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Pink Dress photography exhibit features work of student artists

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PABLO – A new photography exhibit adds a splash of pink tulle to the offerings at the People’s Center.

The Pink Dress photography project will be on display at the center for at least two months. Two Eagle River School photographers and other photography students from four cities around North America created the photos featuring pink prom dresses against diverse backdrops. 

The project started at the Lower Eastside Girls' Club in New York City where high school girls posed for their fellow student photographers in pink prom dresses. David Spear, TERS photography teacher, heard about the project from a friend in New York City and decided to have his students participate. The girls’ club sent a box of pink dresses to TERS and students began posing and shooting in areas around the Flathead Reservation that were important to them.

TERS student photos have already been displayed in other locations, and now, Spear has a set of prints that can be shared in this area. Julie Cajune, director of CSKT Tribal Education, decided that the photos should be installed at the People’s Center and facilitated the opening. 

TERS art teacher Sean Dalbey and his fourth-period photography class assisted Spear in preparing and installing the show. Spear added photographs to the collection featuring work from all the TERS students who participated. 

“It’s kind of like a family album,” Spear said. “You see larger pictures from students around the world next to small snippets from different communities on the reservation. People have been very interested in the project and in learning about the context of it.”

Spear said he thinks the show is valuable because it shows the diverse experiences of girls in New York City, Los Angeles and Chapias, Mexico, alongside girls from the Flathead Reservation. Pink dresses are the uniting factor throughout the photos.

The Pink Dress project highlights the diverse triumphs and challenges of being young women around the world. The photographs can be seen as representing the collective experience of young womanhood in a wide variety of contexts. 

Some of the photos taken on the Flathead Reservation present the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women. Jermain Charlo, a former TERS student, was in the past photographed in a pink dress near her home in Dixon for the project. She has been missing since June. Photographs of Charlo are used in the show with permission from her family. Spear said members of her family saw the display as a way to honor Charlo. 

The space where the photographs are now displayed at the center was the space where Marita Growing Thunder’s work was displayed featuring traditional-style Native American dresses to bring awareness to the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Spear said these connections brought life to the show and can be used to start discussion about the difficult topic.

According to Spear, another benefit of the show is that it gives students the opportunity to have their work seen by the public. “It gives them an indicator that they as young image makers are important,” he said.  

The work is displayed beneath photos of Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal elders. Spear said attendees at the opening noted the contrast of photos of vibrant young members of the tribes against the legacy of community leaders that came before them.

The show will be moved to Missoula in November where it will be the second installation at Zootown Arts’ new location. 

The Lower Eastside Girls’ Club is collaborating with TERS community members to create a new project for photography students on the topic of water. Visitors can view the Pink Dress exhibit at the People’s Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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