Most “then and now” photo studies of extended time spans portray landscapes and architecture. But with A Gesture of Kinship, a Utah Museum of Natural History traveling exhibition, University of Utah cultural anthropologist Donna Deyhle and Moab-based photojournalist Bruce Hucko capture folk history with a unique voice, incorporating photographs, audio recordings and cultural studies from the Navajo world.
Participating in the Montezuma Elementary School Artist-in-Education program 20 years ago, Hucko befriended and taught many of the exhibit’s subjects during children’s photographic workshops. While taking their photos, he met field researcher Deyhle and appreciated her forward-thinking cultural views and dedication to give native people a voice. A partnership began, and in 2004, A Gesture of Kinship began with photographing and interviewing Hucko’s former students; Deyhle added global application of the work. Composite images include black-and-white photos of 20 Navajos, juxtaposed “then and now” photos layered over colorful southern Utah Navajo reservation backdrops, along with interview excerpts that create rich contrasts and a sense of place.
“People have thoughts about community, but to write them down and take photos acts as a reminder of these fleeting, important moments,” says Hucko, who believes there are beneficial implications in every community for similar projects. “Sometimes people leave, buildings get knocked down, and it’s nice to have a creative record of people’s sense of place.”
Join the creators for an illustrated lecture Aug. 28 at 3 p.m., preceding a 4:30 public reception.