“You Don’t Look Native to Me”

“You don‘t look Native to me” is a quote and the title of a body of work, that shows excerpts from the lives of young Native Americans from around Pembroke, Robeson County, North Carolina, where 89% of the city’s population identifies as Native American. The town is the tribal seat of the Lumbee Indian Tribe of North Carolina, the largest state-recognized Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River, which means they are federally unrecognized and therefore have no reservation nor any monetary benefits. I am tracing their ways of self-representation, transformed through history, questions of identity with which they are confronted on a daily basis, and their reawakening pride in being Native. The work consists of portraits, along with landscapes and places, interiors, still lives, and situations. The aesthetic framework that is presented offers clues — sometimes subtle, sometimes loud — for imparting a feeling for their everyday lives. My work engages an unfamiliar mix of concepts: a Native American tribe whose members are ignored by the outside world, who do not wear their otherness on their physique, but who are firm in their identity. Through photography, video, and interviews, I am investigating what happens when social and institutional structures break down and people are forced to rely on themselves for their own resources. This raises questions to the viewer regarding one’s own identity and membership to the unspecified mainstream. This project deals with the need, but in there also the inherent want to be recognized and not questioned anymore as one important and necessary way to strengthen their cultural identity and therefore to be able to move forward. It was started in October 2011.


About Maria Sturm
Maria Sturm (*1985, Romania) received a diploma in Photography from FH Bielefeld in 2012 and a MFA in Photography from Rhode Island School of Design. She is a Fulbright and DAAD scholar. She has won several prizes including the New York Photo Award 2012 and the DOCfield Dummy Award Barcelona 2015 with the work Be Good Her work “You don’t look Native to me” won the PH Museum Women Photograper Grant, was shortlisted for La Fabrica Dummy Award and made the 2nd place at Unseen Dummy Award. It was published in British Journal of Photography and exhibited at the German Consulate New York, Clamp Art New York, Encontros da Imagem, Addis Foto Fest, Photo Vogue Festival, Artists Unlimited Bielefeld and Aperture Foundation New York among others. It will be next shown at Format Festival 2019. Having met in during a month-long residency at Atelier de Visu Marseille and workshop with Antoine d’Agata in 2012 Cemre Yeşil and Maria Sturm kept in touch ever since. Their collaborative work For Birds’ Sake was published by La Fabrica and featured in Colors Magazine, The Guardian, British Journal of Photography and ZEITmagazin among others. It was exhibited at FotoIstanbul, Bitume Photofest, Organ Vida, Format Festival, Daire Gallery, Pavlov’s Dog Berlin, Deichtorhallen Hamburg. It was a finalist at OjodePez Award for Human Values 2015 and Renaissance Photography Prize 2017, nominated for Lead Awards 2016, Henri-Nannen-Preis 2016 and Arles Author Book Award 2016 and Prix Levallois 2017.
Website: mariasturm.com
Patricia, Mescal and Frankie



Reflection #1

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