Photographs and Story by Marilyn Angel Wynn
Due to the plummeting economy, my photo trips and destinations have been put on hold. However, last June I decided to visit Anita, one of my best friends, in Southern California and to make an appointment with a doctor that she highly recommended. A planned trip always intrigues me to research the Native tribes of that particular area. Here was my opportunity to do what I enjoy most. That's to shoot pictures that show American Indian cultures. Through a Facebook friend, I made contact with Jacque Tahuka Nunez of Journeys To The Past. Jacque is a bearer of traditions of the Acjachemen Indian Nation (Indigenous people of Orange County). Little did I know about the "Hollywood style" production skills of this incredible woman.
Through phone and email conversations we scheduled a photo shoot that would involve five people to depict early village life. Jacque found a perfect location of a recreated village just outside of LA at the Santa Fe Springs Heritage Park. About 5 years ago, on a photo trip to S. Cal, I had previously photographed on this site called Tongva Village. So I knew ahead of time on what to expect. Opportunities of brush dwellings and a large pond with waterfall. Limitations of wire fences and the site being open daily to public visitors.
With Anita acting as my driver and production assistant, we headed off to meet our models and set up the photo session for that day. Like most of my Native American acquaintances when we need a variety of models, Jacque used her family pool. She would act as elder (although she looks young) in the village set-up along with her daughter-in-law and three young grandchildren. The most difficult part of the shoot was going to be the ages of the children. Two, three and a five year old who was a highly active youngster. Photographing young children is a whole lot like photographing puppies. You have to go with the flow and wait for something to happen. If you attempt to give any sort of direction then generally it's ignored. I lucked out. The children were all very patient, intrigued with using the artifacts (more like playtime than acting) and were delighted to wear historic garments (not to mention how adorable they looked).
The only thing that was a problem through the whole shoot was that I felt so overwhelmed and unprepared for all the activity going on at the same time. In one corner we had the grandmother basket weaving, in another area the little girls were climbing on the tule boat while the young woman would be dipping a gourd cup in the stream. The boy would be intrigued with the fishing net only to drop it and quit once I had the camera set up. My other dilemma was trying to use my DSLR to shoot both stills and video.Through sweat and chaos we all got through it some how. Just happy that the parents brought juice and snacks!
After the photo shoot, we went out for a delicious Mexican meal. Anita and I got to hear more about Jacque's inspiring passions. Dressed in her traditional shell decorated deer hide and grass woven basket hat, she travels to schools and museums giving presentations that include songs, stories and artifacts. Jacque's website is: www.journeystothepast.com
This week I got the courage to sit at the computer and start editing through the hundreds of photographs captured. After a long session narrowing the choice down to "the jewels" of the shoot, I was instantly surprised at how much we actually accomplished. The shoot turned out to be a great success! The priceless images will be a significant addition to my Nativestock Collection and for educational publishers. Already Jacque has plans to print postcards and is working on a book project that will add an assortment of these photograph's.
By using the photographic medium as my tool to bring Native cultures and traditions to the world, I feel so blessed to have captured living moments in time. Every time I press the shutter, I strongly feel that a higher power or the Creator steps in to make the picture happen. I'm only there to physically press the button.