Director Deborah Anderson: “Why I wish for people to take the time to look and find out which Indigenous Tribe might be from their town or local area”

My wish is to have people take the time to look and find out which Indigenous Tribe might be from their town or local area. To become aware of the support they might need and to join them in the efforts to help elevate their voices. If we were conscious of that alone, we would […]

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

My wish is to have people take the time to look and find out which Indigenous Tribe might be from their town or local area. To become aware of the support they might need and to join them in the efforts to help elevate their voices. If we were conscious of that alone, we would be a part of a much needed change and stop the continued genocide of our First Nations living in America.

DEBORAH ANDERSON brings together her achievements in every area of her creative body of work from over the past 16 years as a world-renowned photographer, artist and art director to delve into the world of documentary filmmaking. Deborah is best known for her work as a photographic and film artist with the release of three fine art books to date — “A photographer whose distinctive sensuality is located somewhere between classic French erotica and Helmut Newton” (Los Angeles Times).

Her work has graced the covers of albums and magazines, the walls of infamous hotels and private homes worldwide with an expansive A-list clientele. She has created short film pieces for various artists including award winning writer and activist Eve Ensler and her 1 Billion Rising organization featuring Rosario Dawson. Poet, Gina Loring, collaborated on the short film entitled “Walking Prayers” that went viral and was picked up by the New York Times. Deborah is currently working with Eve Ensler on the new RISE 2020 campaign. Deborah has spent the past two years working on a feature documentary film about the Native American Lakota women living on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. The film won the best feature documentary accolade at the 24th Red Nation Film Festival and Best Director of a Feature Doc at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival. The film is set to release in 2020. Photographic stills from the film project are currently being exhibited at the Leica Gallery in Boston through January 2020.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Deborah! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Having artists as parents gave me the opportunity to open up my own creative headspace without limitation. Living between London and Barbados gave me a deeper connection to my West Indian roots as well as the larger understanding of the world. My father, Jon Anderson became known as the lead singer of the progressive rock band YES, so my early childhood was a kaleidoscope of adventures. I don’t recall being in one place for too long as my brother and I were taken on tour around the world as a family supporting my father’s passion. It was a unique and most colorful experience, to say the least.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I moved to Paris in 2001 with a dream to be a fashion designer. I had a vintage clothing business and would take photos of models wearing my collection to sell at fashion trade shows, which ended up in renowned boutiques around the world including Harrods in London, Barney’s in New York and Maria Louisa in Paris. I realized I had more fun shooting nudes, playing with light and teaching myself the art of capturing a moment in time, than I did managing a fashion business. It was something about the instant gratification that a photo can bring. After working for 16 years in that field, moving into film felt like a natural transition.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I never thought I would become so enamored with film, both still and moving, as I had always wanted a career as a singer, following in my father’s footsteps. I recall meeting with P!NK’s manager in LA with hopes that he might sign me up and help me with my singing career. We had lunch and had a wonderful creative conversation. I mentioned I loved photography and had been shooting in Paris. I gave him my demo tape and he said he’d be in touch. A couple days later he asked me to his office and told to bring my photographic portfolio. I was confused as my heart was set on music. Once in his office, he viewed my portfolio and was deeply moved. He said he wanted to show P!NK. I was beside myself with upset, I wanted him to sign me as a singer, not photographer! Needless to say he knew where my talent lay, and I have been working with the Grammy winning artist for over 15 years having made some beautiful imagery together.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’m not sure the client found it to be funny, however, I recall shooting for a prominent fashion house in New York and my team and I went to shoot their models on a wild mustang horse farm. I had the girls riding the horses and walking in the fields surrounding the heard of these majestic animals. I took the images back to the client and she looked at me in confusion and asked me why the girls were mostly naked, and where were their clothes. I responded that I felt it to be in alignment with nature, the horses and the environment at the time, and the clothes felt to get in the way. Well, that clearly went down like a ton of bricks. Fortunately, we were able to find enough images for the clients needs, however, I learned that the client’s wishes are more important than mine, and being overly creative is not always called for when its not a personal project.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am very connected to the elevation of Women’s voices. I am currently working on a short film with play writer and activist Eve Ensler. I made a short with her in 2018 called “My Revolution Lives In This Body” with Rosario Dawson as narrator. This was the catalyst to my next project Women Of The White Buffalo a feature documentary about the Lakota Tribe living in South Dakota. The film just won Best Feature Documentary at the 24th Red Nation International Film Festival in Los Angeles and Best Director of a Feature Documentary at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

We live in a world filled with diversity; to not have that represented in the entertainment industry would make for a very fractured reality. We are a very diverse group of humans living on this planet with millions of unique and powerful stories to share, so it is important to represent the reality of our lives, the many creeds, colors and genders, if we are to give an accurate representation of the world around us. We all want to be acknowledged in some way and by ignoring a specific group or gender or culture, we are basically saying their lives don’t matter. Film is a potent tool that can bring people together or separate them and we are living in a crucial time when coming together is more important than ever if we are going to heal the divide between us and take better care of Mother Earth.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. You will make mistakes and grow from them.
  2. Not everyone will like your work, don’t take it personally and keep going.
  3. You have a unique eye so don’t try and be like anyone else out there.
  4. Learn the business side of your craft, don’t just be a photographer behind the lens, be a business mind too.
  5. Stay humble; you are not your gift.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Stay true to who you are. I never look around me to see who else is my competition; I always remain in a space of knowing that nobody else has my point of view, my eye or my passion. I do projects that truly inspire me. And yes, you have to keep the cash flowing, so you are not always going to love the jobs that show up, however, it will always lead you to the next big thing that you will love.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My wish is to have people take the time to look and find out which Indigenous Tribe might be from their town or local area. To become aware of the support they might need and to join them in the efforts to help elevate their voices. If we were conscious of that alone, we would be a part of a much needed change and stop the continued genocide of our First Nations living in America.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I believe there are many people that come into ones life on the journey towards success, we just have to be aware that you can’t do it alone and thank every single person that allows you to do who you are. When I lived in Paris at the start of my career as a photographer, I was shooting film and would develop it at a small lab owned by an old French man. One day the owner called me into his office and said he wanted me to know that I had something, a gift as he said. He was holding one of my tear sheets of negatives he had printed out and pointed to several frames. He then said, ‘this is who you are, you have an eye and you must continue to use it to tell stories’. I later found out he had worked with Henri Cartier-Bresson for many years, along with some of the great photographers of our time.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have always said “Do who you are,” this is something I feel to be my truth. We all try to fit in and be like everyone else, yet in essence we are unique, and so much an individual that we mustn’t change that for anything. The individual mind and creative perspective is an important and most valuable thing to harness.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would like to have breakfast with Oprah Winfrey. She has a profound understanding of this world and I believe she has a deep connection to her spiritual life, which I would love to discuss with her.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram @deborahandersoncreative and for my film @womenwhitebuffalo

Personal Facebook

Film Facebook


Film website:

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


Looking to the future during COVID

by Claire Boland

Creating a Positive COVID Experience

by Claire Boland

“I’d like to start a mentorship movement that puts reverence in the wisdom of elders” With Photographer Amanda Scheer Demme

by Yitzi Weiner

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.


We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.