I met the stranger in today’s post a few days short of one year ago. I am unveiling her to coincide nearly with the occurrence of the same event that drew her to Albuquerque, the 34th annual Gathering of Nations (GON). It’s North America’s largest PowWow and Native American competition featuring Indian singing and dancing and a celebration of Native culture.
My encounter with Jennifer, Stranger 88/100, took place on April 30th, the third and final day of the 33rd GON. Later in the evening, Miss Indian World 2016 would be crowned following a pageant that featured tribal knowledge, dance and personality competitions.
At GON, people predominantly from First Nations and tribes dispersed across North America travel into Albuquerque to participate and reunite with friends and family. I’m told it’s loud to hear and exciting to see, so it’s on my list of future things-to-do. The GON has outgrown it longtime location at UNM’s Wise Pies Arena (The Pit), and this year will be held inside Tingley Coliseum and the Powwow Grounds at Expo NM, the State Fair grounds.
Many attendees break from the PowWow, and venture into nearby city destinations with their families. One of these individuals was Jennifer. We met in a shaded area at the ABQ Biopark Botanic Garden.
My own party had left me behind in the Fairy Tale Garden Orchid Show and Sale so they could move on elsewhere to other exhibits. Using a walkie-talkie, I called my children for a status update, and they decided to return to meet me. During the hand-held conversation, I noticed Jennifer with her husband sitting on a bench nearby. They were looking at and discussing some printed matter; possibly the Biopark site map. Jennifer’s colorful headband with a lightning-bolt, chevron-pattern attracted my attention. I approached their bench, introduced myself and asked if she would grant me permission to photograph her for 100 Strangers. I also offered to make a family portrait for her, with her husband and children. She accepted unhesitatingly. As I opened up my reflector, Jennifer’s husband went to gather their children to join mum on the bench.
Jennifer told me she is Navajo, and drove in from Arizona. She and her family had already been to the PowWow earlier in the day and her children needed space to run around. Jennifer said she lived near the Four Corners in Rock Land. I can’t find it on a map of the Navajo Nation, although in the area she described I did find a Rock Point, and Round Rock. Either my phone’s note taking app auto-corrected the village name, or perhaps she had translated from Diné Bizaad, her Navajo language.
In the meantime, my own flock returned just in time to help hold my light reflector. I was glad for the assistance. Jennifer was sitting in the shade and I wished to illuminate her better, as well as add some sparkle to her dark brown eyes. The modifier needed placement behind me, by at least two feet, to avoid overpowering her. While being photographed a breeze had blown her hair across her face a few times. She patiently curated her appearance and swept the hairs back in place. While doing so her hair hid one of her large hoop earrings. I decided to keep, rather than clone off, the black metal loop that was visible behind her on the bench; it alludes to her hidden earring.
After I secured Jennifer alone, her children and husband filtered onto the bench for a few portraits. Getting her little ones to sit on either parent’s lap was enough of a distraction that we didn’t engage in further conversation. When the portrait session was completed I showed the best shots to her on the reverse of my camera and she liked them. We exchanged email so I could send her the photographs. I thanked her for the chance to photograph her and her family, and then we parted. My favorite of their group portraits can be enjoyed here.