The photographer Pamela J. Peters had an epiphany when, as a UCLA student, she watched a restored 1961 film, “The Exiles” by Kent MacKenzie. The neo-realist work depicted young Native Americans on Los Angeles’ historic Bunker Hill in a way Peters had never seen in film before: As dimensional individuals, not as stereotypes.
“People say, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know there were Native Americans in Los Angeles,'” said Peters, who grew up on a Navajo reservation in Red Valley, Arizona and arrived in Los Angeles at age 17. “It’s baffling when I hear that.”
The film has been an influence on her creative work ever since and helped catalyze her lifelong zeal to convey the modern American Indian experience authentically.
A show of Peters’ photography and film work, a modern riff on The Exiles, is on display this weekend in an ironic location, not far from the backdrop of MacKenzie’s film. The art gallery 118 Winston near downtown’s historic core, Peters says, was once a social service agency to help Native Americans. On Sunday, there will be the sound of drums, and the sight of her stylized photographs that depict other young Native Americans as they work to express themselves in a metropolis far different from where they grew up.
Exiled NDNZ will be on display Sunday, 11a-7pm, 118 Winston Street, Downtown Los Angeles