In 2016, Atlanta freelance photographer Ryan Vizzions traveled to North Dakota’s Standing Rock Indian Reservation to join the Lakota protest against the $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. Vizzions spent six months at Oceti Sakowin camp and shot more than 45,000 photographs there, including pictures of police using water cannons and tear gas on protestors. A widely distributed photograph by Vizzions, Defend The Sacred, shows a protestor on horseback facing a daunting wall of police and law enforcement vehicles.
No Spiritual Surrender: A Dedication to the Standing Rock Movement compiles 117 photographs of the resistance camps. The collection is released at a special signing on Friday, April 12, at Monroe Gallery of Photography. Fifty advance copies are available during the event. On Monroe Gallery’s blog, Vizzions noted that he traveled to Standing Rock because he felt there wasn’t suitable mainstream coverage of the Dakota Access pipeline dispute. “I try to mix fine art with photojournalism,” he writes. “I hope to help amplify indigenous voices.”
Vizzions’ stance as a documentarian is to never be neutral; that is, he does not want to be seen as on the side of those he calls oppressors. So he is unabashed about bringing bias to his coverage of events. In the case of the protest at Standing Rock, he believes his photos provided a unique perspective from inside the community. Vizzions uses grassroots fundraising to pay for trips where he sees a need for independent media coverage. The Monroe Gallery exhibits photographs from the book through April 21, along with selections from his other work, which includes images from his foray to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm.
Ryan Vizzions signs copies of No Spiritual Surrender: A Dedication to the Standing Rock Movement from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, April 12, at Monroe Gallery of Photography (112 Don Gaspar Ave., 505-992-0800, monroegallery.com).