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Getting the shot: Tulalip Fish Ceremony

From: Creative Inspirations: Natalie Fobes, Photographer

Video: Getting the shot: Tulalip Fish Ceremony

(Music playing.) Natalie Fobes: I had some unforgettable experiences during the ten years that I photographed the salmon and her people. I remember the Tulalip First Fish ceremony, in particular. The Tulalip Indians and a lot of their native tribes around, not only in the Northwest, but around the Pacific Rim, felt that the salmon were a gift from the Creator, and there were certain rules that they had to abide by in order for this gift to continue coming.

Getting the shot: Tulalip Fish Ceremony

(Music playing.) Natalie Fobes: I had some unforgettable experiences during the ten years that I photographed the salmon and her people. I remember the Tulalip First Fish ceremony, in particular. The Tulalip Indians and a lot of their native tribes around, not only in the Northwest, but around the Pacific Rim, felt that the salmon were a gift from the Creator, and there were certain rules that they had to abide by in order for this gift to continue coming.

The first role, of course, was to not take too many fish, no be greedy. And the most important was that the first fish that returned to the river and was caught by the Indians, that fish was treated as a visiting chieftain, as someone of great importance, because they felt that the salmon were people who each year would don their salmon costumes, return to the rivers to sacrifice themselves, so mankind could survive.

Every tribe that I had the opportunity to talk about this with had a similar story, from the Ainu of Japan all the way around here to the Tulalips. I was so fortunate and grateful that the Tulalips allowed me to photograph during the ceremony. They welcomed the community to come in, and it's a great time of joy. During that day, again, I got there a little bit early as photographers always try to do, and I saw Raymond Moses tuning his drum, highlighted by a shaft of light that was coming down from the roof.

The cedarwood fire's smoke had filled the longhouse, and the smoke filled this light, and it was absolutely beautiful. And in the old days with film, you're not quite sure what you have, and so I started bracketing my exposure to make sure that that shaft of light was brilliant as it possibly could be, and to make to sure that the light that was reflecting from his drum into his face highlighted his features just right.

And about three quarters of the way through, I heard the sounds of people surrounding us with their drums and their voices, and began their singing and drumming, facing Raymond, with me in the center of the semicircle. They were drumming, drumming, drumming. As a photographer, that's the epitome of what I want to experience. I'm there. I'm photographing.

I'm learning about these people. But for those few minutes, surrounded by the dancers and the singers and the drummers, and watching Raymond drum in this shaft of light, I was part of this community. I was part of that world. It was a gift. It was a gift that I had that experience.

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Creative Inspirations: Natalie Fobes, Photographer

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Natalie Fobes
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