IAIA Photographer Submits “Reservation Life” to National Geographic


Cinematic arts major Terrance Clifford has taken a picture he hopes will alter his future in photography. He has entered National Geographic’s Photo Contest 2013 in the “people” category, choosing his mother and reservation lifestyles as his focus.

Clifford is Lakota and Cheyenne River Sioux and has ventured far outside of his reservation. His most memorable photography locations include Croatia, Paris and Austria, places seen while visiting his girlfriend, from Germany.

“I’m fearful of regret. I want to see things before I lose the opportunity” he said. He saves up his money to afford his travels and plans to do the same after graduating. Japan is at the top of his to-see list after attaining his degree at IAIA.

Terrance Clifford.  Photo by Kamella Bird-Romero
Terrance Clifford. Photo by Kamella Bird-Romero

Landscapes appeal to Clifford and capturing nature’s changes is especially attractive to him. Capturing the sunrise and sunset of one spot is “nature telling a story,” he said.

A Pure Photo

Relating a true story is his goal with his entered photo “Reservation Life.” The photograph is not staged and features Clifford’s mother resting in a large armchair surrounded by everyday objects. His process was simple. His mother told him to follow her and she would tell him a story. “It wasn’t the most graphic photo I’ve ever taken. It’s a pure photo,” Clifford said of his selected image.

“I think it covers a serious topic as well as the door for a whole lot more support for the Native American race as well as our homes,” he said earlier in an email addressed to students. The email explained that the winner will get published as well as the opportunity to fly to Washington D.C.

Big Aspirations

“It’s not my goal to win. I want people to be enlightened,” he said about his raw portrayal of reservation living. He wanted to choose a topic that the wide audience of National Geographic would learn from. An admirer of the magazine, Clifford aspires to someday “shoot for them, not just be in the magazine, but be on the staff.”

It is a big aspiration, similar to his photography process. “I prefer to go out with a goal,” he says of shoot days. He believes a lot of great shots are captured by a combination of vision and luck. “You can be the greatest photographer on earth but miss a moment,” Clifford said of spontaneous photography.

Clifford has been shooting photography for the past four years and is anticipating his future after IAIA. “I will buy a really good camera, find my story and shoot, shoot, shoot,” he said.

Telling a Story

An important step for him before he travels everywhere and anywhere is going home to work on his personal story. His bigger message is that from an “insider’s point of view,” an indigenous perspective. “Reservation Life” is his first big step towards capturing his own story.

“I think if I won it would do a world of good, as well as help me achieve my goal of telling the stories nobody ever had the chance to hear from an insider point of view,” he said.

Voting is open

The winner of the contest is chosen by voters, Facebook likes, below is the link for the submission:



Copyright © IAIA Chronicle 2013



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