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The LeRoy DeJolie Workshop

In September, we traveled with Navajo photographer LeRoy DeJolie through his homeland — to Canyon de Chelly and the annual Navajo Nation Fair. The TV crew also shot with LeRoy at his family's ranch near Page, Arizona one day.

LeRoy is an award-winning photographer whose work has appeared in numerous prestigious magazine and galleries. His passion in life is to capture images of his native land and culture to share with others.

The Navajo Nation Fair was a dazzling array of color, activity, sights and sounds. It's held every year in Window Rock and is a weeklong celebration of Navajo people and their culture. Navajo and other Native American tribes gather for a variety of events. These include Pow Wows; the largest all-Indian rodeo in the country, Wooley Rides (kids aged three to seven, dressed in full cowboy regalia, ride a sheep like a bunking bronco), and a parade where over 100,000 spectators lined the streets this year.

What surprised me on this shoot was the extraordinary warmth and openness of the people at the Fair. Much of the time, Beth and I were with LeRoy, the workshop students and our TV crew. LeRoy would talk with fellow Navajos and gently say, "Oh, and by the way, I'm traveling with a group of friends who are all photographers. You know, you're such a beautiful person, would it be possible for us to take some pictures of you?"

Periodically, Beth and I would split off from the group on our Web missions. I wanted to capture additional images for The Experience section of the site. Every person I asked agreed to let me take his or her picture. Sometimes the person did not speak English and, as my Navajo sadly begins and ends at "Ya'at'eeh" spoken language was not an option. But we'd gesture, smile and sometimes even develop a moment of mutual fascination. It was a memorable experience. As Michael said in his Behind the Scenes interview:

"... contrary to the normal understanding, which is to photograph a Native American is to steal a bit of their soul, [they] have willingly given us their souls for the camera."

Michael eloquently explained what surprised him about the Navajo people and the Fair in the next part of his interview. Click here to read.

LeRoy also addressed the character of his people in this clip I'd like to show you. Please bear in mind — this is rough, unmixed audio and does not yet have music. I'll talk more about the music scoring process later, but thought you'd be interested to know, the composer told me today that he's planning to do something "ethnic but not overbearing" here. "Subtle yet something that hopefully evokes strong emotion. Slightly other wordly ..." I've cued the tape to the sequence just before — so you can see the rodeo/wooley ride lead-in.

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jack dykinga / leroy dejolie / david muench

 

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