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for people who care about the West

Navajo: Portrait of a Nation


Producing Navajo: Portrait of a Nation was a study in perseverance for photographer Joel Grimes. Grimes was a Belagaana, a white man, and his camera was seen as a threat by some Navajos - a way to take another small piece from a culture that has struggled to maintain its traditions. But with the help of Navajo guide Tom Bedonie, and the understanding that each person photographed must be compensated - say with a 25-pound of Bluebird flour, a sack of potatoes and a few dollars in cash - Grimes made his way across the vast Navajo Reservation, for two years photographing the young and the old, the traditional and the modern.

Grimes' black-and-white and color photographs are woven around text by Navajo writer Betty Reid. Interspersed throughout are ancient Navajo chants whose simple and beautiful language give readers insight into the Indians' connection to the land.

Navajo: Portrait of a Nation, Westcliffe Publishers, Englewood, Colo. 1992. 192 pages. Hardcover $45, paper $24.95. - Cindy Wehling