1993 — student award of excellence
Greg Latza is an editorial, corporate and commercial photographer located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
At the time of his Alexia grant in 1993, Greg had just graduated from South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D. He worked as a staff photographer at the Salina (Kansas) Journal and the Sioux Falls (SD) Argus Leader, and also interned at the Milwaukee Journal and Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin.
In 1997, Greg took the leap into full-time freelance and has enjoyed a fulfilling career since then. His clientele mostly consists of energy and agricultural clients across the country, with a mix of trade magazines and advertising agencies as well.
His favorite subject remains the people and places across his beautiful home state of South Dakota. He is extremely thankful for the opportunity to pursue documentary work and his essay on Butch Taylor in 1993 as a result of the Alexia grant.
List your accomplishments, awards and interests since the Alexia grant.
After winning the Alexia grant, I spent several years in the newspaper business, winning several national NPPA awards, including two Regional Photographer of the Year titles, one for Region 7 and one for Region 9. Once I left newspapers in 1997, I no longer entered many contests.
Besides my stable of corporate and editorial clients, I work on my fine art catalog and stock photography catalog. Photography remains my favorite hobby as well as my profession.
We have published 8 books of photography about several subjects within the borders of South Dakota, my home state.
How has the Alexia grant influenced your career?
The grant was a great springboard for me as I entered my internship that summer at the Milwaukee Journal, and definitely helped me land my first full-time job at the Salina (Kansas) Journal. It remains an inspiration for me to someday return to shooting more documentary work.
How did your project lead to greater exposure or solutions for your issue of focus?
It created awareness of what continues to be a desperate situation on most of South Dakota's Indian Reservations, but things haven't changed at all here. Native Americans still struggle for various sources of income, and there's a continuing vein of racism throughout the state.
Tell us about a moment from the project that you will never forget.
There was a morning when several of Butch's friends showed up at his house to start drinking for the day, and I had been around Butch long enough to gain a level of trust with everyone there as they discussed what was going on in their lives. They had a high level of dislike for most white people and didn't hold back their words (even though I'm also white), and the general desperation of their day-to-day lives was very eye-opening.
Have you, or do you plan on expanding your project? How so?
I may do more Native American work in the future, but nothing related to Butch and his situation.
How has being a part of the Alexia community changed the way you view the world?
It has been extremely beneficial to see other photographers' projects and understand that these photographers took the same route I did to gain some resources to cover their stories. I think the grant is a wonderful way for important stories to be told.
South Dakota’s Indian reservations are the poorest in the United States. After centuries of living off the richness of the land, much of the state’s reservation population exists in the poverty normally endured by third world peoples. These Indians have been herded onto parcels of prairie that are fractions of the domains they once roamed. Now unable to live off the land, the must turn to other ways of making a living. One way is from casino revenues.
Casino gambling is allowed on South Dakota’s reservations. The respective reservations’ tribes manage the casinos, and the revenues are mostly absorbed by the people of the reservation. But there is something wrong.
As a whole, the reservations still suffer, but with an added problem. Now there are Indians with gambling addictions. Money needed to buy food is shoved into a video lottery machine or wasted on a card game.
I plan to document the problems that gambling creates in South Dakota’s casino communities. People need to be aware of yet another battle being fought by America’s native people.