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Mysterious American cultures As we travel through the country, we discover fascinating lifestyles, languages, regalia and ceremony. There are people who can find water with a divining rod or those who make it rain. There are hoodoo women and medicine men who can put a curse on you and those who can remove the curse. Who are these people? Well that is what we are about to find out on our 20,000 journey through the back roads and levees of America.

Rudy gave me a lesson I will never forget.

He let me look into his spirit, which was more beautiful than any face could possibly be.

He danced the “Sun Dance”, as Sitting Bull did just before “The Little Big Horn”. Pectorals are pierced and sticks are attached with sinew (buffalo nerves) connected to the “Sacred Cedar Tree.” They dance for days until the skin breaks and they are finally released.

We can begin to

understand American cultures when we see the America they see. Away from the strip malls and traffic jams lie pastoral landscapes filled with hope and dreams that are saturated within a heritage they so desperately want to preserve.

Photographs by

Dennis Manarchy (an unfinished work)

Impasto I call this work “Impasto” because of the way the negative is processed. Normally the developing is Zen-like with flawless agitation, perfect temperature, timing to the second, fresh chemicals etc. This is the opposite with an unholy mixture of chemicals thrown onto the negative irreverently, sometimes even with a vengeance. The result is a more interpretive look. *Dennis Downes

has spent the last 30 years documenting and preserving “Native American Trail Marker Trees”

The“Native paw print n the left was acAmerican Trail Marker Trees' cidental in that I spattered a

Ashley, wears her hair in a traditional Navajo bun.


is wearing a Sioux beaded flag blanket that wives had worn to protect their husbands in war.

Zachary was bouncing off the walls. I had to tackle him and throw him around for a while to settle him down. I truly didn’t expect much, but there is magic in his eyes.

I hope you can sense the beauty of the people as well as their passion.

Barbra and Norma are Sioux women of very different personalties. Barbara has her eagle battle regalia while Norma in one photograph is traditional and in the other wears a tribal dance tabletta . Angie, here, was a HoChunk spititual woman. She has recently passed. She would go to the lake every morning to pray, and on the morning of her portrait, crashing waves looked like galloping horses vanishing into the sunrise.

Mackie and Yazzie

are veterans, honored by all tribes as warriors. When the Big Camera was finished, there was a ceremony, and they sang songs of praise to them since they served honorably in Vietnam.

The Aztec

are one of the many cultures most people are not aware of.

Their primary colored feathers can measure 4 to 5 feet in length creating a dramatic and powerful presence in their elaborate ceremonies.

The American Cowboy Working cowboys are a proud, tough bunch. They come to the ranch before sun-up with pressed denims, groomed horses and oiled leathers whether it is 100 degrees or 0, and there is a code of honor that is made of iron.

The Native Americans

are North America’s original people, of course, but the cowboy is our earliest “fashion.”

Keith and Cody are twins

working on a ranch near the Mexican boarder. .


Some have PhD’s

and some can’t read. What they all have in common is a profound and devastating tragedy in their lives at one time or another.


I’ve spent a lot of time with the homeless over the last 20 years doing pro-bono commercials, benefit exhibits and whatever I could. Their problems are so complex that in most cases, immediate care seems to be the most humane.

Kazu Okatomi

He was 6 years old, living in Japan when the bombs went off. He eventually came to America at the age of 30 and his nickname is JC Kazu for Japanese Cowboy.

The Atchafalaya Cajuns are a small group of Americans who live off the land. Their virtual currency is catfish, and most are squatters. The timbre of their voices vibrate your eardrums and their French heritage is obvious and at times hard to understand. They are hard working, family people with great spirit even though the lifestyle is difficult. The land is kept pristine, a gift to their children.

Gullah Geechee

A group of freed slaves live on South Sea Islands off the Carolinas. They speak African and retain many of their native ways. Because they are hard to find, they are hard to change, and this is why my camera is on wheels.

Circus Workers It is a hard life. There is no personal space, they are on the move constantly. Even though they are one step removed homeless, there was an elegance and joy to most of these people.


are the engines of the circus. On one hand they function as bull dozers, erecting the large tents etc. and on another they provide entertainment. The trainers have an amazing rapport with these animals, which, by the way, have an amazing sense of humor and are part of the extended family.

The Lumbee tribe

is the largest tribe east of the Mississippi River. I lived with these wonderful people for six months after Vietnam, and this is really where the project began.

The Family Farm

is vanishing at an alarming rate. The price of a gallon of milk to the farmer has not changed since 1977, and the African American farmer population of nearly a million fifty years ago, is down to about 15,000.

Cover: Robert Wapahi, Dakota Apache Dance Mask RudyManzanares, Navajo/Comanche American Buffalo Durango Landscape Dennis Downes, Trail Marker Tree expert Barbara Wolfbear, Lakota Norma Robertson, Dakota Johnathan MeDrano, Arapaho Shoshone in Dance regalia Navajo Child, Ashley Dine’ Malissa Shoemaker, Dine’ Norma Robertson, Dakota Angie DeCorah, HoChunk Mackie Pamonicutt, Menominee Joe Yazzie, Navajo Aztec man in regalia Sebastian Barrientos, Aztec Man with shell Angel Barrientos, Aztec Woman, Hector Orti, Aztec Bird regalia Lone Rock cowboy Old Cowboy Bull Rider Ghost Riders Keith and Cody Galloping horses Kazu Okatomi, Japanese Dave Dacy, stunt pilot Tony Kazian, wing walker Nelson, Cajun Blanc with bullfrogs, Cajun Dewey Patin, Cajun Chandra, Gullah Geeckee Jerome, from homeless series Elephant trainer 1,2 and 3 Lumbee boy Lumbee Woman Father and Sons, Wisconsin dairy farmers Back cover Robert Wapahi, Dakota ©Dennis Manarchy 2014

Special thanks to:

the amazing and beautiful people who sat for theses portraits and The Many People who helped build the camera and my creative team: Arturo Cubacub Molly Manarchy Jules Tomko Bill Sosin Tony Beyer Wendy WhiteEagle Greg Perkolup Jim Shearer Matt Binns Marcus Bosch “the Bartels� Peter VanVliet and

Jon Scott

without him I would have nothing to show

An American Portrait