Throughout the years, renowned photographer Dana Gluckstein has had the opportunity to photograph the likes of Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Desmond Tutu and Muhammad Ali. For most photographers, photographing these iconic figures would be the defining moment of their career. However, throughout Dana Gluckstein’s career, she has done much, much, more. In fact, through Gluckstein’s’ recent exhibit, “Dignity: Tribes in Transition,” and in association with Amnesty International, she was able to help create the “tipping point” for former President Obama to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
When Gluckstein graduated from Stanford in her early 20s, she had no idea that she was at the start of a 25-year journey to advocate for indigenous peoples through her art. Being a young, independent artist came with challenges, including a lack of funding at times.
“There were definitely lonely hard times over those 25 years where I wondered what the purpose of the work was, and who would see it. I never knew that my work would become a book, a major exhibition that would tour Europe and the United States, and I definitely never knew that it would help create the, “tipping point” for the United States and President Obama to adopt and support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Gluckstein said.
According to Gluckstein, the seeds of inspiration for “Dignity” were planted while at a roadside market in Kenya. At this market, Gluckstein met a Kenyan man with, “tribal markings on his forehead and a torn western T-shirt.” The man then asked Gluckstein to take his portrait. Gluckstein called this image, “Tribal Man in Transition,” which ended up being the precursor to “Dignity.”
Gluckstein would eventually include this image in both her exhibits and book.
Included in Gluckstein’s history changing book are words by both Archbishop Desmond Tutu and FaithKeeper Oren R. Lyons, as to why this work with indigenous peoples is so important.
“They teach us that the first law of our being is that we are set in a delicate network of interdependence with our fellow human beings and with the rest of creation,” Desmond Tutu said.
Gluckstein certainly agrees with this statement, and because of this belief, she helped create a “Dignity” advocacy campaign in association with Amnesty International.
“We had thousands of people writing letters to the administration at the time asking Obama to adopt the UN declaration on the right of indigenous peoples. We were the last country to do so. Our country had vetoed the declaration in 2007, along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, so I was very happy that our country [eventually] did the right thing,” Gluckstein said.
Because of Gluckstein’s valuable work, in 2011 she was invited to present at the United Nations in Switzerland about her work. Gluckstein was also given the opportunity to address the World Economic Forum on, “how art can impact the state of the world.”
According to Gluckstein, we each carry a piece of “the puzzle” on our planet, and we are all born to do something and to help someone.
“I think a change starts in our own backyards, there is so much that we can do to be sustainable and to further the future of the planet,” Gluckstein said.
“Dignity: Tribes in Transition,” will be showing at the BYU Museum of Art until September 29, 2018. For more information visit their website.
If you wish to join Dana Gluckstein and Amnesty International in their continued advocacy for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, please click this link to learn how you can help with their latest project.