Capturing the American West
When Nicolette Hume first picked up a camera and began taking photos, she used her newfound hobby as a cathartic release.
A single mother, Hume had just returned home to live with her parents in Eureka, Nevada, after her ex-husband left when her son was just 4 years old. At the time, she had been living in Augusta, Kansas, a small town outside Wichita where she had been completing online coursework to gain a degree from Kansas State University in social sciences.
Knowing she needed a change, she headed home to the vast desert valleys and towering snow-capped mountains of northern Nevada, where she had spent time as a child growing up in Winnemucca as a member of the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone peoples.
From a young age, Hume remembers viewing problems that plagued life on the reservation first-hand, and much of that was hard for her to process as a child.
"People would always tell me, 'You should be so proud to be Indian, it's such a beautiful culture.' But many times, all people see is the pageantry. I saw a different side that wasn't so glamorous, and for many years I kind of suppressed that," she says.
The daughter of a gold miner father and a Western Shoshone mother, Hume had a front-row seat to the alcoholism and drug addiction that afflicted her people, both on and off the reservation. She became one of the very few tribe members to complete a college education, but when she returned to Nevada following the emotional trauma she endured in Kansas, not everyone welcomed her with open arms.
"There was this attitude of, 'Who do you think you are?'" Hume explains. "The one thing that stuck with me was that no matter where I was in life, I had to complete my education. That was so important because no one in my family had ever graduated from college or even really attended."
Hume was able to secure a job working for her tribe's housing authority, a division of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She tells stories of intense board meetings where her ideas weren't shared or welcomed by some members of the tribe, and says she was thankful to leave those meetings and not find her tires had been slashed or worse.
At the time, she and her son Alex lived high up in the mountains near the South Fork Indian Reservation, away from almost everyone and everything — a safe haven-of-sorts where she could be with family and not worry about the troubles of work or anything else. It was right around this point in her life that she found an old camera and started taking photos of her environment, and in that hobby she found peace.
"Nevada is an interesting place, especially on Indian land because it's very much still about wild and untamed nature. The land, the animals, the people," Hume says.
She began taking photos around her family's ranch near Lee, Nevada. While she's not an expert on horseback, Hume thoroughly enjoys walking among horses.
"I love getting right up next to them and taking in their essence. They have this untamed nature," she says. "There's this wild heart within them and you can see it in their eyes. I was able to take some really interesting photos of them."
Eventually, Hume and her son Alex moved from their little sanctuary in the mountains to a house just down the dirt road leading to her family's ranch. She started practicing her photography more, and the change in location began inspiring her to capture images of the forgotten West.
On occasion, wild mustangs would graze in the fields just behind her house, and Hume would sneak out to take photos and capture their essence.
"I just feel like these horses are the last treasure of the West. It represents the wild of the American West," Hume says.
Around the same time Hume was really coming into her own as a photographer, she received a message on social media from a former classmate she had known years before when her parents moved to Oregon for a short time and she attended Rex Putnam High School in Clackamas County.
His name was Craig, and because he had been a quiet young man in high school, Hume didn't think much of it. But Craig was persistent. He flew to Reno to meet Hume, and after a short while, the two fell in love. For Hume, the type of affection and open communication Craig showed her wasn't her typical experience with men. It was both refreshing and frightening, she says.
"It was scary. I really hadn't been divorced for that long, and I remember him saying to me very early on, 'I want us to start off with complete transparency,'" Hume recalls. "I went, 'Whoa.'"
After dating long-distance for a short time, Hume moved to Oregon to be with Craig, who was a high school teacher, and the two were married. He became Hume's accomplice in her pursuit of finding intriguing landscapes and scenes to capture., and she recalls several outings where Craig would drive her around as she searched for the perfect shot.
One trip to eastern Oregon resulted in the pair stumbling across a wild herd of buffalo.
"He's extremely supportive of me, and he's very good at listening to my directions," Hume says. "We'd be driving along and I'd scream, 'Stop!' I'd hop out of the car and start shooting photos."
A few years later, the couple had a child together, a boy named Kevin.
Today, Hume splits her time between two jobs: one at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center and the other at the Providence Mercantile Health and Fitness Center. She enjoys working with elderly people, and both positions offer her opportunities to improve the lives of others through recreation and social programming.
But on the side, photography is still one of her passions.
After meeting a man in the LOACC's respite program who is a former professional photographer, Hume was encouraged to share her photography with the world. She ended up applying to the Clackamas County Art Alliance and was overcome with shock and joy to find she had been accepted as one of 48 individual artists and one artist group to have their work shown in gallery spaces and venues across the county.
Hume's work featuring the landscapes and wild animals of the American West will be featured in a gallery at the Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center in Oregon City from Feb. 2 through June.