“Wrapped in Tradition” A beginning photographer, as I was at the time, could have no better luck than to work with someone like Selena (@Selenamw_bear) as their first model. Although she was a much sought after fashion model, Selena graciously agreed to work with me on this project to shoot in Navajo country. Her mother, Janet Yazzie, a lawyer for the Navajo nation, had the brilliant idea to retrieve the beautiful turquoise neckless and earrings from the family vault, and the extraordinary rug that had been woven by her mother Juanita Paul, a rug weaver who was born in Keams Canyon, AZ (Lókʼaaʼdeeshjin) and grew up around the remote Seba Dalkai, AZ area on the Navajo Reservation. Juanita was Tabahaa or Near the Water people. She learned how to weave as a little girl from watching her mother, Zonnie Earle. Because one takes on their mother's clan, Janet, and hence Selena, are both born to Tabahaa. Selena’s paternal clan, the clan she is born for, is Todichiinii or Bitter Water people. Selena is a remarkably humble and generous person who filled our time during long drives between locations with details of Navajo traditions and the meaning and importance of sacred sites, including the formation behind her in this photo called Shiprock (Tsé Bitʼaʼí, "rock with wings" or "winged rock") which refers to the legend of the great bird that brought the Navajo from the north to their current location. But the fact is, we can never really know another culture, never understand the depth of the traditions that are passed down through generations. Photographing them thus always presents a problematic dynamic. At best we can hope to capture brief but necessarily incomplete glimpses that reflect the history of a proud people, such as that embodied in this one remarkable and gracious individual, the progeny of a culture that values the spirit of both people and nature, and the harmony between them.
#NativeAmerican #Indigenous #Navajo #NativePride #Southwest #NewMexico #Shiprock #Spiritual #Photography