On Friday, December 1, wet-plate photographer Shane Balkowitsch worked with public health activist RuthAnna Buffalo. Buffalo, Mia Eh’Desh or Woman Appears, is an enrolled citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation and a descendent of the Chiricahua Apache. She is a member of the Dripping Earth clan and from Mandaree.
The wet-plate images were captured at Nostalgic Glass Wet Plate Studio, the first natural light wet plate studio in North Dakota in over 130 years. After two years of planning and eight months of building, Balkowitsch’s studio opened officially on December 1st, 2017, and RuthAnna was one of the first individuals to have her spirit captured via the wet-plate process in this new artistic space. “The windows are bringing a quality of light and tones to my plates that I have been unable to achieve until now,” said Balkowitsch.
Buffalo has devoted her education and career to improving the health and lives of the public. Her background includes health and wellness, public health, research, policy and education. She has a master’s degree in public health from North Dakota State University (NDSU) and master’s degrees in management and in business administration from the University of Mary.
Since 2004, Buffalo has been working in tribal communities to improve their members’ quality of life. For seven years, she has led a wellness program at a tribal college to form coalitions against substance use, and recently she led her tribe’s Summer Youth Employment Program. Her public health background and indigenous perspective guide her work to address the social determinants of health. Buffalo believes poor health is a result of poor policy.
Buffalo recently ran for public office in 2016 as a candidate for North Dakota insurance commissioner. She completed work for the ACLU of North Dakota that focused on Standing Rock. She is a current board member of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition (NDHRC).
The final image will be used as part of the “Those Among Us” publication and exhibition.
“Those Among Us: The Human Rights Champions of North Dakota Volume 1” is a multi-disciplinary media project documenting the human rights and social justice champions of North Dakota. Through portrait photographs, essays written by the participants and video interviews capturing discussions about the motivation behind and the importance of their work, this project strives to create a historical record of the important work currently taking place in North Dakota in a compelling and visually creative way. The project features the work of wet-plate photographer Shane Balkowitsch and independent filmmaker Sean Coffman.
* * *