Photo and post by Rick Sammon. Follow Rick on Twitter.

Check out this photograph. I took the portrait of a Native Alaskan in the doorway of his smoky hut, deep within the forest of a remote part of America’s rugged and remote Northwest Territory.

His American name is David Ramos and his native Alaskan name is Aaskuwat’eesh. He is a Raven, of the Gineixkwaan clan of the Owl house. His owl headdress is made of abalone shells, ermine fur, rabbit fur and sea lion whiskers. To signify the Owl house, David is wearing a sewn beaded owl around his neck. He is also wearing a copper necklace. David’s clan is called the “Copper Digging Clan” because he comes from the Copper River. In earlier days, the clan used copper for money.

I like the way the side lighting illuminates David’s face and his traditional headdress. I also like the catch light in his deep eyes. Take a close look at this picture, and then come back to reading this text.

Guess what? I’m only kidding. I did not photograph Aaskuwat’eesh in a smoky hut. Rather, I photographed him in the bar on a 2,000-passenger cruise ship in Alaska, after he had finished giving a talk on his culture. After his talk, I asked him to move away from the mirrored bar and positioned him by a window. I moved a potted plant behind him to create a natural looking environment.

Why am I sharing this story with you? To illustrate an important aspect of people photography: There is a big difference between taking a picture and making a picture. I made this picture, while all of the other passengers were happy to get a photograph of David by the bar.

So here’s the message of this short homily: Make pictures. I think you’ll be much happier with your results.


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