Documentary photographer Tom Fields began his exhibiting career in 1979 at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa when two of his photographs became the first ever to be accepted into the annual Indian Art Exhibition. At that time, photography was not looked on as a serious "Indian art" medium. Since then, Fields' work has helped change that outlook for photography as a form of art in American Indian culture.
Fields explains that his photography is about producing images that are both creative and realistic and are inspired by "the emotional landscapes of Native people." He says, "I'm always looking for those personal moments when people share hope and are expressing and living their culture." This aim is illustrated here in Nativescapes - A View From the Interior.
For this exhibit, Fields has compiled photographs from several years of working within the Native American community. The images provide a visual definition of what it means to be Native American in Oklahoma. Fields says, "To accurately portray Native people, one must understand the soul of what makes them persevere. For me, it's being able to experience the depth of the culture, which is more than just artifacts, art, or dance; it's the everyday movements of life such as the dinners, adoptions, naming, and family ceremonies."
Many of the photographs in this exhibit portray specific moments of spiritual and cultural expression. "These take many forms for Native people, as each tribe and family had to determine the best path for their wellbeing and survival," says Fields. "You can't dream these images up in your head and give it a title, one has to be present to experience the moment, then make the photograph."
Fields was born in Tahlequah and now resides in Stillwater where works as a photojournalist and video producer for the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technical Education.
Fields was educated in film by the Community Film Workshop Council in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He also studied art at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. Since he began exhibiting in 1979, Fields has become widely recognized for his exhibits and projects. In just the past decade, Fields' art has been featured at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe; the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; the Banff Centre in Banff, Canada; the New Orleans Museum of Art; and several exhibits in Oklahoma.