Obscura Gallery is proud to have facilitated the 2nd Annual grant between one of our Obscura Gallery represented artists, Manuello Paganelli, and grantee Shayla Blatchford, a young Diné Documentary photographer based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The small grant contributes to Blatchford’s ongoing Anti-Uranium Mapping Project which is documenting stories by those impacted by uranium mining along with the 500 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation and from when nearly 30 million tons of uranium ore were extracted from Navajo lands between 1944 and 1986.
The destructive impact from mining toxic resources like uranium and coal has endangered the Reservation’s natural resources, and gravely impacted the people who lived and live here. Blatchford wants to bring awareness to the ongoing environmental catastrophe created by poorly run government projects and unchecked corporations, and to advocate for and preserve her Native heritage.
This interactive photo documentary map is very personal to me. It holds the story of my heritage and the stories of my own family facing the impacts of living near a coal mine. Ultimately, this project serves as historical documentation of the uranium mining era, from a Native perspective. – Shayla Blatchford
Growing up in Long Beach, California, Shayla had little exposure to her Native heritage; this sparked a curiosity that continues to propel her work today. Her mother’s genealogical investigation was a launching pad that started her journey to establish a connection with her ancestors and their ways of life. Often we don’t know how to share our stories. It can be difficult to take a vision from paper to finished project. Shayla has the ability to help people tell their stories, cultural or commercial, and sees providing that service as a way to share instances of beauty with the world. Photography is about capturing moments. It is about seeing the smallness in the bigness of the world. She wants to subtly craft these moments into art while allowing the images to speak with their voice and not her own.
While earning her BFA from Santa Fe University of Art & Design, Shayla’s primary focus was social documentary and photojournalism. Recently, her practice expanded to commercial photography for luxury product space Santa Fe Dry Goods, and fine art product photography for form & concept gallery, where she served as in-house photographer and creative director. Today, Shayla balances her time between freelance photography, ranging from portraiture to architectural and interior design photography, and her ongoing, major photo and storytelling series, The Anti-Uranium Mapping Project.
Donations directly help bring this project to life by covering costs for audio equipment and travel while in the field. If others want to contribute to Blatchford’s project, she has a Patreon page here in which to donate: https://www.patreon.com/shaylablatchford
About the Grantor:
Manuello Paganelli offers a small photojournalism grant each year to a deserving individual and for the second year in a row, he wanted to focus on giving the grant to a young Native American photojournalist based in New Mexico. In addition to the monetary grant, Paganelli and Obscura Gallery offer the grantees feedback and review of their portfolio as well as advising on the project. Last year in our grantee research we discovered Shayla Blatchford’s work and for this year’s grant we introduced her work to Paganelli who found it equally important work. The 2020 grant was given to Sharon Chischilly last year for her photographic work on the Navajo reservation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Manuello Paganelli of Italian-Cuban descent, grew up in Santo Domingo, Italy and Puerto Rico. After a mentorship with Ansel Adams, he worked as a photojournalist at the Chattanooga Times. In 1989, he began to explore Cuba, its land, its people, and its complex relationship with the USA. The work culminated into his first photo book, Cuba a Personal Journey 1989-2015 and was published in 2016. In 1995, he had his first solo photo show of this work on Cuba and that same year earned him a fellowship grant. The Washington Post wrote “Manuello Paganelli’s Cuban photographs are a brilliant window on a land and people too long hidden from North American eyes. Working in the tradition of Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, Paganelli brings an artist’s eyes and a native son’s sensibility to his superb photographs.” In the early 1990s, he started work on his Black Cowboys series with a selection being featured at the Annenberg Space for Photography. In the summer of 2012, this same series was selected for the Photo Vernissage at the Manage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. His award-winning work has graced the covers and pages of many well-known magazines including GQ, LIFE, Bloomberg Business Week, Forbes, Newsweek, Men’s Journal, People, Time, Reader’s Digest, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and many more. Since 1996 Paganelli has been working on a documenatry across the Americas capturing indigenous people and their cultures.
Read more about Manuello Paganelli and view his work here: