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It was the strength of memory and history–the traditional culture–that had sustained the Ojibway in their deep, ongoing struggle for survival, a struggle that was etched in the faces of young and old during the trying period of the 1950s.

–Jerome Liebling, The Minnesota Photographs, 1997

Every photograph, besides being a document of what the camera sees, also testifies to the relationship between the photographer and the subject of the photo. Liebling’s photograph of an Ojibway woman on the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota reveals a trusting relationship. This woman appears lost in thought and seems to have forgotten all about the man with the camera who shares her space. She must have been comfortable enough to be unconcerned that Jerome Liebling was contemplating her at close range through the lens of a camera.

The photograph is also a study in textures. All the tones that make up the woman’s face, her bandanna, the background, her hair and shirt are the same rich, dark grays. The variations are in the texture–the pattern on the bandanna, the wispy hair, fine lines in the skin and the soft background. The only thing that stands out are the hearts that make up her earring, perhaps a symbol of the strong heart Liebling found when he photographed this woman.

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Minneapolis Institute of Arts