There are two distinct strands in Rick Hill's photographs and paintings: the meditative and the satirical. In the former works, Hill uses both "straight" portraiture and photocollage, accompanied with text, to create highly personal reflections on culture, family, self, life, and death. In such works as My Grandmother, My Father, My Friend, and My Son, Randy, all from 1971, Hill attempts to take the measure of these lives and the meanings of those lives to him. These photographs give him the opportunity to explore the reality of his own life and to come to the realization that no one stands alone.
This realization of connectedness and endurance on both a family and a cultural level emerges powerfully in Along the Flowered Path ( 1971). The work concerns both the death of his brother and the birth of his son. Hill's brother and Hill's infant son were each borne along the same path. Hill notes about the work: "We will all follow that path sooner or later, just as our ancestors before us. Even in the afterworld, the Iroquois will walk together as one." 1 In this case, as in the other works in this series, the personal portrait encodes cultural values.
At first glance Hill's "straight" portrait photographs of real people may appear prosaic, but this is a deliberate strategy on his part to