About Indigenous Images

Guatemalan weaver with the photographer, Richard P. Wedeen, M.D.THE IMAGES

These photographs of the people of Guatemala, India and Mali in the 21st century capture the vitality of indigenous cultures around the world. They testify to the preservation of traditions which remain unique despite the homogenizing effect of global television. 

The rituals and techniques of weaving, embroidery and the meaning of ancient designs have been handed down for generations. Although contemporary textiles are often treated as souvenirs, they represent the finest artistic traditions in continuous use for centuries. The creations are usually unsigned by the artisan and thus focus on community tradition rather than individual creativity. The textiles often have ceremonial significance, and sometimes identify village origins and social status. They play a part in rituals that mark all important life events but also may be purely decorative. The textiles project personal identity as well as ancestral origins and provide personal empowerment for their creators. 


Richard P. Wedeen, MD is a Professor of Medicine, and Professor of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey – The New Jersey Medical School, Newark, NJ. 

Although primarily a physician-scientist, Dr. Wedeen’s photographs have won three First Place Awards and a Best in Show Award in New Jersey. He has exhibited photographs along with indigenous textiles at the Weiner Library of Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck; the Elmwood Park Library; the Waltuch Art Gallery at the JCC on the Palisades, Tenafly, NJ; The Belsky Museum, Closter, NJ; The Georgia Sheron Gallery, Waterbury, CT; The College of New Jersey Art Gallery; the Portfolio Restaurant, New York City; and in the summer of 2012, on the web site of the SMA Fathers African Art Museum, Tenafly, NJ.

Dr. Wedeen’s interest in photography began in his childhood and matured as a research scientist using photomicroscopy in studies of cell structure. His Indigenous Images pay homage to creativity in ancient traditions and ceremonies, and to the richness of color that inhabits everyday life in these communities. Dr. Wedeen uses both a palm-sized, point-and-shoot digital Pentax and a large, highly visible, digital, through-the-lens reflex Olympus camera.