We are excited to announce fine art photographer Zoe Urness (@zoeurness) as the latest winner of the Alpha Female+ grant. Urness is a Tlingit Alaskan Native who creates portraits of modern Indigenous cultures in traditional regalia and settings. Her unique style fuses documentary and fine art, and for her grant-winning project "Indigenous Motherhood,” she will use her camera to tell visual stories with a focus on the beginning stages of motherhood through the first year of life.
Urness is a Tlingit Alaskan Native and new mother. For her project, "Indigenous Motherhood,” she will tell visual stories with a focus on the beginning stages of motherhood.
“This project has significant meaning to me because I am a new mother,” Urness explains. “I gave birth to a baby girl this winter, and the transformation I have experienced has been both physical and spiritual. This metamorphosis has spawned the inspiration for this photography project. The honor I have now for being female is felt deep in my soul and within my whole existence. I anticipate these images to be cinematic and to have a deep connection to Mother Earth, represented through varied landscapes.”
Urness views the process of creating images as both an intuitive and spiritual one, and she only participates in projects she’s passionate about. “As the vision develops for the project,” she explains, “I get to a point where the images are almost alive before I hold the camera in my hand. I typically receive the ideas for my work through a series of vivid visions that come to me, sometimes through dreams, other times through sacred landscapes speaking to me. Once I recognize the vision, it's as if all the pieces appear synchronistically adding to the original vision making it complete. As I evolve as an artist I feel as if my entire body of work is braided together as one story being told through my lens. The ‘Indigenous Motherhood’ Project is an exciting new strand because I will be collaborating with strong women like me who are birthing the next generation of Alpha Females.”
The stories within Native American cultures have been passed down for thousands of years in various ways, and Urness aims to use photography as a way to connect past and present. “Storytelling has been the way Native American cultures have been preserved for thousands of years and they are used to teach and pass down values, history and beliefs,” she says. “Traditional storytelling has been shared through the spoken word, dance, song and other art forms such as carvings, weaving, silversmithing and drawings such as form line. I choose to use my camera as a tool to link the past and present through visual stories.”
In addition to her skill in photography, Urness’ background as a Tlingit Alaskan Native provides her the ability to tell stories from a unique perspective. “As I was growing up I learned the stories of my ancestors through my Tlingit elders, and through learning traditional clan songs and dance. Today as a professional photographer and as an Indigenous woman and mother, I believe I have a unique perspective that has been formed by who I am and where I come from.”
Stay turned to Alpha Universe as we follow Urness and her project. You can still apply for an Alpha Female+ grant for your project by April 4. All of the details are on the Alpha Female+ page HERE. And you can see all the past grant winners and their projects HERE.