A glimpse of life on the reservation

Story highlights

  • German photographer Felix von der Osten spent time at an Indian reservation in Montana
  • He set out to show the "beauty and richness of the culture" and arouse curiosity in viewers

(CNN)Growing up in Germany, everything Felix von der Osten learned about Native Americans came from the books of 19th-century German writer Karl May.

May's most beloved characters, a noble Apache leader named Winnetou and his cowboy blood brother Old Shatterhand, are said to be more popular today in Germany than the works of Thomas Mann, the 20th-century Nobel Prize-winning author of "Death in Venice."
    It wasn't until von der Osten drove through South Dakota last year, bearing witness to modest homes and trailers on tribal land in the majestic Black Hills, that he realized how one-dimensional his perceptions were.
    Intrigued, the 25-year-old photographer began researching Native American history. What he learned about its brutal conquest and fraught modern existence inspired him to return to Indian Country to capture the good, the bad and the ugly.
    "I wanted to show a slice of life (through) the beauty and richness of the culture," he said. "I didn't want to do reportage. I wanted to do slow and thoughtful photographs, like historical documents."