Little Thunder: My name is Julie Pearson-Little Thunder. Today is Wednesday,April 13, and I am interviewing Tom Fields for the Oklahoma Native Artists Project, sponsored by the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program at Oklahoma State University. We are in Stillwater at Tom's home, not far from campus. Tom, you're Muskogee and Cherokee, a photojournalist and a video producer, but you've also done fine art photography for many, many years. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Fields: Well, I was born in W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in1951. I sort of grew up all over Eastern Oklahoma. My father was a minister, so wherever he went, of course, I was there. (Laughs) I lived in Kansas, Oklahoma, lived in Grove, Oklahoma, live in Quapaw, Oklahoma, lived in Baxter Springs, 1:00Kansas, which is across the border from Quapaw. So, just Eastern Oklahoma, more or less.
Little Thunder: What are your earliest memories of doing art?
Fields: Of doing art?
Little Thunder: Of any kind.
Fields: Well, probably just making little houses, club houses, for the littlecowboys and Indians, as my Indians would attack the cowboys. (Laughter) Actually, probably in my field of photography, I used to--my dad actually had a little instamatic camera. That's kind of actually how I started when I think back, back. Of course, back in those days in his church, he would have slide 2:00shows, so that was always kind of fun for me as a kid.
Little Thunder: To see the slideshows?
Fields: Yes, to turn the lights off and watch the shots. Actually, that is kindof where my interest in photography started.
Little Thunder: That's interesting. How old were you then?
Fields: Oh, boy. I don't really know. Probably in elementary school somewhereand then just kind of still had that interest.
Little Thunder: So, you'd borrow your dad's--would he let you use that instant camera?
Fields: Well, yes, occasionally. Yes, I mean, it was just a little instamatic.That was my earliest memory of shooting a photograph and actually seeing it, the results.
Little Thunder: At some point when you attended Quapaw High School, did you takeany art classes there? 3:00
Fields: I guess you could call them art classes. I really don't know. It was areal little school. There were only like thirty students in my grade. It was probably your typical small town school--football, football, football.
Little Thunder: Right.
Fields: Art really wasn't a part of it, but we managed I guess, I think, to dothings. We had a teacher who was real, I guess, with it at the time. So, we did some things, but I really don't have memory of doing art in that school. (Laughs)
Little Thunder: In elementary or high school, basically.
Fields: Yes, my background really isn't that I grew up doing that kind of thing.It was something, probably, I came to later on in high school and that kind of thing.
Little Thunder: After high school what was your next move? What did you do?4:00
Fields: Actually, I went to California as soon as I graduated, sort of gotinvolved in different activities, Indian youth activities, those kind of things.
Little Thunder: There in California?
Fields: In California, like with the National Indian Youth Council, that group there.
Little Thunder: Oh, yes.
Fields: And then on into Los Angeles for a while. I stayed there right after Igraduated, so I got involved in that.
Little Thunder: I saw you were a student at UCLA in 1969.
Fields: Yes, that sort of evolved out of Clyde Warrior Institute, which was apart of the National Indian Youth Council back in that era. They had got this big grant to do workshops, I think one in Boulder, Colorado, one, I think, at Stout State, in Minnesota, and one at the University of California. There were 5:00several of us Oklahoma people that were out at the UCLA one. It was a summer workshop.
Little Thunder: Any other photographers?
Fields: Not really. A lot of when I probably started--actually, I was more intodrawing at that time, pencil drawing, graphite. And that's kind of what--I could always draw pretty good. In fact, it kind of triggered my memory here of I would always draw these cartoons in high school. That's what got me kind of in trouble a lot of time. (Laughter) Kind of characters, almost like political cartoons of the principal or the teacher or scenarios. I did do that kind of thing.
Little Thunder: So the poli science major that you were going to start at UCLA,that was not just something you thought about. You were pretty serious about politics at that point.
Fields: Well, I think as serious as probably an eighteen-year-old can get.6:00(Laughter) And, simply, it was 1969, 1970, in California. There was a lot of things going on, as you could say.
Little Thunder: Exactly.
Fields: Of course, I was right in the middle of it. But it was interestingbecause, as I think back on it, it was a time when a lot of Indian students were just kind of getting involved in their understanding of who they were. In California it is kind of another game out there, a lot of Paiutes, a lot of Mission Indians, a lot of relocated second, third generation Oklahoma Indians out there, a lot Athabascan and Inuit Indians. In fact, my best friend at the time was an Inuit. I almost said Eskimo. I mean Inuit. He is actually the one who recruited me to continue at UCLA. We were there leasing like a fraternity house. The Clyde Warrior Institute leased a big house. That's kind of where 7:00everyone stayed. And actually, it was one that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, so it was really a fancy, artistic kind of place, you might say. It was during that era that I got recruited because they were trying to build their Indian programs. They were looking for students to be there, so that's how I ended up sort of there, from that to there. (Laughs)
Little Thunder: So, Alcatraz was happening. Were you using a camera when you were--?
Fields: I was using pencil and pad. I wish I did have a camera at that era. Ihadn't really got the camera out at the moment. I was looking back on an old sketch book I had (and I'm not even sure where it is now) of Joe Bill, this Inuit guy, and there is this lighthouse behind him. I kind of sketched him at one time. Yes, I was--we went out there. That was kind of an evolution, that 8:00action that happened at Alcatraz. The people out there had done it, I think, a year before, this symbolic thing. And I think they did it even about a month before that, and Richard Oaks and all of them connected, sort of, with all of these college students because at that particular time, a lot of Indian college students from these different campuses, up and down California or from Berkley to UC Santa Cruz to San Diego State, Long Beach State, UCLA, a lot of those that had Indian studies programs and Indian student associations, we were having conferences. So, it just kind of evolved into this activity, in November, to sort of an action. So, that's what happened.
Actually, we checked out a university car. I remember they were ChevroletStation Wagons. (Laughter) I forget how many we had, but that's how we ended up 9:00in San Francisco, ended up in Sausalito, everyone took the boat over then to Alcatraz. And that's kind of where we--that's how that particular, I guess, first discovery happened was right then, that particular night, because at that point it stayed occupied until the end. I think it was a few years later, went through a whole lot of groups the students had. I am not sure how long, maybe a short term compared to how it evolved over the time that it had.
Little Thunder: Where did you head after California?
Fields: Actually, I came back home, came back to Oklahoma and got involved withOklahoma University. I got recruited by someone else to hang out, to be there at 10:00OU, go to school there. So, that's kind of how I stopped here, I guess, was being a part of the program they had. At that particular time, there was a lot of new programs, Indian student programs, that were sort of in their beginning stages. That's what a lot of it was, and so they were always looking for Indian students.
Little Thunder: Did you take any photography classes?
Fields: I hadn't got totally photography yet. I was there and was still involvedin, more or less, political science classes, sociology classes, things of that nature. It was after that that I really started getting involved in photography. I realized I probably--there was a lot of things going on, and I am sure there are some gaps in there. (Laughs) When I finally did get a camera, then it became 11:00a part of documenting in a way, where I was, who I was around, because I found it real interesting, kind of, the people. I wish I had picked it up even sooner. I wish I had picked it up in the late '60s and '70s because even what I have now is historical in the sense that a lot of the people that I was around and could have photographed or have, since then, have passed away or certainly changed. Fifty years is almost like another world, basically, back then.
Little Thunder: Exactly. Do you remember how you got your first camera or whereyou got it, what kind it was?
Fields: I think probably the first time that it really took me to stillphotography was, back in the '70s, I got involved in a documentation project, a 12:00video documentation project. This was back in about '76, I think. Actually, I was working, I think, in a program with the Osages, back in the old Title IV days, and documenting, back in the old days, video days, I got involved with a group, a project that was out of D.C. The whole premise of that was, "Okay, a lot of tribes have all this equipment that was bought. We're going to bring you up here, we're going to train you, we're going to send you back out to the tribal hinterlands, and you are going to use their equipment. You're going to videotape whatever, an event, document, whatever. And then we'll bring it all back up here and edit it and archive it." So, that was the basic premise of it. We did a lot of that, did some of that. That is kind of where I got involved in 13:00videotaping pretty heavily and enjoyed the use of the camera and kind of what it can do and the editing process and that. So, that's kind of how I got into that.
Little Thunder: Had you met Anita yet?
Fields: Not at that time, no. Probably the next stage, though, out of that--andI bring this up because I got involved in it in Santa Fe--to a community workshop council [that] was a film group. And, again, it was another sort of, that era when there were large projects going on. And there was another one in Appalachia, and the Indians have one and, I think, the blacks had a project. I am not sure exactly where. I even think the Asians had a project. So, the one in Santa Fe was the one I got involved in. But actually, during that time, I was friends with a guy named Milo Yellow Hair. He had a--I forget where he was 14:00working before, but he had--well, he might have been there at IAIA, because that is kind of where we housed out of, the Institute of American Indian Arts, in Santa Fe. We just leased a building there.
Little Thunder: During that project?
Fields: During the project, leased a building there. We weren't actuallystudents of the Institute of American Indian Arts. Anyway, it was during that time, I think, Milo had processed some film, and I was hanging out with him and was making a print, running it through the chemicals, the developer stuff. That was the first time I had really been around printing photographs, was then. I was just intrigued. It was kind of--as I went through the process, blank paper, expose it to the negative and the light, and on and on. After that, I sort of really became more involved in shooting and printing my own. That is kind of the 15:00really beginning stages of my, I guess, real interest in using photography and making printing and all that.
Little Thunder: Did you sort of just watch what he was doing and experimenting?
Fields: More or less, more or less, because I wasn't a student there. I wasn'tin a photography class at that time. We were just kind of doing it. And, in fact, we were in a film project. It wasn't even a still photography thing.
Little Thunder: Right. (Laughs)
Fields: We were just doing it because we had shot this film--or he had shot thisfilm, so then I started doing that. Then I acquired a camera, a Pentax 35- millimeter camera, then started from that point on, using it and buying film and shooting and that kind of thing. Let me see where I was. I have to look at my resume. (Laughter)
Little Thunder: In 1978, you were enrolled as an art major at Northeastern, Iguess. And at that point, photography really was your focus.
Fields: Yes, I got involved in that. I also got involved in going to a16:00photography--let's see, I think, probably got involved in art class, yes. Then I got involved in--funny thing about schools and universities for me was I guess I was so uninterested, maybe, or focused in other areas that it just didn't work out well for me. (Laughter) So, I would go and enroll and go to school and do the work, but it just wasn't my thing. So, I actually, after that, went to a specific little school in Tulsa that this photographer ran. That worked better for me because it was just strictly photography, about lighting and the technique, technology behind doing the photograph. He was a portrait photographer, so he had a studio, and he did a lot of work on some portraits. 17:00That was interesting for me and something that I really needed to learn about lighting and all that kind of thing, because it's about lighting.
Little Thunder: Who was it?
Fields: It was a photographer there. I think his name was--I can't think of hisfirst name, but he had a little school there called Sherack School of Photography. He'd just run it out of his house, would have just, maybe, four or five students. Something like that. It was more-- Which was good, because it was one-on-one with this guy. I think he was from New York, originally. He lived down there. He knew his stuff. He knew his business and, for me, that's what I wanted to know. That's what I needed to hear and learn.
Little Thunder: Were you exposed to the works of any other photographers whileyou were at NSU or elsewhere? Did you see any shows by other photographers that made an impression on you?
Fields: Well, probably the impressions were made even earlier, as I look back,18:00also. And one of them was, of course, LIFE magazine, the black and white photography that LIFE magazine used to do. One of my favorites was Eugene Smith. He was a life photographer back in the era. I think one of the photographs that really struck me was the one he did of documenting the chemical pollution in Japan, at this village called Minamata, and the birth defects of the kids that were being born. And he has this picture of this mother in this bath, and the lighting was almost coming through the top, holding her son. He's was really deformed. He was born deformed. And that picture just had a lot of power. The way he printed it, also, was these real vivid blacks and these lights, because black and white is a tonality thing, and how you control that really controls how people respond to it a lot of times. So, that right there, I really started 19:00looking at his work and wanted, sort of, that technique, that style, that emotion that he did. That's kind of what I liked, also.
So, looking at LIFE magazine back in that era, that was kind of what caught myinterest also, was that. He also did a photograph, I remember, it was sort of turned into calendars. It was these two--his kids, actually, were holding hands, walking out of the, looks like the way he printed it, this dark forest in there and the light, they're real little. I have seen it reproduced as calendars, illustration calendars. And I remember my grandmother having a calendar with that illustration on her wall, in her room. So, I always remember looking at it. Then when I saw them photographed, I realized that was probably either inspired 20:00by that or that was inspired by that, one of the two. But that was another photograph that I really liked that he did and the way he printed it. He has done a lot of other things, but that was one of the most intriguing.
The other one for me was Mary Ellen Mark, a New York photographer. And I didtake some workshops under her, met her, and got critiqued by her and things like that. Her style is black and white, her photographs. And she says--she photographs the fringes of society, the subcultures. She did this piece on the prostitutes of India. That's very serious work when you get into places like that. She did these pieces on the children at a mental hospital in Oregon. She did some pieces on the runways in Seattle. In fact, she did a film with her husband on that. But all these are very real, powerful kinds of photographs, and 21:00they're really documentary-type photographs, where they are a whole story, but they are a series of almost like--to me, I call them freeze frames because the thread is just kind of moving though. You're just looking at images that were taken.
She had a real knack, for me. Every time I would look at one of her pictures itwas like, "Wow! How did she get that?" To me, when I am trying to learn and that is the only way you really learn, I think, in photography, is doing and studying. And looking at her work, it really challenged me to, "How did she get that?" That's what I had to answer and resolve. And then, certainly, when I met her, she was an interesting person. She was a New Yorker, so she was really high energy, kind of a fast talking, fast eating type of photographer. (Laughter) I 22:00can kind of see how she got that because she was very out there. You do have to have a bit of, not attitude, but drive when you do some things because if you don't, you may not get what you were after. So, there is that little element that I always try to have.
Little Thunder: And that workshop was approximately late '70s?
Fields: It was probably--no, actually, that was a little later. I mean, I hadstudied her work before, but I think it was probably in the '90s, even.
Little Thunder: In the '90s, okay.
Fields: Yes, but I had seen her work for years and years and studied it.Actually, she was at Quartz Mountain at an adult workshop, back in that era, back when they had funding, they could bring in these really high-level people. I couldn't believe that she was going to be here. She does a lot of other workshops, and I would like to take some under her. She does really good 23:00critiques because she looks at work and will tell you what your strengths are. And then look at you like, "Well, why are doing you this?" At my first critique, I thought you had to have all these things, landscape, this, this, this, and this, to be a complete photographer. She looked at my work and told me what my strengths were and asked me why I was doing this. And, "I don't know." (Laughter) But, I mean, that's what you need. You have someone to really--
Little Thunder: So, was she kind of talking about subject matter at the point?
Fields: Oh, in a way. I think I was just trying to do just general landscapes,outside landscapes, nice. I think those have value and things for place, depending on what you are doing, but that definitely wasn't my strength. I mean, there's a lot of people who really can do it well. She liked the work I did with people, being able to, sort of, even document or photograph within communities 24:00and people. That is what she liked and responded to it.
Little Thunder: She recognized that strength, yes.
Fields: Yes, "Do more of this." She said, "That is what you need to do. Don't bewasting your time with this." So, I took that to heart and did that.
Little Thunder: You entered the Philbrook Art Show at one point, and yourphotographs were the first art photographs to be accepted into this show. Do you remember who the judges were that year? I am wondering if that was sort of a battle that they fought.
Fields: I don't even know, but that actually was in the era that I was at thatSherack School, in Tulsa, that particular era. And I decided, "Yes, I'd like to enter this." I knew that show was coming up. I had been there before and seen artwork and stuff. I thought, "Well, heck. I'll submit a photograph and see what they do." There was no category, really. I mean, there was no yes or no. "No you 25:00can't," or, "Well, here is a category," so I just kind of got in that like that because no one will say, "Well--" (Laughter) It doesn't say we can't.
Little Thunder: That's wonderful.
Fields: So, it went under graphics. And the picture I actually shot was of NicheGray, who was an older Creek man. A friend of mine was his grandson, Joe Sulfur. So, we brought him in, and we had him in this stickball outfit. I was using the lights of the studio. Shot some scenes there, shot a whole lot of different scenes. And the one I ended up using was--I sort of did a triple exposure. One with him and, actually, the one with his other grandson, Danny McKinney, they were both in their stickball [uniforms], which was basically just a felt, red tie and a breech cloth, but holding the sticks. And then there was another young 26:00boy. So, it was like three different generations. So, that was one we conceived, and then we had to shoot it in camera. Like, adjust the shutter, but don't move the film, so you get triple exposures on it. That's the one I used and submitted. They couldn't deny it. (Laughter)
Little Thunder: Who has that photograph now? Did the Philbrook keep it?
Fields: Actually, Shelly bought it.
Little Thunder: Oh, okay. (Laughter)
Fields: The technology, I think, probably, I hope it even still has color in itbecause it was like in the '70s. How long ago was that? Thirty years ago. I have the negative. I need to probably reprint it again and try to bring it back to life.
Little Thunder: That would be neat.
Fields: But the point of that was I was trying to put something different in27:00that category. And I wasn't trying, really, to put myself--
Little Thunder: Open the door? (Laughs)
Fields: In the Indian art world. It just wasn't there. I said, "Well, let's dothis. Let's put it there." At that time, there wasn't any photography category anywhere. Where we actually tried to open a door was during Indian Market, in Santa Fe, because there were a couple of other--about three photographers when we first started to say, "You guys need to have a category." Because we'd bring it in, but there would be no category. There would be nothing in the competition part of it. So, that door kind of opened. There is a whole story to this, by the way, but anyway, that is how it kind of evolved. Just people who do the work, asking, "Hey, you guys should have a category and do this." Well, now, you look at it and there is a whole pretty good category. Sometimes it's good and 28:00sometimes it not, depending on who the judges are, depending on what people contribute because it is still just a distinct group of artists, really.
Little Thunder: It's a relatively small group.
Fields: Yes, it's not representative to me of the whole thing, because noteverybody goes to Santa Fe, not everybody wants to enter the competition. Certainly, photographers, a lot of them don't have the resources or the money to do a lot of that, that are out in the hinterlands. But at least it provided an outlet. Just like any painting or anything, there is a lot of variables, a lot of variety, a lot of styles, a lot of different things. It has been kind of interesting to see what evolved out of that.
Little Thunder: We had discussed a bit the fact that they weren't setting up.You did at different times, a set-up, I guess, at arts and crafts shows with your photographs at different Indian art shows. What were some of the challenges 29:00you encountered?
Fields: I think, starting out, one thinks that they have to do art shows andsales and things like that. I did a few, but the type of work I do where you are photographing individuals in a community and stuff, it really doesn't lend itself to a marketable kind of market-type situation, where, "Okay, I have this picture of so and so doing this. I want you to put it on your wall, and I'll sell it to you for X amount of dollars." Another side of that is even though people know I took their picture, Indians can get really jealous if they think you are making a dollar from them or something, even though you're not. You've probably spent thirty, maybe, to make ten. That, kind of, was a headache that I didn't want to get into. And I have done Indian Market in Santa Fe. I did that 30:00in the early years, again, to get that category open, but I haven't done it lately because it just isn't something that I enjoy. (Laughs) I don't really--that market atmosphere. The work that I do, actually, I like to do projects for specific either publications or exhibits or shows, where the whole story can be sort of looked at or understood and told.
Little Thunder: By means of a series?
Fields: Yes, a series. Certainly, there are serious collectors out there, and Ihave sold to people that certainly understand photography and have some things. But just that market process was just something that I did not like. And the old thing is if you don't like it, don't do it.
Little Thunder: Right.
Fields: Why do that if at the end of the day you are all tight, thinking, "Argh!31:00Dang people!" I think the thing that put it over the line for me was almost coming to blows with these people in the next booth, these tourists, because they were all crowding into our booth. It's just like, "Man!"
Little Thunder: This is that part like-- (Laughs)
Fields: "Why tolerate and put up with this stuff when I don't have to? I don'thave to do that." For some reason I did it. (Laughs) I just thought, "Nah." So, I don't think I went to Santa Fe the year after that. I just wasn't interested.
Little Thunder: When and where did you meet your wife, Anita?
Fields: Let's see, first time I met her I actually was in Denver. I was workingat a TV station up there, back-- Oh, I don't even remember the year. (Laughs) But, anyway, I was working there. I knew her cousin and went to a party. She was 32:00there. It was like, clear across, almost into Boulder, and I was living like, almost downtown Denver. (Laughs) So, I had to get back for some reason, and so she drove me back. So, that was kind of the first time I met her. Then I actually met her again in Santa Fe. She went to school at the Institute of American Indian Art, so I met her there, again. So, that's kind of where--
Little Thunder: When you were--
Fields: Actually, I was living in Albuquerque.
Little Thunder: Just dealing mainly with the photography?
Fields: No, actually, this was a different time--a different era, even. Iactually--a little later on, after that, in the '70s, probably the later '70s--or maybe'75 and '74, I think, I was in Albuquerque, working--I was with some other friends of mine who were in a band called Exit. So, I would help them with their equipment, lighting and various things and do some photography for 33:00them. I would always go to Santa Fe a lot because I knew a lot of people up there. And so, I think that's when she was in Santa Fe going to school up there, and that's kind of where I met her, up there, during that period of time. I spent a lot of time in New Mexico. I really like New Mexico because there is a lot going on. That is kind of why I ended up in New Mexico quite a bit.
Little Thunder: You sort of explained the importance of workshops for you interms of developing your skills. Were you aware of the work of some of the Indian photographers from like the '30s and '40s, like Horace Poolaw? Had you been exposed to their work when you started?
Fields: It's interesting, I really didn't know about them that much. I don'tthink there was a lot of information that was out there publicly, like there is now. I had met one gentleman, a Seminole man, who used to be an Army 34:00photographer back in World War II. He was one of the few Indian photographers that I knew. But, again, he was a photographer in terms of he knew the craft, but he wasn't doing the kind of things I did. I really didn't know that many Indian photographers. The guys I hung around with shot a bit, but I didn't go--or I couldn't go to places and read about them or study about them or research them because it was at that period of time in the '70s. There just wasn't a lot of people who were doing it as a commercial basis or were professionally doing it or putting shows out there. If there were I didn't know about them. I think the more, now, that I research back, there were a few, maybe enough on one hand. (Laughs) Now, I have seen what they have done. It was pretty 35:00much just a new game for me that I was just doing and looking at other photographers, of course, but not necessarily Native photographers.
Little Thunder: What was one of your more important group shows, one of yourfirst, sort of, group photography shows that was real important to you?
Fields: I think, certainly, of course, the Philbrook Art Show became one in thebeginning, I guess. It sort of opened a window, I guess, to people seeing that there are photographers out there--a photographer or photographers. And I certainly am not trying to claim any kind of credit for anything, other than just I was doing that at that time and wanted to just see what would happen if I'd enter a photograph. I actually thought it wasn't going to get in. I was surprised when they let it in. I've had several shows down the line. I think the 36:00[only] one that had some at Smithsonian or at the American Indian Museum. We Stole a Teepee, that was the one where--it's the one I've hanging back here, I think. That was part of that show. I am trying to think of others right now.
Little Thunder: We the People was one at the Oklahoma Arts Center in '83.
Fields: Oh, right, right. Quite a while ago.
Little Thunder: Did that connect you with a couple of other Indian photographersthat you really supported?
Fields: Yes. The thing about photographers is we're sort of very independent,individual types. It's not like we all hang out and go have a drink together somewhere. (Laughter) I don't know why, but mostly because we are all very--it's a very individual art. And I think when you are out there doing it, you're internally kind of working in your brain and physically. So, it's kind of funny 37:00when you think about it. But, yes, I'm able to meet a few people there.
Little Thunder: In the mid '80s, Anita decided she was going to take the plungeinto doing art full-time. That's always a discussion between partners because of the financial uncertainty that it brings. How did you guys work that out?
Fields: Well, probably, I started working a little on different jobs at theparticular time because we had to pay rent, had to pay car payments, and all that. So, I managed, actually, to find jobs, and it was intentional that I find jobs where I had access to a dark room, for one, and the equipment.
Little Thunder: Aha!
Fields: So, I managed to sort of plot my career path and managed to find somework in an area where I had access to all that. So, for me, it wasn't like I was 38:00working in a factory. And so, it wasn't mentally that hard to do--stay there, let's say. But I also knew that I needed to sort of keep a pay check because we started to have kids. In '76, our first daughter was born. So, that meant we needed to get serious and start a family and start doing the things that you do like that. So, I just decided, "Well, I'll continue working as long as I can and have access to this." So, that's what really allowed me to work, I guess, was because I was doing work that I enjoyed, either photography or video or that kind of thing. That's what we did. We decided that I would, "I'll just keep a job, continue working."
Little Thunder: And you were developing new technical skills, but at the same39:00time, like you said, you had access to the resources to do the fine art photography on the side.
Fields: Right, and that's a decision that we made there, but I do know that itaffects me in what I do. As I look back on some of the work I did back then, I really feel I had a better eye, I guess you might say. Probably did, probably a better reaction time. A lot of things you shoot for work in the commercial market is that's what that is, and you have to know how to shift gears when you are doing your own work. A lot of strategies and techniques can be sort of interworked photographically, but you have to be very aware of your intent, and how it's going to be used. Technically, certainly, you are sort of doing the same thing, but the other part of it is--I think the issue that I have with 40:00working and trying--because it's like I had a freelance business, because with photography you can do that. And it allowed me to do that, and I did that and still do that. That's how I maintained all of my shows and stuff while having, let's say an eight-to-five that it does affect. Now, no one else may see that effect, but I know that it had an effect. And the effect was if I had devoted full-time to this, where would I have been in that photography realm? I think I'd have been a lot further up or more body of work, but that's just a lot of trade off. There's a lot of "if's," you know?
Little Thunder: Right.
Fields: When you are living your life, and you can't always look back on those"if's." I just sort of was looking at it, in a way, a technical perspective, saying, "Man, I wish I would have or could have done a little more to evolve this craft a little better." So, that's just the way it works sometimes. 41:00
Little Thunder: I hope that will come again here in the future.
Little Thunder: You talk about the importance in your work of having a kind ofmetaphoric ground, and I wonder if you could explain what you mean by that when you are photographing American Indian subject matter?
Fields: Well, I think any art work or any document or anything you have--poetry,writing--you sort of use metaphors to imply things or to associate things with. When I photograph place, almost like a landscape or people, I call it peoplescapes, in a way, humanscapes, human landscapes. And I did exhibit some processes where--it's kind of a takeoff on what people call landscapes, and you just see ground or you will see a place, which is good. But, for me, it's the people that are on there, it's the people who live there, it's the people whose identity is based out of there. 42:00
You could take an Indian to Europe and eventually he'll end up on the sameground that he sort of started in, was born, or lived at because that's kind of what pulls him back. That's his community. So, in that respect, that's kind of what that was about. It was my statement about trying to understand what that is and what's in that Indian psyche. And the reason I really felt I needed to do that, understand it, as a photographer or artist, that is kind of what you are doing. You are always presenting either an image--and that's what a photograph is. It's a still image. It's either a piece of paper or whatever, but it captures a moment in time. That time, to me, is sort of a continuing process. For me to capture a highlight, you might say, or something that I wanted to show, I had to sort of understand a lot of that. 43:00
A good example, I had to shoot a ropes course one time. I didn't really knowwhat I was doing, so I decided, "Well, I want to be a ropes course instructor to understand it." I did that, and it helped me understand and get my work. It's kind of that realm where to understand what you are photographing, in some respects you really have to immerse yourself into whatever you are doing. Now, the Indian world, I grew up in it. So, I understood parts of that, but it's so vast, so big and complex, all these different tribes and different communities, you can't just generalize everything. So, one has to sort of go place to place and ground to ground. That's kind of what that metaphor was all about, sort of coming out of a landscape photographer to the human landscape. This is what it is. This is us. This is people. This is where we are. This is where we live. 44:00This is how we live.
The photographs are just a way--I think as a photographer there is just one jobI have. If I had a job description it would be to show people a whole new perspective of whatever it is I am shooting--people, place, animals--to give them a new perspective, something that they've never seen before. That can be just perspective and how you put your camera. A camera is only a metal object. It's how you see it or the time of day. If you look at--let's say the reality is this core, here, you have this sphere, you might say, where you can put a camera. And then within that even, the time of day, so the mathematical variables of what you could actually push that shutter at are just--they're pretty high. So, that's the options one has. (Laughs) That's kind of what it's 45:00all about when I talk about that.
Little Thunder: I think that ties into what you also wrote about on your resume,which is sort of this idea that if you're just shooting for non-Indians, these moments of ceremony or dance or whatever, a powwow, that is very dramatic, and it's very compelling. And those are the images that people like to see, and yet, if you don't get those quite everyday moments, which are like 99.9 percent of life, you are kind of missing the whole picture.
Fields: For me it is. Actually, I am trying to think if I ever shot for--Ireally don't. When I shoot a picture, it's for myself, always, even though I may get a paycheck from somebody else. So, I don't cross the line of--I'm not hired 46:00to gun, let's say, by non-Indians to go into an Indian community to pull something out. I wouldn't shoot anything that I wouldn't shoot personally because actually, a photographer, he has his craft, his skill, his abilities, also your reputation. The key to getting a type of photograph in a community with people is that trust. If you break a trust, they are not going to let you in. You can't get that photo--yes, you can get a photograph. I can stand over here and shoot this and this and this. It's just going to look like another Oklahoma tourism shot, to me. I wouldn't be satisfied. I would leave.
Again, that is a part of my angle, my uniqueness, the way I see my job, I see my47:00craft, is to always have that core value, I guess, of doing that. Now, this is not something that I read aloud or carry a card with me, but over the years it is something that I really stick with because, yes, I've made mistakes in the early years of my career, doing things when I was really learning and trying to figure out how and why this works and why that doesn't work and how to work within communities. And it's never easy. There is never anything easy. Just like the other day, I was at a wild onion dinner at a church way out in the sticks out there. I could have stayed in the hall and took pictures of that, but I didn't want to. I went to camp house, stayed there, ate, and then started shooting from there. (Laughs) I had my camera with me because I am never 48:00somewhere--I want people to know that, yes, I am a photographer. I am not trying to clandestinely come in here and snap something behind your back, and so I always have it, and that's why I have it on me. So, it's obvious. But then I start shooting when people are comfortable, and I talk to them, and they know what is going on. That's when I say photography can begin, and that's kind of where, in a way, the story begins for me and my stories that I interpret or try to share with people, let's say, about this moment.
Let me just say a little bit about that. The moments for me in Indiancommunities, to me, are so powerful and precious. This is why I think that drive for me to really try to get at that core--now, this all sounds kind of crazy, 49:00but if you are not a photographer, and you don't understand kind of what you are doing-- One has to give themselves a job. One has to tell the perimeters of it, a job description, and then you have to, to the best of your ability, go do that. So, it's kind of second nature to me now, after doing it for forty years and [having] evolved it. So, I am able, actually, to grab a camera, go out, and have all this with me, hanging there, no one sees it, but there is a method to what I am doing. It's not just--usually, again, I separate it out. If that's what I am doing, that's what I do. It carries all of that with me. If I am just shooting snapshots, that's what I do also because it is just a camera. That allows me then to tell the bigger story, to get the people who are a part of that story because the native story or the native narrative is a thread. It 50:00isn't just bump, bump, bump, bump. That's kind of why I like projects. You are telling a story. You are telling the part where people are preparing, or cooking or eating or talking or sharing--all these elements that are part of who we are as a people. And so, that, once I sort of--I'll shoot until I think, "Wow." I am spent, physically spent, and then almost emotionally, because I feel, "Okay, I've got something here." I feel good about that, and that's when I'll call it, "Cut." I will go, "Cut!" when we've got what we are doing. (Laughter)
Little Thunder: Tell me about your project you have photographing Creekchurches, documenting Creek churches. Who initiated the project?
Fields: Well, it was one of those projects that I had been wanting to do for51:00years. It was certainly all self-funded by me. And the main reason is because I wanted total control of it. I did get some funding for framing at the very end, but that was for that part of it. Like I said earlier, I sort of grew up in churches in that part of it [the world] when I was younger. And so, as I got older, in my photographic career, I have always wanted to do a project about that. In a way, it's kind of like a writer's novel. You've always got that little novel or whatever you need to write about. Now, one thing I do want to make real clear, I am not a historian, I am not a writer. I am a photographer, 52:00so that's what I do. It can get very confusing out there sometimes when you are out doing projects and [in] communities.
One thing I do on my photographs, I always sort of get the facts of what I amdoing, where I am at. Part of that is so it's almost like a historical document. And that's what this project was about, was to document the Creek churches. But it was from the perspective of not what Christianity did to the Creeks, but how Creeks adapted it to their own needs. And just that by itself is quite a bit, but the history of it is pretty big. And it's the history of this country, it's the history of a removal process. A lot of churches that were there were established in 1870s, 1840s, and '50s, some of them. Or in the early part, there 53:00were some that were--Creeks had interactions with missionaries back in the early 1700s, and there were some that were on their side, the Presbyterians for example.
To me, it provided a vehicle of history. But more than that, I wanted to showthe people I am a photographer. I can't photograph, let's say, 1870 today, but I can photograph the people, the descendants of people from 1870, and why they do what they do in their ceremonies. A lot of things, I think, growing up, there was a dichotomy in our tribe. You're a Christian, you're a traditional Stomp Dance leader. I think that was something that was perpetrated by white 54:00missionaries a lot. I mean, ultimately, we all probably have the same god, the same creator. In fact, in the traditional world, the concept of the creator or giver of life or breath was something that the Creek people could understand when they talked about Christ over here on this side, as opposed to Hisagitaimisi on this side. So, there was that element, but I think there was also an element of culture being destroyed at that time, during that period of removal where one didn't know if they were even going to survive the day, more or less.
I think all human beings have a need to feel comfort, safety, and I think Creekpeople certainly had an understanding of the creator and praying. And that's what this project was. It was about praying people, but I took it and wanted to 55:00show the people who are a part of this community today, when I start shooting it. I think there are just so many elements there that are historical, are powerful in terms of what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. I think everyone in Oklahoma has heard a Creek singing, church singing. I mean, it's just kind of integral to part of it. And so, it was some of that, but I just wanted to show the people that were there. So, I went to a lot of churches and basically, would just show up and tell them what I was doing. They are really involved in what they're doing, their day-to-day thing. And as long as I didn't interrupt pretty much, they-- I remember one time I went to a church, and the lady asked me what took me so long to get there. I had never met her, but I understood what she was talking about.
So, I was very well received. I don't really recall any negative part of that,56:00but on the other side of that, too, as a photographer, it was challenging. I always say as a photographer you're probably 30 percent photographer and 80 percent psychologist diplomat. All the other elements because I am having to talk to people, having to talk to people that don't know me. The good thing about some of that was they did know my dad some, so that was kind of an in. I would also travel some places with another minster sometimes, several of them that I knew and they knew what I was doing. I would kind of hop along with them wherever they were going and would go to places. That experience became, sort of, for me, a way for me to understand it better, that history part. And I'm 57:00talking about Creeks who are full bloods. They speak Creek in that church, they sing these hymns. Most of them are elders because a lot of young people are doing other things. So, it was interesting in that respect. This project was a way to photograph that, and it was done over a period of several years to show people what this community was about, what they do, what it looks like on that day, what they look like. So, it was just a way to bring that piece of our Indian world to the forefront and let people look at it.
Little Thunder: Those are some wonderful pictures, too, and we are going to lookat them at the end of the interview. You have always pretty much worked in black and white. What do you like about black and white photography? 58:00
Fields: Well, I think photographers are kind of like ducks, whatever we seefirst when we come out of the water, that becomes our mother. (Laughter) So, that first image I saw being developed was a black and white image. But on the other hand of that, to me, there is a real craft in printing a black and white picture. If you look at--when you see my photographs, back in the dark room days, it could take me several hours. And I used to print at night and would print all night. It took me a lot of test strips and a lot of burning and dodging to getting that right tonality because I like the black blacks, I like the white whites, to really bring that kind of contrast, even that emotion that comes with it. And black and white, it certainly has, to me, more emotion. Color is great, but it has a different realm to it. Black and white just speaks to me 59:00a little better. There is more work involved in it, and I like it. Shifting into to the digital era, I still had to learn everything with Photoshop and everything else to arrive at where I did with a chemical print, let's say, in a chemical process--a similar type of intense, but a whole different way to arrive there.
Little Thunder: What about filters? Do you like to use filters quite a bit?
Fields: Not always. I always try to just be like, a straight photographer, youmight say. I do, really, a lot of special effects. The only time I ever really did was using an infrared film. Of course, with that, to get the kind of shot you want, you do have to use like a twenty-five A or a deep red filter. But 60:00ultimately, it's printed as a black and white. That's probably the only time I ever really did, other than just contrast filters or polarizers that use with a lens just to get different contrasts. I was never really into like, special effects-type of photography. I wanted straight out. In fact, I did a lot of full frame for a while, were you'd see the on the carrier over the enlarger. It had a little area where you put the negative and then it would project down. I filed a lot of that out because I wanted the edge of the film to be printed on the paper.
What I was trying to do there was forcing myself to see everything full frame,right? So, whatever this camera saw, that's what it was. Not that, "Oh, I like this. I am going to crop this section out of it." No, it was, "This was it," and I had to shoot that to get what I wanted out of it, and that's what a lot of 61:00that was. At that particular time, it was even a challenge for me to make sure that I was aware of what was in this corner, that corner, that corner. Photography, again, it's that mathematical possibility. One little degree can change the whole thing a lot of times. You always had to be aware of that. That's the technical side of a photographer, complete with everything else you are trying to do this way, and then everything else that is going on in front you. You still have to be a technician ultimately. So, yes, it's--
Little Thunder: And you present them. I mean the black frames, the whitematting, a very classic look to your presentation.
Fields: I always like to--well, again, I think a lot of what I was wanting to dowas to put it in that realm of fine art, in a way, because I think that is where 62:00people kind of stop and really look into the window, people who really appreciate those kinds of things. Again, it's there, but it was kind of like a window, a nice dressed window. It's just, "Okay, I am stopping and looking at this. I wonder what happened before. I wonder what's going to happen afterward." It's just one little--boomp! So, I want to present that as good, clear, and concise as I can and kind of pull people into that, the image, whatever it is, whatever it's about because that was the important thing, to me, was what was going on there.
Little Thunder: You did an exhibit in 2003 called Native Fields. Is it focusedon your family or kind of a play on words?
Fields: Actually, it was, yes.
Little Thunder: And how did you get the idea? What were some of the things thatyou shot for that?
Fields: Well, actually, it was a show out of Paseo in Oklahoma City. It was kind63:00of a play on words. We actually had a website called Native Fields, and so we sort of just took to call the show that. That's where myself and my son, Yatika, who is a painter, and Anita, her clay, we sort of had a joint show. And that's kind of how that evolved.
Little Thunder: Oh, cool.
Fields: Yes, also, we had a gallery down at Oklahoma City in the Paseo District.It's always interesting to collaborate. I mean, me and Anita have been artists all our lives. Our son, my first son, he is a painter now. My other son, he's a musician. He plays. He can do art. He's making this octopus right now for a performance by a band that they are going to do.
Little Thunder: Wow. (Laughs)
Fields: It is kind of like performance art. They have all been, sort of, raised64:00in a very open and creative process. Like when my youngest son was growing up, we didn't give him a curfew. He actually didn't need one, and the reason why was because every other kid had one. So, when they had to go in, he had to come home because that was his ride. (Laughter) So, what else could he do? But you do have to let them do their thing. And they have been going to Santa Fe and art shows since they were babies. So, they have been around art. They understand what it is, in a way, not just Santa Fe, but a lot of other places. Yatika is learning the business of art because it is a business when you get into the realm of being a professional artist, the business side of it, which is a whole different game by itself. So, he is learning that. That has been good for them to grow up 65:00and see, kind of, this side of how art and that expression of art can actually be a career, and you can make a living on it and not harm anyone, not hurt the earth, and make good friends with it and have a good time. (Laughter) That's good for them.
Little Thunder: You've done quite a bit of teaching, both of photography andvideo. What do you try to pass on to students in those areas?
Fields: Yes, I did summer schools and stuff and teaching. I teach from theperspective of how I would have liked to have been taught. (Laughs) I try to keep it fun and interesting because when you are working with young kids, if it isn't, they turn you off in a second. I think I remember my very first experience in front of a classroom. I think within thirty seconds of that moment, I am thinking, "What the heck did I get myself into?" But I just applied 66:00the, "What would I like? What would I want to learn?" And then, of course, if you're teaching video photography, I want them certainly, technically, to learn about the technique and the process. I don't start there, though. Actually, I start with a group of people by fun and games outside or something, doing something, exercise, getting to know each other. And that's what it is all about because I want them to understand human relations at a young age and how using and introducing the camera is part of that. So, I want them to feel comfortable to be around each other.
I also teach them how to sort of learn the language of photography, to talkabout it. If I ask you this question, "Why did you take that picture?" I want them to at least be able to explain to me why they took the picture. I do not 67:00want to hear, "I don't know," because that's not a reason, you understand. It's part of that, the, "Snap, Snap," is just a small part of what the photography is all about. After we sort of get into a lot of that, then we do a lot of shooting and then critiquing. Shooting and critiquing, that's what I do a lot of when I teach is shooting and critiquing because I really want them to see what they got, critique it in a positive manner, and then go do some more and critique again. So, you sort of, ultimately, arrive experientially at someplace, somewhere that you are comfortable doing this.
Now, it's a lot easier with digital photography because you can use project,PowerPoint, and all that. Back in the black and white days it was a little harder. We used to use a lot of slides back then because you could take them out to the lab and get them back the next day, so it was easier teaching-wise to project and see it immediately. If it was more than that, they'd probably get 68:00bored and go to a clay class or something. But I had to keep them interested and keep them understanding what they were seeing. Most of them that were in my classes sort of wanted to be there. I mean, they wanted to learn some of that. I think the generation today has been photographed probably more than any. It started it out, parents photographed them, but now they photograph themselves. There is a whole genre of pictures that I take in my camera, me and my buddies. I mean, you could look on Flickr or anywhere and just see thousands, which are real interesting. I find they are real interesting, what they do. So, the evolution of technology has made photography a whole other kind of world than when I started with it. I just teach interest in it. They'll figure out how to do what they want to do with it.
Little Thunder: Artists hardly ever retire, but they might retire from their69:00paying job to do art full-time. Do you have some plans when you do retire to work on some more projects?
Fields: Actually, I do. I have a whole bunch of notebooks with negatives in there.
Little Thunder: Cool.
Fields: Now, back in the old days, I would shoot and make a contact sheet, andmaybe I may print one or two out of that. I have a lot of negatives that I've never printed anything from, just maybe made a contact sheet. So, I have a really resource of things that I would like to look at and maybe print some more or maybe do another exhibit from different eras there and see what I can get. Now, what happens, when I have started--well, I have started scanning a lot of 70:00these negatives on a digital scanner. And once you get them into that form, then you take them just like you do digital photographs now, Photoshop, whatever you need to do, and print with a printer. There is a lot that I have that I am going to really try to get into. I've got a lot of negatives.
Little Thunder: Sounds wonderful. Looking back over through your career so far,what has been one of the high points?
Fields: Oh, boy. (Laughs) I think the high point of my career is actually, doingthat church project. That was kind of an evolution, or any project that I would finish. That one, I basically self-funded and did it, completed it, had an exhibit. That was satisfying to have. And it's always satisfying even just to 71:00make a good photograph that's been maybe seen somewhere or part of an exhibit because in the scheme of things, you've created or shown people something they've never seen before. Those are interesting.
I've had stuff in different publications, different exhibits. There is aphotograph that I have in an exhibit coming out of the New Orleans Museum called the Art of Caring, and they produced a book. Their premier photographer was--they have a lot of very high-end photographers in this show, so I was very thrilled to be part of it. Things like that, things where work is actually shown 72:00and actually produced. I really like that. Again, my peer group is not Native artists. It's photographers, worldwide, international. I continually am just totally intrigued by the work people are doing all over the world and documenting communities and things that are going on. But then I look back on our own people here. To me, that's just important. And that's a lesson I learned a long time ago. People think, "Well, why are you taking pictures of just your family or people you know?" I say, "Well, a National Geographic photographer is over there taking pictures of the same people." (Laughter) And I know them better than him.
It's part of the critique that even early on, take pictures that your strengths73:00are. And the strengths are people that you care about. One of the probably most import things, I think, that I've learned and a part of this scenario that I do when I shoot is, you have to have sort of an emotional commitment to your subject. That's why I try to get within that space where they are because they have to see me as a person. I mean, it works photographically, otherwise they'd shut down, and they look like it. They don't share that interaction. When I talk about sharing, I just mean that part of where they're acting naturally, they are doing what they would be doing normally to the extent that there is a camera and a guy over here with it by them, and we talk about it before I start shooting a bit. But that's what that is. They feel comfortable enough to do what they do. I always enjoy that piece of it, that part of it. That's what I think is really 74:00what I enjoy most, is that, even if it's a small moment or even if it's something in the New Orleans Museum of Art. To me, these are just as powerful as something over here.
Little Thunder: Well, is there anything before we look at your work that we'veforgotten to talk about or anything you'd like to add?
Fields: Boy, I'm not sure. Well, it's 2011. The craft, the art of photographyhas really just jumped leaps and bounds [from] when I started back in the '70s. I find it very interesting, digital photography. I remember when that discussion was had, "Is it film or digital?" For some reason, it was kind of like a dilemma 75:00for some people. But it's all just a tool. Ultimately, the end product is that story or something.
Little Thunder: Well, let's go ahead and take a look at your pictures. We'lljust leave the camera and the audio running. And, maybe, let's start with this piece. I'll just refocus. You don't need to be in the picture, Tom, but you can talk about the piece, just a couple sentences about what you were thinking, et cetera. We're ready to go on this one.
Fields: This particular photograph was from a series on where was I back--I shotit actually, back, I think, in the '70s. There was always something that you would see, that stereotyped Native people all the time. So, this was a ride at the fair. And this little boy was in this canoe going around this water, here.
Little Thunder: Oh, man.
Fields: And they had these Indians. I forget what they call it, Frontiersomething. But there is this Indian and this typical pose with a tomahawk. So, I thought that was kind of--
Little Thunder: Right.
Fields: So, this kid, right here, to me, this is what he's learning. This is hiseducation, right here, is what Indian people are.
Little Thunder: Did you shoot this in another state?76:00
Fields: Actually, this was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the Tulsa Fair Grounds.
Little Thunder: Oh, wow! (Laughter) I almost asked if it was at the Tulsa Fair Grounds!
Fields: You would be surprised, kids this age, that's what they are learning.And that is what they know.
Little Thunder: Let's take a look at the next one.
Fields: How about this one? That kind of goes along with it.
Little Thunder: Yes, I love this one.
Fields: This photograph was part of a larger project that I did on photographingall the Head Starts at Cherokee Nation. There are fourteen counties in Eastern Oklahoma, all the way up to Delaware County, up north, all the way down to Arkansas and almost over to Tulsa. In different Head Starts they would have graduations. So, this was at Lost City Head Start. This was a little boy graduating. And, of course, his grandmother and mother and sister are in that frame. So, I just thought it sort of said a lot of things right there. I always liked it.
Little Thunder: Really lots of emotion in there, a wonderful piece. Oh, we weregoing to do the Creek Church and then that Ribbon Dance one, I think, if you want.
Fields: I don't think it's going to fit in there too well, but I'll try to keepit up.
Little Thunder: Yes, well, that's not too bad, actually. Want to tell us aboutthis one?
Fields: Well, this is part of the series I was doing on Indian churches. This,77:00actually, was a Cherokee church in Lone Prairie, which is around Little Kansas, Oklahoma. Actually, this particular church has a lot of personal meaning because my relatives went to church here. I went to church here when I was very little. My grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother went there. Actually, I think it was started in 1876.
Little Thunder: It's beautiful.
Fields: Of course, this is not the same building, but I shot it with infraredfilm because I wanted a real dramatic effect out of it. So, that's one the reason why it sort of has that look. So, that's basically it. This was a photograph I took inside of a Creek church. I did a whole series, a project on Creek churches and the people and the communities there. This particular church 78:00is one of the older types, where the men sit on one side and the women sit on the other side. One thing that is very familiar certainly, with even traditional churches, the doorways always face east because they always said Christ will come from the east when he returns back to earth, which is a very similar concept to a lot of old traditional beliefs. Even in sunrise ceremonies, the creator comes from the east. So, I think you see it in a lot of traditional churches, even some of the old traditional types of beliefs that have sort of evolved over the years since then.
This is at a church called Alabama Quassarte, east of Watonga, Oklahoma, aboutsix miles. It's a very small one. That's basically how it is. It works--there is 79:00a bench here, and certainly, when they have the alter call, they'll go up there. But they are singing right now, so this is part of that. There is a very distinct order that people sat. The the first lady sits here, the elders, and then it sort of goes on that way. And the same goes with the men, and the preachers will sit in the back. So, there was structure to how they do what they do. The thing about why I was wanting to photograph some of this on this project is to learn some of that and photographically, kind of capture some of that. I know a lot of younger Creek people that are in churches don't understand that element of it. They'll do things, but they don't know why. "Why do you do that?" and they don't know that. So, even in these communities as generations and elders pass on, they still don't know a lot. The younger people don't understand 80:00a lot of it. So, I just wanted to sort of do a photo project that would at least bring importance or bring out what they do, in hopes that maybe some younger people will start wanting to learn more about why and who and all that. So, that's what this particular shot was, but it's a larger series.
This picture was taken in a camp house at that same church that same day. Afterservices, let's say Sunday services, everyone will eat at a camp house, a typical Creek traditional grounds. It's sort of a church in the middle and then different family camp houses around it, much similar to a tribal grounds somewhere or a tribal town, a similar situation. When these churches were established a long time ago, people had to arrive by covered wagon, so you stay 81:00there for an extended amount of time and were fed there in these houses. So, all the guests will be fed in those houses. Usually, right before lunch the deacons come and will tell you what number to go to, which camp house, and they sort of divvy up everybody. So, we were in this camp house, and they were having a full meal. And I just liked the scene that was going on there with the tapestry of The Last Supper there--
Little Thunder: Yes.
Fields: And then the minister here, and then people eating--
Little Thunder: A really nice photograph.
Fields: Which is a common theme in any culture is sharing a meal.
Little Thunder: Yes, certainly.
Fields: So, I just sort of liked that. How about this one?
Little Thunder: We can do that one. You want to wrap up with that one?
Fields: Yes. This photograph was taken at a Creek tribal town, Hillubee. It wasactually on a Friday, when Ribbon Dance was going on during Green Corn. It hadn't really--well, it had started and so, this young lady's getting her little sister ready, combing her hair, getting her ready to dance. And I like to shoot 82:00things of that nature. To me, the action, the circle of action is extended out further by what people are doing or around. A lot of times people maybe think this is just what's going on, but I like what's going on all around. So, that's why I framed it like I did, and I shot it with infrared film to give me more of a real, intense, surrealistic look. Again, technique and strategy, you might say. I always have people in my photographs, usually.
Little Thunder: You've got some great textures and shades there, tones.
Fields: Yes, so, that was basically that.
Little Thunder: Well, thank you very much for your time today, Tom. I enjoyed it.
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