Sunday, November 23, 2008

I Felt Like A Thousand Food Stamps

I swim in Aquatic Park with the Dolphin Club, and through the divine plenty of the women's sauna, I overheard talk about a nonprofit that does amazing work with Native Americans from Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and thought, that's my AAU Environmental Portraiture class's next assignment. One google search and one phone call later, we had ourselves some real life to document.

PathStar sponsors Ogalala Sioux youth and adults to come to San Francisco's South End Rowing Club to train for one intense week. And ultimately, to swim from Alcatraz. The island prison, with its historic and frustrated AIM occupation in 1969, is a mile from shore, full of swift-running ocean currents, salty tides and a very deep bottom. But steeped with motivation to lead themselves and their tribe toward health and survival, all of this year's participants bravely made it to shore. When my student, Kevin Hill (light blue shirt, above) asked his subject, Alcapone White Calf, about his successful swim from Alcatraz, Al answered, "I felt like a thousand food stamps." The quote, that speaks so poetically about poverty and joy, became the title of our show, our document of the 2008 PathStar swimmers.

Last night, with the handball court banging through the plate glass window next to the happy hour bar, we drilled nary a hole in the venerable 1870's wood structure, clipped the 13x19" images onto wire wrapped around existing screws, and toasted Dr. Nancy Iverson, PathStar's founder.

This year's SF Chronicle story.
Darcy Padilla's images from Pine Ridge.
Web site of Bill McLeod (peach shirt, above), a great photographer-pal and South End rower.
More student images from this project.

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