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Late last year, Aaron Huey and I met at his favourite coffee shop in Seattle (the only coffee shop in the city without WiFi, as far as I know). During our chat, his phone was buzzing; on the line was finalising the details of his Pine Ridge Billboard Project pitch.


Ever since Huey’s powerful and viral TED talk last year, he’s been inundated with inquiries from people wanting to get involved and contribute. Huey admitted to being conflicted by his unexpected propulsion into the centre of a nebulous political energy, partly because he doesn’t have all the answers and partly because his work still doesn’t sit well with some of the Lakota community. Understandably, some Lakota don’t want images of broken homes and broken bodies to be consumed by white America. Still, Huey has the faith of the majority within the Lakota people.

With a story so large and important – and solutions so complex – Huey was unsettled with the status and future of his Pine Ridge documentary work; he had not pushed the political issue as far as it warranted. From his pitch:

I have been documenting the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for the past six years. Recently I have realized how inappropriate it is for this project to end with another book or a gallery show. […] Your involvement will help raise the visibility of these images by taking them straight to the public—to the sides of buses, subway tunnels, and billboards. I want people to think about prisoner of war camps in America on their commute to work. I want the message to be so loud that it cannot be ignored. has given Huey, the Lakota people and us the opportunity to see and react to the work in unmissable public locations. It puts it in the face of D.C. politicians. Huey has enlisted the help of Shepard Fairey and artist and activist Ernesto Yerena who created visuals for the Alto Arizona campaign.



Huey’s photographs depict high unemployment, broken families, alcohol abuse and life expectancy lower than that in Afghanistan. The statistics are shocking.

But more than that, Huey’s photographs show the legacy of the lies and broken treaties of the US government stretching back over a century. If the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) had been observed, then the Lakota and associated Sioux tribes would own land stretching across five states.

To refer to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation as a prisoner of war camp may seem incendiary to some, but this is how many of the Lakota see their existence. The Black Hills have been stolen and the Lakota live on the most infertile land fenced in on all sides by an encroaching dominant culture that they’ve predominantly experienced as oppressing and damaging. The solutions are not simple, but awareness and a will to action is.

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is prisoner of war camp #344.


I have offered what support I can to the new crowd-funding platform with articles here on Prison Photography and for Three of the online critics I respect most (Colin, David and Joerg) have also put their weight behind it. I am chuffed to see Aaron’s proposal off the ground and I’d ask you seriously to consider funding the Pine Ridge Billboard Project.

Mock-up of a wall installation using 24x 26″ posters, proposed Pine Ridge Billboard Project

OUTLETS FOR ACTION: Throughout the campaign a website will be formed. Aaron will build the site as a point of reference for those who want to know more about the history and the (broken) treaties of the Sioux and other tribes. There will be direct links to assist grassroots Native non-profits in places like Pine Ridge.The  first partner is Owe Aku.

More on Aaron’s blog here.

Buy a 18×24 print signed by Shepard Fairey and Aaron Huey to support the project!


©Aaron Huey Source:


I just watched a great independent documentary about PsychOps and their widespread use in consumer propaganda. It is no surprise that empire is built on  mind-plays upon the populace with regard their daily choices as it is on the mind-plays upon the same populace to sell its military invasions and murder during time of war invasion & occupation in foreign lands.


It’s still too early in the new media game to see if power really can be wrenched from big media – partakers in the psych-ops – and put into hands of the little guys. (And, this is not to suggest that the little guys will make better decisions, but it’d be a shift for sure). But, in terms of media and the stories we want told, can we imagine a media landscape over which we have more control?

We can feed photojournalism directly, if we only imagine ourselves as being in power.

Two tools have come to light this past week which seem feasible.

The first, Flattr, is a web-app which allows the user/recipient (note, I shied from the term ‘consumer’!) to express instant gratitude and give money to the producer of content. Flattr is built into the infrastructure of the web and applies to any and all content, not just photographer and not just journalism.

The second,, pertains specifically to photojournalism. If we are sick of celebrity pap filling our screens should we not be chomping at the bit for a model of production/consumption that is advertisement free and hands us some agency?

WHERE TO PLACE THE EMPHAS.IS is well aware of the success of the crowd-funded model in other areas of journalism. It seems, in my opinion, to be modeling itself on Spot.Us, progressing the format and making specific its use. I know that the widespread incorporation of the platform – and even the code of the site! – were things that Spot.Us founder Dave Cohn had in mind from the start. Adopt and fine-tune for the benefit of crowd-funded media.

Spot.Us was open to photojournalist pitches, but the platform diluted the impact of PJ work amidst all its other journalistic efforts. It seems like the photo-community would be more secure if it knew it had a place to call its own. In it now does.

Also, in its early stages, Spot.Us necessarily focused regionally, sprouting steadily across US metropolitan regions. looks to have a more global view – which is only right; times and expectations of new media have changed, grown up.

Kickstarter too has served many photographers well, but its reach is even wider than Spot.Us serving mainly creatives.

So, for me at least, seems to fall between Spot.Us and Kickstarter has an impressive list of endorsements from photo-editors and photographers (Philip Blenkinsop, Carolyn Drake, Jan Grarup, Michael Kamber, Teru Kuwayama, Dominic Nahr, Jerome Sessini, Anthony Suau, Tomas van Houtryve, Kadir van Lohuizen). is the brainchild of photo editor Tina Ahrens and photojournalist Karim Ben Khelifa. is set to launch early 2011. I think we should start saving our pennies for the first round of pitches.


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