Since 2005, Diné (Navajo) photographer Will Wilson has been working on his Auto Immune Response (AIR) series of photos that depict a Native American man experiencing and figuring out how to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.
Peters Projects showcases a selection of Wilson’s powerful photos in “AIR,” which is on exhibit through February 18.
“The series is an allegorical investigation of the extraordinarily rapid transformation of Indigenous lifeways (ways of life), the dis-ease it has caused and strategies of response that enable cultural survival,” says Wilson, who is the male figure in these large-scale works: a man immersed in a toxic environment that’s both devastating and beautiful.
In the photo “Confluence of Three Generations,” Wilson, his daughter and his mother stand near the Grand Canyon at the point where the Colorado and the Little Colorado rivers meet on the Navajo Reservation. Wilson and his daughter wear gas masks to symbolize the environment’s toxicity.
“I had certain sites in mind when I thought about where I wanted to take my photos,” explains Wilson, an artist-in-residence at Santa Fe’s School of Advanced Research and an instructor of photography at Santa Fe Community College who has been awarded grants and fellowships for his work. “I got in the habit of carrying around gas masks and outfits with me wherever I went, waiting to see the right settings for the photos.”
Several interior shots were taken in a hogan, a traditional Navajo dwelling made out of earth and logs, which represents home base for humans trying to figure out how to live in the world. Wilson also set up a hogan-style greenhouse in the gallery to stand for survival and the future.
“My hope,” he adds, “is that this project will serve as a pollinator, creating formats for exchange and production that question and challenge the social, cultural and environmental systems that surround us.”