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“You Don’t Look Native”

“You Don’t Look Native”

Photography grad student Maria Sturm MFA 17 PH showed her portraits of Native Americans from Robeson County.

Nearly 90% of the residents of North Carolina’s Robeson County identify as Native American, and most have lived there for generations. After photographing the people of Robeson County for more than a year, German grad student Maria Sturm MFA 17 PH asked faculty and fellow students for feedback at a recent end-of-semester critique.

“If you come to the series cold—without reading my statement,” Sturm asked, “what are your impressions? Have I included too many symbols, too many obvious clues?”

Sturm focuses on self-representation in the images she captures—unflinching portraits that make a statement about who the subjects are and how they live. But her message is subtle, the faces often obstructed—partially hidden behind reflective glass or a plume of cigarette smoke.

“To some extent the series is asking viewers to confront their own stereotypes,” noted Grad Program Director Brian Ulrich.

And visiting critic Irina Rosovsky felt that Sturm was hitting all the right notes. “You seem to be inserting yourself in a natural, productive way and bringing the right pictures to the surface,” she said.

images of critique by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH

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