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Spotlight Iowa City: DI’s Frazier wins award

BY COURTNEY SPEARS | DECEMBER 10, 2009 7:30 AM

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Danny Wilcox Frazier was stuck in traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge when he got the phone call.

Not many miles into his trip from New York City to Washington, D.C., the photographer was elated to find out he had won a grant to continue his work on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation.

The UI alumnus and Daily Iowan photo coach was selected out of an international pool of 160 to win one of two 2010 grants for the Aftermath Project, a nonprofit organization focused on storytelling through photography.

The second winner is Monika Bulaj of Italy.

“It’s a -- award,” Frazier said. “And it’s one of those prizes that the intent is so in line with what I want to do with my photography.”

His work will be featured in the fourth edition of War is Only Half the Story, the Aftermath Project’s annual publication featuring grant winners’ work. Sara Terry, who received acclaim for her photographic project on the aftermath of war in Bosnia, published in 2005, founded the Aftermath Project.

Frazier’s idea for the Pine Ridge project was born as he traveled for his large-scale, in-depth project about poverty-stricken areas in the United States, for which he received a Humanities Iowa Grant.

He went to the Pine Ridge reservation, which experts often describe as the poorest area in the United States, and he was stunned by the economic despair the citizens of Allen, S.D., suffered — they face unusually high unemployment and infant-mortality rates.

“Those were circumstances that I hadn’t experienced in the United States,” he said. “I went into working on the reservation very naïve. It is most definitely the hardest place I’ve worked in the U.S. and possibly ever.”

Frazier’s winning proposal focuses on the aftermath of the Wounded Knee massacre in South Dakota, on Dec. 29, 1890, and the Lakotas’ fight for disputed lands.

During the course of 2010, Frazier will return to South Dakota four times to complete his project, amassing four to six months of new work on the reservation.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the shock and awe [of war],” he said. “The problem is, that’s just part of the story. The result of that conflict is still playing out and affecting people greatly. This is a story that’s so quiet, so remote, and so removed, and so relevant.”

In November 2007, the Duke University Press published Frazier’s book Driftless: Photographs from Iowa, a set of dramatic black-and-white photographs portraying the changing rural Midwest and the lives of Iowans. Photographer Robert Frank selected the book out of more than 400 entries as the winner of the Honickman First Book Prize in Photography.

“Photography does one thing really, really well,” he said. “When photography is at its best, it evokes emotion. It raises questions. Great photography doesn’t tell you what to think. If it’s done really well, a viewer will then want to interact with that issue.”


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