As a photographer, curator, and small business owner, Cougar “Ndoi” Vigil integrates multiplicities of perspectives into his work about Indigenous narratives, perspectives, and knowledge systems.
Santa Fe | cougarvigil.com | @ndoivigil
As a photojournalist, Cougar Vigil has amassed thousands of photos, primarily of his community in Northern New Mexico—his family and the Jicarilla Apache tribe. That personal archive now provides reference material as Vigil builds an experimental portfolio of work that defies the rote precision of traditional photography, and instead blurs boundaries—between scenes, narratives, the image itself, and the experience of making it. As a photographer, curator, and small business owner, Vigil integrates multiplicities of perspectives into his work.
Photography has the power to both expand and limit our view of the world—something that we are routinely reminded of in Vigil’s work. The photographs are about Indigenous narratives, perspectives, and knowledge systems, and they confront the narrow views that many people have of Indigenous life today. They offer an antidote to the fragmented nature of Indigenous representation in much popular media as well as use alternative practices to open up the possibility of seeing something new, of stories told through abstraction.
It is now, in the digital age, Vigil says, that we must “connect Indigenous narratives with the broader public sphere to combat generalizations and simplified sentiments of Indigeneity.”
Vigil is agnostic when it comes to process. He uses both digital and analog photography, manipulating each in a painterly fashion to create layered, textural results. Each photograph condenses many worlds on its surface—unusual patterns, plant life, gesture, and earnest poses. Each is a microcosm where distortions create a certain intensity, bending perception to reveal a latent truth. Yet they seem never to strive for exactness, instead honoring complexity, laying so much ephemera of life side by side in a new aesthetic geometry that becomes much more than the sum of its parts.