Video clips from “Balkowitsch” by Gregory Desaye and Chelsy Ciavarella


Crowfoot, Ernie Lapointe, Lakota (9 June 2014, Plate No.821)

Exhibitions and Gallery Acquisitions

Northern Plains North AMericans | A Modern Wet Plate Perspective - Shane Balkowitsch

I’d like to introduce you to the work of Wet Plate Collodionist Shane Balkowitsch. A native of Bismarck, North Dakota, Shane’s work has recently been acquired by such diverse institutions The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (Washington D.C.), The Heard Museum (Phoenix, AZ), Gabriel Dumont Institute (Saskatoon), Nordiska Museet (Stockholm), The Library of Congress (Washington D.C.), The Plains Art Museum (Fargo, ND), the Pitt Rivers Museum (University of Oxford) and the Musée cantonal d’archéologie et d’histoire in Switzerland .

 

Balkowitsch’s Northern Plains Native Americans | A Modern Wet Plate Perspective is an incredible series of portraits using 1860’s processes. Starting with a portrait of Ernie Lapointe, great great grandson of Sitting Bull, the concept morphed into an affirmation of the spirit and resilience of the sitters, all of whom were referred by family and friends. Shane works closely with a cultural liason and any and all proceeds made are donated to the American Indian College Fund. Plates have been donated to institutions around the world.

 

Please take a look at the images and information on this site. If you have any questions about the exhibition or acquisition of Shane’s work, please contact me at mark@thecovertcollective.ca

 

~ Mark Walton

Excerpt from “Balkowitsch” by Gregory Desaye and Chelsy Ciavarella

Northern Plains Native Americans

A Modern Wet Plate Perspective - Shane Balkowitsch

“I humble myself, when my people speak my name”, so said Sitting Bull.
Shane Balkowitsch humbly asked me, if he could take a wet plate of me…
Out of humbleness and respect grows greatness. Just have a look at Shane’s work.

 

Ernie (Crowfoot) LaPointe
The Great Grandson of Sitting Bull

 

December 8th, 2020

Cultural Advisor

Margaret Yellowbird

Margaret Yellow Bird, who acts as Balkowitsch’s cultural advisor, was first introduced to Shane the same way as almost all of those who are involved in the project – through a family connection. Her uncle, Monte Yellow Bird, asked her to assist him when he went to have his wet plate done. “We don’t allow just anyone to touch our hair (when it needs braiding). You only allow your spouse or a sister or a niece (to assist you). My uncle said to Shane ‘She’s here, she can help you with some of these things you need to understand about our ways.’”

 

She began assisting at Shane’s weekly wet plate sessions. “(We began asking sitters) what do you want to see coming out of your wet plate? What do you hold dear? Is there a story you want to tell? Is there something you want to demonstrate in your wet plate?” Transparency was tantamount. “This is a forever picture that is going to be archived.”

 

Originally “Shane struggled with getting people to come in. He did not want sitters to question whether this was a form of cultural appropriation.”

Excerpt from “Balkowitsch” by Gregory Desaye and Chelsy Ciavarella

“…Now we’re seeing people that know the story (of what Shane is doing), have heard testimonials from other people that have done their wet plates saying that ‘this has been a life-changing experience.’ They saw Shane’s character for what it is… he is not here to appropriate or steal any ideas. Shane is really coming from a good place, where he wants to emphasize that we (Native Americans) are still here, and this is how we express ourselves… This is OUR history, this is who WE are as a people”.

 

“Shane does not seek any money here. He utilizes his own money to create these images, to buy his supplies, to pay for the shipping to where they need to go, and also gifting the individual people (with a print of their wet plate). Their images are now in books and in museums. When Shane does sell an image, the money goes directly to the American Indian College Fund. That money goes back to the people… and their higher education”.

 

“When I was speaking to Deb Haaland about this, (she said) Shane is really pertinent to the relationship between our non-native community and our native community. His work alone displays that. He is part of not only the healing process but that network that we continue to build towards that healing process.”

Congresswoman Debra Haaland by Shane Balkowitsch, June 23rd, 2019

Debra Haaland

Congresswoman - New Mexico's 1st District

“The work that Shane does for its artistic merit as well as for its collaborative nature is genuine and enthusiastic, on a human level. For the folks of many different Indian tribes, who sit for his portraits, and who often become his life-long friends, Shane builds real rapport. Beyond the making of art photographs, it is this rapport, and the importance of honest collaboration between people of different cultures, that is so important for our country and is at the center of the moving forward of our country. I’ll strive to emulate the rapport that Shane has achieved in his work, in the work I’m doing in Congress. Shane’s photographs are not only beautiful, but they convey the best example of good people working together to achieve something great.”

 

March 21st, 2019
Recently nominated as
Secretary of the Interior by President-Elect Joe Biden

Wet plate by Kevin Klein, Valley City, ND

Shane Balkowitsch

Maa'ishda tehxixi Agu'agshi | Shadow Catcher

“Art can be a weapon for change and we artists have the ability to wield it at will”

 

Shane Balkowitsch is an American wet plate photographer from Bismarck, North Dakota. Balkowitsch was given the name “Maa’ishda tehxixi Agu’agshi” (“Shadow Catcher”) by Calvin Grinnell of the Hidatsa-Mandan-Arikara Nation on October 28, 2018. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shane_Balkowitsch)

 

It’s easy to list Balkowitsch’s work and accomplishments, but much more difficult to get a feel for who he is as an artist. At first glance, one might say “Edward Curtis redux” and possibly move on, but his images are much more than that. They are indicative of his deep desire to inspire change, share stories and and practice kindness.

 

Whereas Curtis made no bones about his work being an ethnographic study and would indeed pose his subjects or add props and accessories to make them look more “native”, Shane’s work is driven by his sitters themselves. People are found through word of mouth and family referrals. They choose what they wish to wear or be photographed with. They are assisted by a cultural advisor who understands the deep significance of the artefacts and regalia brought to a photoshoot, even to the point of helping them braid their hair, something a non-native person would not be allowed to do.

 

Balkowitsch’s relationship with the process of wet plate collodion is genuine. In 2012, he happened upon a wet plate photo that intrigued him. Up to that point he had never taken an analog photograph, nor engaged in photography as anything more than taking snaps with a cell phone. His curiosity about the photo was so great that he threw himself into learning the ins and outs of how to capture images using this method. Wet plate collodion is not an alternative process to Shane. It is the only process he knows.

 

While Northern Plains Native Americans | A Wet Plate Perspective is indeed what he considers his life’s work, he is known for more than that. Shane’s photos of Greta Thurnberg at Standing Rock are iconic. His images of the Covid-19 pandemic are full of gravity and playfulness. His plates of Evander Holyfield are riveting.

 

NPNA is an ongoing project which will ultimately be comprised of 1000 portraits. Shane estimates that it will take up to 20 years to reach this goal.

OTHER WORK

Excerpt from “Balkowitsch” by Gregory Desaye and Chelsy Ciavarella

Evander Holyfield
Four time World Heavyweight Champion

Liberty Trudges Through Injustice

Excerpt from “Balkowitsch” by Gregory Desaye and Chelsy Ciavarella

Greta Thunberg
Climate Activist
TIME Person of the Year 2019
My Modern Met: Top 50 Photos 2019
Around the world

“The Susceptibility Of Everyone”
The COVID-19 Isolation Series (Plate #1)

The COVID-19 Isolation Series

SHANE BALKOWITSCH

Crowfoot, Ernie Lapointe, Lakota (9 June 2014, Plate No.821)

Exhibitions and Gallery Acquisitions

Northern Plains North Americans | A Modern Wet Plate Perspective - Shane Balkowitsch

I’d like to introduce you to the work of Wet Plate Collodionist Shane Balkowitsch. A native of Bismarck, North Dakota, Shane’s work has recently been acquired by such diverse institutions The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (Washington D.C.), The Heard Museum (Phoenix, AZ), Gabriel Dumont Institute (Saskatoon), Nordiska Museet (Stockholm), The Library of Congress (Washington D.C.), The Plains Art Museum (Fargo, ND), the Pitt Rivers Museum (University of Oxford) and the Musée cantonal d’archéologie et d’histoire in Switzerland .

 

Balkowitsch’s Northern Plains Native Americans | A Modern Wet Plate Perspective is an incredible series of portraits using 1860’s processes. Starting with a portrait of Ernie Lapointe, great great grandson of Sitting Bull, the concept morphed into an affirmation of the spirit and resilience of the sitters, all of whom were referred by family and friends. Shane works closely with a cultural liason and any and all proceeds made are donated to the American Indian College Fund. Plates have been donated to institutions around the world.

 

Please take a look at the images and information on this site. If you have any questions about the exhibition or acquisition of Shane’s work, please contact me at mark@thecovertcollective.ca

 

~ Mark Walton

Excerpt from “Balkowitsch” by Gregory Desaye and Chelsy Ciavarella

Northern Plains Native Americans

A Modern Wet Plate Perspective - Shane Balkowitsch

“I humble myself, when my people speak my name”, so said Sitting Bull. Shane Balkowitsch humbly asked me, if he could take a wet plate of me… Out of humbleness and respect grows greatness. Just have a look at Shane’s work.

 

Ernie (Crowfoot) LaPointe
The Great Grandson of Sitting Bull

December 8th, 2020

Cultural Advisor

Margaret Yellowbird

Excerpt from “Balkowitsch” by Gregory Desaye and Chelsy Ciavarella

Margaret Yellow Bird, who acts as Balkowitsch’s cultural advisor, was first introduced to Shane the same way as almost all of those who are involved in the project – through a family connection. Her uncle, Monte Yellow Bird, asked her to assist him when he went to have his wet plate done. “We don’t allow just anyone to touch our hair (when it needs braiding). You only allow your spouse or a sister or a niece (to assist you). My uncle said to Shane ‘She’s here, she can help you with some of these things you need to understand about our ways.’”

 

She began assisting at Shane’s weekly wet plate sessions. “(We began asking sitters) what do you want to see coming out of your wet plate? What do you hold dear? Is there a story you want to tell? Is there something you want to demonstrate in your wet plate?” Transparency was tantamount. “This is a forever picture that is going to be archived.”

 

Originally “Shane struggled with getting people to come in. He did not want sitters to question whether this was a form of cultural appropriation.”

 

“…Now we’re seeing people that know the story (of what Shane is doing), have heard testimonials from other people that have done their wet plates saying that ‘this has been a life-changing experience.’ They saw Shane’s character for what it is… he is not here to appropriate or steal any ideas. Shane is really coming from a good place, where he wants to emphasize that we (Native Americans) are still here, and this is how we express ourselves… This is OUR history, this is who WE are as a people”.

 

“Shane does not seek any money here. He utilizes his own money to create these images, to buy his supplies, to pay for the shipping to where they need to go, and also gifting the individual people (with a print of their wet plate). Their images are now in books and in museums. When Shane does sell an image, the money goes directly to the American Indian College Fund. That money goes back to the people… and their higher education”.

 

“When I was speaking to Deb Haaland about this, (she said) Shane is really pertinent to the relationship between our non-native community and our native community. His work alone displays that. He is part of not only the healing process but that network that we continue to build towards that healing process.”

Congresswoman Debra Haaland by Shane Balkowitsch, June 23rd, 2019

Debra Haaland

Congresswoman - New Mexico's 1st District

“The work that Shane does for its artistic merit as well as for its collaborative nature is genuine and enthusiastic, on a human level. For the folks of many different Indian tribes, who sit for his portraits, and who often become his life-long friends, Shane builds real rapport. Beyond the making of art photographs, it is this rapport, and the importance of honest collaboration between people of different cultures, that is so important for our country and is at the center of the moving forward of our country. I’ll strive to emulate the rapport that Shane has achieved in his work, in the work I’m doing in Congress. Shane’s photographs are not only beautiful, but they convey the best example of good people working together to achieve something great.”

 

March 21st, 2019
Recently nominated as Secretary of the Interior by President-Elect Joe Biden

Wet plate by Kevin Klein, Valley City, ND

Shane Balkowitsch

Maa'ishda tehxixi Agu'agshi | Shadow Catcher

“Art can be a weapon for change and we artists have the ability to wield it at will”

 

Shane Balkowitsch is an American wet plate photographer from Bismarck, North Dakota. Balkowitsch was given the name “Maa’ishda tehxixi Agu’agshi” (“Shadow Catcher”) by Calvin Grinnell of the Hidatsa-Mandan-Arikara Nation on October 28, 2018. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shane_Balkowitsch)

 

It’s easy to list Balkowitsch’s work and accomplishments, but much more difficult to get a feel for who he is as an artist. At first glance, one might say “Edward Curtis redux” and possibly move on, but his images are much more than that. They are indicative of his deep desire to inspire change, share stories and and practice kindness.

 

Whereas Curtis made no bones about his work being an ethnographic study and would indeed pose his subjects or add props and accessories to make them look more “native”, Shane’s work is driven by his sitters themselves. People are found through word of mouth and family referrals. They choose what they wish to wear or be photographed with. They are assisted by a cultural advisor who understands the deep significance of the artefacts and regalia brought to a photoshoot, even to the point of helping them braid their hair, something a non-native person would not be allowed to do.

 

Balkowitsch’s relationship with the process of wet plate collodion is genuine. In 2012, he happened upon a wet plate photo that intrigued him. Up to that point he had never taken an analog photograph, nor engaged in photography as anything more than taking snaps with a cell phone. His curiosity about the photo was so great that he threw himself into learning the ins and outs of how to capture images using this method. Wet plate collodion is not an alternative process to Shane. It is the only process he knows.

 

While Northern Plains Native Americans | A Wet Plate Perspective is indeed what he considers his life’s work, he is known for more than that. Shane’s photos of Greta Thurnberg at Standing Rock are iconic. His images of the Covid-19 pandemic are full of gravity and playfulness. His plates of Evander Holyfield are riveting.

 

NPNA is an ongoing project which will ultimately be comprised of 1000 portraits. Shane estimates that it will take up to 20 years to reach this goal.

OTHER WORK

Excerpt from “Balkowitsch” by Gregory Desaye and Chelsy Ciavarella

Evander Holyfield
Four time World Heavyweight Champion

Excerpt from “Balkowitsch” by Gregory Desaye and Chelsy Ciavarella

Greta Thunberg
Climate Activist
TIME Person of the Year 2019
My Modern Met: Top 50 Photos 2019
Around the world

The COVID-19 Isolation Series

Liberty Trudges Through Injustice

“The Susceptibility Of Everyone”
The COVID-19 Isolation Series (Plate #1)