Other Projects

Samoan Style

A collaborative project with Samoan youth in Oceanside to document their culture

This project was funded by a grant from the Museums and Libraries Fund of the U. S. Congress and the Oceanside/American Samoa Sister Cities project.  I was one a number of “Artists in Residence” who worked with the Samoan communities in Oceanside and American Samoa to document and celebrate Samoan culture in Oceanside. Our group met on Monday evenings for six months beginning in September, 2000. We began with 12 young people (sixth grade through senior in high school) and two parents, and ended with 17 photographers and numerous dedicated adult photo editors.  We looked at the work of famous documentary photographers: Atget, Strand, Cartier-Bresson, Salgado, Koudelka, and then we looked at our own work.  We made lists of what we should photograph.  We used 137 disposable cameras, and made over 3000 photos— edited to 200 images in the first sort, then 100 work prints and finally 54 framed prints with detailed captions exhibited at the Oceanside City Library. The exhibition is part of the Samoan collection at the Oceanside City Library.

We began with basic technical considerations:  “The flash on a disposable camera won’t light up a football field at night.”  We ended with questions of emotion, point-of-view, and propriety: “That photograph is not respectful.”  From my outsider’s perspective we left wonderful, telling images on the editing room floor.  That was appropriate because the Samoan photographers, parents, and community leaders had the final call on what to exhibit. For the Samoan community the process of making the images and then deciding what not to show provoked as much thought as the exhibit itself. Although not subjected to the same scrutiny, my own images were also restrained. Here are three of the photographs I made.