Standing Strong is a more than a photo book. It's a tool for reflection. The work was created during the seven months Rivas spent documenting the historic gathering of Indigenous peoples and allies at Standing Rock, North Dakota. While many storytellers focused on the clash between police and Water Protectors, Rivas turned his lens to the latent spirit embedded in the camps.
The images that emerged serve as an offering to all those protecting sacred sites, the water of life, and our planet as a whole. Standing Rock was the epicenter of an awakening, people from all four directions came to stand together and started a movement that created ripples across the globe. At the camps, there was a sacred fire burning at all times serving as a space for prayers and intentions. People gathered in a circle and were with each other.
The image of sweet grass embossed on the cover of the book is a gesture for welcoming positivity into the journey of the viewer.
Standing Strong is an offering with four chapters. Many tribes in Turtle Island (North America) have a deep relationship with the number 4. It refers to the four elements: water, air, fire, and land and also the four cardinal directions. Each chapter is structured with a different intention but ultimately they are doors to open into the spirit of healing and reconciliation amongst all people.
Josué Rivas (Mexican and Otomi) is a creative director, visual storyteller and educator working at the intersection of art, journalism, and social justice. His work aims to challenge the mainstream narrative about Indigenous peoples, build awareness about issues affecting Native communities. He is a 2020 Catchlight Leadership Fellow, Magnum Foundation Photography and Social Justice Fellow, founder of the Standing Strong Project, co-founder of Natives Photograph, and winner of the 2018 FotoEvidence Book Award with World Press Photo. Rivas is based in Portland, OR.