Around the United States - Ryan Kost

Red Willow

On a recent visit to Taos Pueblo, New Mexico, I had a wonderful conversation with Red Willow. He served in the United States Navy for many years in the Pacific with pride and dignity. He now focuses much of his energy on crafting drums and traditional artwork. A self-proclaimed "Jack-of-all-trades."

We chatted about indigenous spirituality, connection with the land, and the recent passing of my dog. I referenced several parallels to my experiences with cultures in the high Andes in Peru and Bolivia. It was fascinating to see the same symbols in his artwork and worldviews that reflected the same ideologies found thousands of miles away. Red Willow stoically yet affirmatively stated...."We're all connected. We share the same soil." I wanted to capture a certain intimacy in this photo that illustrates this man's humble yet cogent personality. This is a man who's fellow native people have too often been cast aside in the United States...yet he still fought for our country. He is a man connected deeply to the earth and offered continual words of wisdom and optimism that I needed to hear. Here lies the true beauty of using my photography to engage with the world and its people. True, change isn't made from this image or story alone, but it reinvigorates my inner flame to get out there and learn, listen and observe. In the end this awareness will foster real change and meaningful conversations and respect for each and every one of us.

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