Olivia Ramirez, 22, is a full-time nanny in Tulsa. “Oklahoma sunsets are so beautiful, but on the prairie they are so much more beautiful. The way the sun hits the grass, even the best picture cannot capture it,” she says. “Our creation story says Osage are the stewards of the land and that we show other people how to live with the land.”
There’s a myth in America that says Native American cultures are declining—where they haven’t disappeared outright. According to a 2015 study by Pennsylvania State University researchers, only 13 percent of U.S. public school curriculum standards included information about Natives in a post-1900 context.
It’s a myth Ryan RedCorn is trying to counter. “The state of things is not in decline,” he says.
Based in the rural town of Pawhuska, Oklahoma, RedCorn is an Osage photographer and filmmaker—and also a graphic designer, a father, a comedian. Mostly, though, he’s someone who refuses to disappear.
In an ongoing project, he collaborates with fellow Native people—members of the Osage and other nations—to make their portraits, showing them as they choose to be seen. As a Native person, he’s “keenly aware of the distortion” of indigenous representation in media, public education, and policy. As a photographer, he’s frustrated by white photojournalists’ history of depicting Native peoples and places in stories that present the intimate pains of marginalization without always confronting the systemic injustice that creates it.
RedCorn’s photos tell a different story. High schoolers...