The field for professional women photographers expanded substantially within the last century. Now, Native women are proving they are just as prolific and skillful as today’s top photographers across the world. We chat with Lakota photographer Tara Rose Weston about how she got her start in photography and her goals of helping other up and coming photographers.

TARA ROSE WESTON
Lakota
Tara Rose Weston’s interest for photography began at an early age. At age eleven, Weston recalls times where her mother would send her and her twin brother on field trips with disposable cameras. Weston spent some time in front of the camera as a model but wanted something different than what photographers were offering at the time. Now at age twenty-three, Weston is an established photographer and multi-media maven, having her work published in Vogue Italia.

When did you first get into photography?
Along with being business owners, my mother and grandpa were avid shutterbugs. I grew up seeing them with cameras and camcorders in hand, and it my mother who nurtured my photography skill. She bought us disposable cameras to document class field trips and last days of school. Eventually seeing I had a deeper passion, she bought me my first point and shoot film camera when I was 11, and upgraded me to a digital point and shoot when I graduated 8th grade. I took a photography class in high school and nearly failed due to the archaic point system my teacher used, but finally understood the technicality of photography.

When did you start taking it seriously?
It wasn’t until I was modeling in high school and after that, I considered buying a DSLR to take my own portfolio photos because I wanted something different than what the photographers I worked with were delivering. I realized I was serious about it when I realized that shooting and editing had become an obsession, that I needed to create something new every day.

Native women photographers are constantly overlooked, why do you think that is?
That’s very true, I didn’t realize how male-dominated the profession was until moving back to SD from Georgia, where a majority of military spouses are photographers. It’s almost the “go-to” small business move among spouses, and most of them are female. With any job in any industry, males don’t have to worry about the same things we do – with raising a family and making a home, we have a habit of falling into our gender roles whether we like it or not, especially being Lakota, and that automatically causes people to think that anything we do is temporary. I’ve followed many male Native photographers for years, being a model, and that’s what inspired me to work just as hard, if not harder when I chose to pursue a career in this industry. I wouldn’t work this hard for something I didn’t see myself doing for the next few decades.

What do you love being a photographer?
I love having a fast-paced, demanding job that allows me to travel and work from basically anywhere in the world. A lot of people say that they’re supportive and uplifting, but in reality, it’s just as much a competition as any other profession. We have to stay on top of things and be innovative. With that, I love motion and details, I’m very meticulous.

What does “Native beauty” mean to you? How do you capture that in your photography?
What Native Max does for our generation, the seventh generation that Sitting Bull often spoke of, is giving the creatives a voice and exposure in a world that appropriates our traditions or thinks we don’t even exist anymore. I’m definitely very humbled to be a part of that and to be right alongside all of my fellow artists to pave a way for Natives in the entertainment and arts industry.

Tara Rose Weston was originally featured in the Native Women’s’ Issue. Purchase your copy here.

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