Honor the Treaties
Aaron Huey is a photographer whose evocative and richly textured work has graced Mountainfilm’s gallery walls more than once. This short piece profiles his work at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home to some 300 Lakota Sioux Indians. It’s a dark world of poverty and violence but one in which Aaron has allowed himself to be deeply drawn. Why? So that he can give voice to a people’s unspoken pain and suffering and the injustice that caused it and sustains it.
Growing up in Montana, Kevin Michael Connolly floated rivers, climbed and skied like any other kid — except he wasn't like any other kid: "I was born without legs. This is all I've known and to me, it's not really a big deal. I think it was called a 'sporadic birth defect,' which is basically the doctors saying they don't know what happened." Connolly has been asked if he was in a car accident, is a veteran or was eaten by a shark. As he writes, "Everyone tries to create a story in their heads to explain the things that baffle them. For the same reason, we want to know how a magic trick works or how mystery novel ends. We want to know how someone different, strange or disfigured came to be as they are. Everyone does it. It's natural. It's curiosity."
His situation hasn't prevented him from traveling the world, mostly on a skateboard. (He rarely uses a wheelchair and abandoned prosthetics when he was 12.) On a solo trip through Europe, he grew tired of people staring at him, so he started taking surreptitious pictures of onlookers as he rolled by. He explains, "Before any of us can ponder or speculate, we react. We stare. Whether it is a glance or a neck-twisting ogle, we look at that which does not seem to fit in our day-to-day lives. It is that one instant of unabashed curiosity — more reflex than conscious action — that makes us who we are."
Those photos from Europe comprise the “Rolling Exhibition,” which led to a book deal (Double Take) and now a TV show on the Travel Channel called “Armed and Ready.” With his work, he's trying to challenge the way people not only look at him, but at the world. According to Connolly, he likes "…making it difficult for people. I don't want to give people the luxury of staring at someone who's weird — and moving on. I don't want to make it that easy for people. I think that…the job of any photographer, or anyone who can call themselves an artist, is to make people question what they do on reflex…to make people question a value or an idea that's so common that people haven't really looked at it yet."
In Person: Kevin Connolly
We hold ordinary heroes in the highest regard at Mountainfilm, so E.J. Scott should feel at home in Telluride as he fits the description perfectly. Suffering from a degenerative, genetic disease of the retina called choroideremia, Scott is slowly losing his vision. His response is to commit enormous amounts of time, money and, most likely, knee cartilage to raise funds and awareness for a cure by running a dozen marathons in a dozen states in 2012. As he says in the film, confidently directed by Ryan Suffern (who edited 2012 Mountainfilm favorites Bidder 70 and Right to Play), “If you’re trying, you’re making a difference.”