with this link and not only look at the amazing photographs but read the interview. This is an incredibly important body of work. Mr. Huey does an excellent job bringing the past present and future together here. Being married to a woman that has dedicated her career to advocacy for Native American's health care I have had the opportunity to live on the reservation even though I am not native. I have experienced being "other" among people that are treated as "other" in their ancestral home.

I noticed a comment on the site about "white guilt" and I don't feel that that is what is intended by these photographs. I take away from it a sense of what is and the question of what can be done to help heal these wounds. The answer to the question rests in the hearts of the viewers. Become an advocate for social justice in some small way and you will be part of the solution.

Thank you Mike for bringing this story to my attention, and thank you Aaron for doing the work you do. People can tell me all they want about the magnificent progress of Western Civilization, but how we treat indigenous people and other ethnic minorities is utterly depressing. Until we value time spent caring for other people and animals above material wealth, Western Civilization will remain a failure in my eyes.


For what it’s worth, Mike basically got it right. I worked through the night Tuesday and by the time I posted my comment I hadn’t slept in almost two days. Out of force of habit, I checked to see if anything new had been posted to T.O.P., although I didn’t have enough time to read any longer posts, nor did I have time to click on any links. So all I saw was what was in Mike’s post: a single picture, a recommendation for an interview, a link to your website, references to recommended books on your subject (which obviously had something to do with Native Americans but was otherwise unclear) and a link to donate to the Red Cloud Indian School. Without the time to click on the links, all I could go by was the picture, which struck me as very strong yet significantly compromised by the technology. I thought that was a shame, so I posted my comment. For the record, I didn’t (and still don’t) know what the source of the posted JPEG was. I may have come from you, from the NY Times website, Mike could have converted it, or Typepad could have automatically reduced the quality level. At any rate, my comment wasn’t directed at you, it was a comment on the technical limitations themselves.

Now that I have slept and have a bit of breathing room, I went back to T.O.P. to catch up on the details that I had skipped over and to see if there were any interesting comments. Having read your interview, looked at the full slideshow at the Lens blog and having looked at your website, I obviously missed out on a lot yesterday and I can see how the disconnect between my comment and the quality and gravity of your work must have been jarring. At any rate, this is a very moving subject and I am happy to see that you are sticking with it as a long term project. While I have never been as involved as you are, and the degree of poverty is probably not as severe, I briefly taught 4th grade at a public school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City and I can empathize with your feelings of frustration and sadness. I went home many nights and cried my heart out. A lot of children in the U.S. never have a fighting chance and have to deal with adversity that is unimaginable. Your pictures help make the unimaginable real and give those of us who are far better off a glimpse of what Americans frequently choose to ignore. I have made a donation to the Red Cloud Indian School.

Best regards,

→ Side note: I do agree with Mike’s comments. I love the New York Times website, and I think they have done some wonderful things with multimedia, but I DO wish they would increase the size and quality of the pictures they make available online. I am sure that this is partly a bandwidth issue and partly an attempt to protect their rights in the photographs, but it strikes me as misguided. One trivial, but very real, example: as an expatriate American and a Yankees fan, I get my sports news from the Times online. The pictures that accompany the articles are often tiny and clicking on the “Enlarge” links rarely seems to help, as the picture that open in the new window are often no larger than the pictures on the page with the article text! This is an almost daily irritant and it is the kind of thing that drives readers to other websites for sports news.

Unfortunately this story is all too common among the indigenous peoples of the world. In Australia we had great hopes for the future when our PM Kevin Rudd issued an apology to the Aboriginal people, unfortunately very little has been done to since then and nothing has really changed. Aboriginal people in Australia have the lowest rates of schooling, the poorest health, the highest rates of infant mortality and the lowest rate of longevity.

Unfortunately Aboriginal issues both here and in other countries tend to polarise the non aboriginal population into 2 groups; those that think something should be done to improve the quality of their life and those who think they bring it all on themselves and think they deserve no help. I hope that work like Aaron's will have some success in changing things for the better by raising awareness.

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