Cara Romero (born 1977) is a contemporary photographer and citizen of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe. Romero transforms a fine art medium that has historically centered Eurocentric narratives into a vehicle to express the many dimensions of Native history: past, present, and future. Her dual residence on the Chemehuevi reservation in Mojave Desert, California and in the city of Houston, Texas informs her photography, which seeks to navigate Native identity in contemporary society. Her expansive oeuvre captures her diverse training in film, fine art, photography, journalism, and editorial portraiture. She communicates and collaborates with her models in order to tell stories of lived experiences and collective history, confronting the misrepresentation of Native peoples and the exploitative history of photography head-on. Her pivotal series Water Memory exposes the flooding of tribal land by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers through ethereal underwater imagery that speaks to myth and memory. She recalls, “After that, my art became an examination of things that were important to me—things that scared me but that I knew to be true. I started working with female figures. I wanted to break through the exploitative white-male lens that had dominated Native American photography for over a hundred years.”


Cara Romero received her undergraduate degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Houston. Her transition from reportage to fine art opened up her capacity for storytelling through a visual medium. She studied photography at both the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Oklahoma State University. Romero has won several awards at major US Indian markets and the “Visions for the Future“ award from the Native American Rights Fund. Her work is featured in the collections of the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, New York, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, New Mexico, and many private collections both national and international. She now lives in Santa Fe with her husband, the celebrated Cochiti Pueblo artist Diego Romero, and their two sons, Paris and Noel. 


Related Works

  • Native artist John Nieto uses vivid colors and bold strokes to capture powerful portraits of indigenous people in his singular style. View his work.

  • Romero’s husband, Diego Romero, is a celebrated potter and printmaker known for his compelling work which draws upon traditional practice and pop culture imagery to create captivating portraits of Native Americans in contemporary scenes. View his work.