Zoë Marieh Urness is a Tlingit Alaskan Native whose portraits of modern Natives in traditional regalia and settings, aim to send a message; “We are here. And we are thriving, through our traditions”.
Her unique style fuses documentary and fine art, with her imagery simultaneously reflecting the sensitivity and the ancestral strength of her subjects. Educated at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA, Zoe’s current project focuses exclusively on sharing beautiful, powerful images of Indigenous Americans, and the lands and traditions they hold dear.
Most recently she has visited the Havasupai at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, the Hopi at Second Mesa, the Apache Crown Dancers at Monumental Valley, and the Alaskan natives at the biennial Celebration in Juneau.
She has showed abroad in the United Kingdom and has made show appearances at Photo L.A., During Art Basel Miami showing at SPECTRUM, the Heard Market, Native Treasures, and made her second appearance on the plaza at Indian Market. Winning three blue ribbons combined in her first and second year including, Best in Division, Best in Category, both her first and second year at SWAIA market.
Since April of this year, Urness, who is Tlingit and Cherokee, has been traveling the western United States, shooting the ceremonies, dances and regalia of Native Americans for her ambitious photo series, Native Americans: Keeping the Traditions Alive. Using her art to help preserve the traditions of indigenous people, she produces photos that serve to connect the old ways to the modern-day realities of the Native world.
The importance of passing on tradition through storytelling, dance and song is deeply ingrained in Native American life, and Urness has managed to not only participate in this sacred heritage in a stylish and contemporary manner, but through her diligent documentation is sharing the ways of those whom she honors with a wider audience.
Gaining traction largely through word of mouth, the series has grown organically and exponentially as one subject leads Urness to the next, and what began as a solitary endeavor has blossomed into a communal effort, unconstrained by tribe or borders.