83 Degrees photographer among this year’s Dali Dozen

In Africa, Amber Sigman photographed the Maasai people, a semi-nomadic tribe who travel with their cattle between Kenya and Tanzania. In Thailand, she captured images of Buddhist monks at the temple Wat Maharan and boat people living in a floating village in Bangkok. And in Myanmar, she documented the “beautiful resiliency and soul of the people” despite the economic hardship and political oppression in which they live.

A St. Petersburg photographer who counts 83 Degrees Media as one of her clients, Sigman has been named one of the Dali Dozen, a group of 12 emerging Tampa Bay artists. The artists’ work, which ranges from photography to sculpture, will be showcased at an event on December 5 at St. Pete’s iconic Dali Museum on the downtown waterfront. Amber Sigman exhibits at The Dalí Dozen, 12 emerging artists to watch.

Each of the Dali Dozen artists was selected by the Zodiac Group -- 12 museum members who serve as volunteer ambassadors for the museum, which houses the largest collection of Salvador Dali work outside of the artist’s hometown in Spain.

In addition to Sigman, the Dali Dozen artists include: BJ Andryusky, clay and metal artist; John Brennan, wildlife artist; Steven Beverage, painter and sculptor; Kevin Damphouse, jewelry designer; Rick Ganey, craft artist of cigar box guitars; Kera Holzinger, portrait photographer; Alesisha Prather, whimsical sculptor; Ari Robinson, collage artist; Pamela Joy Trow, painter and mixed media; Ted VanCleave, sculptor; Felice Zellea, multimedia artist.

Capturing fading cultures

Sigman’s photography exhibit is titled, “Fading Cultures.” Her photographs document some of the unique cultures around the world that are threatened by modernization -- the vanishing lifestyles of people who still follow ancient ways, such as the Maasai, whose way of life is at risk due to climate change and the loss of their ancestral lands due to land acquisition.  

She has also documented the now endangered ancient Chinese practice of cormorant fishing. For more than a thousand years, local fisherman have used domesticated cormorant birds to help them catch fish, but modernization and overfished waterways are making it difficult to continue, says Sigman.

To say that Sigman has a passion for travel is an understatement. So far she has visited 27 countries around the world, three territories and 45 states in the U.S. 

"Travel really opens the mind to different ways of thinking, different foods, even different ways of using utensils,” says Sigman. The Maasai, a semi-nomadic tribe in Tanzania, a photo by Amber Sigman.  
 “Every country I have visited, I have learned something. ... I hope my photos convey the beauty of different parts of the world.'' 

"If you were to read a description in a book about the way a strawberry tastes, compared to actually tasting a strawberry -- that’s how I think about traveling,” she adds. “You can read about a country and the people, but I have found it to be very different when you are actually there and seeing and experiencing it first-hand.”

As keen as she is about international travel, Sigman says she is equally enthusiastic about documenting interesting, out-of-the-way American stories, from social issues to small-town communities. She has photographed the Wyoming cowboy culture, Appalachian poverty, and Alaskan fishing communities, among others.
Local images for the ages

Here, in the Tampa Bay Area, she documented the camaraderie of teenage girls living at E-Nini-Hassee, an 840-acre outdoor therapeutic camp in the Ocala National Forest near Floral City. The camp is operated by Eckerd Connects for troubled girls ages 12 to 18 who have emotional or behavioral difficulties. Sigman photographed the camp’s Thanksgiving celebration, which includes “Turkey-In-The-Hole,” where turkeys are cooked overnight in a deep hole dug in the ground.

Sigman has a degree in cultural anthropology and photojournalism from Western Kentucky University. She says she’s been traveling since she was a child, often flying solo to visit family in different parts of the U.S. Her first overseas trip was to Brazil with a foreign exchange student who had been living with her. On a trip to Southeast Asia, she taught photojournalism classes to U.S. high school students as part of a cultural learning program.  She and her husband Aaron Clark, a math teacher at Blake High School in Tampa, continue to lead high school groups on travel enrichment tours.

To learn more about Sigman's work, visit her website and sign up to receive a free weekly e-newsletter from 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Janan Talafer.

Janan Talafer enjoys writing for a diverse group of clients, including print and online publications, nonprofit organizations and public relations agencies. One of the highlights of her writing career was flying with the 91st Air Refueling Squadron out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa FL for a feature about this elite military team. A journalism graduate of Bowling Green State University (OH), Janan’s early career was in health care marketing and public relations for hospitals in Connecticut and Tampa Bay. She is an avid gardener, loves East Coast swing dance and enjoys touring around St. Petersburg on the back of her husband’s scooter.