Words and Photos by Kate Rentz.
“Living in the Southwest offers unworldly landscapes, and there are moments I feel like I’m on Mars. When I’m outside taking photos, it gives me time to myself. It’s my therapy,” says Tyana Arviso, a 22-year-old indigenous photographer, and artist hailing from the Four Corners of the United States.
Tyana’s captivating images are a blend of vast landscapes and surreal self-portraits using light, darkness, movement, and graphic design to tell her story. From sporting a “Phenomenally Indigenous” t-shirt and wide-brimmed hat amidst the walls of the sacred Antelope Canyon to being framed by sage flowers and turquoise jewelry, her art expresses her Navajo heritage, personal style, and her evolving creativity with mesmerizing impact.
TEVA EXPLORER KATE RENTZ met up with Tyana in Monument Valley on the Arizona and Utah border to hear more about her journey as a photographer and what it means to be her most authentic self.
Portrait of the artist, Tyana Arviso whose works combine graphic illustration and photography.
How would you describe your photography?
I would describe my photography as surrealism. Most of my work tends to reflect my emotions or energy and each photograph has an enchanting essence to it. I shoot mostly outside and have a huge fascination with the sky. I’m amazed by the clouds and how bold and unique they are. I’m also influenced by the landscape of the Southwest. I find great inspiration when visiting places throughout New Mexico or Monument Valley. There’s something about those blue bird skies and warm tone landscapes. The desert has an eerie and mysterious way of being that I find fascinating. The moon also plays a huge part in my work and I often create graphics around it to represent everything coming together full circle.
Frost in the desert? Just add socks. Pictured: HURRICANE XLT2
How did you get into photography?
I first started getting into photography when I was 16-years-old, but I’ve always been creatively curious. Growing up, my mother—who’s also a photographer—taught me how to appreciate the true beauty Mother Earth has to offer. I spent many of my evenings chasing sunsets with her and she’s been a huge inspiration to me. When I started out, I was shooting on a Pentax film camera. I started developing myown film and enjoyed the entire process of it, even though it was challenging.
Pictured: HURRICANE XLT2
How has your photography style evolved over time?
Since I first began six years ago, I have tried many different styles of editing and have learned how to use my tools better. I’m still learning, but through trial and error, I have finally found my voice. It didn’t show up overnight and for a while, I was creating for everyone else but myself. I kept trying to keep up with what was popular on Instagram, but I became exhausted. It’s easy to fall into the influence of other people, but I wanted to feel proud of my work and to be as authentic with my audience as I could be.
“The amber color reminds me of golden evening hues.” Tyana wears the EMBER MOC VELVET
How do you feel your images reflect your true voice?
My images have brought a whole new way of thinking that I never would have expected. They have helped me understand who I am and have helped me stay grounded. They’ve helped me enjoy the beautiful moments in life, especially in a chaos-filled world. When you have countless opportunities to see beautiful landscapes and stunning sunsets, you begin to realize how important it is to live. Each time I stand near a monument or stand under a blanket of stars, I realize just how small I am.
Also, creating images has helped me realize how important it is to be mindful with your words and actions, especially within the indigenous culture. Everything has a sacred meaning. When I’m among Mother Earth, I have the utmost respect and honor the land. The land is sacred, no matter where you are. My parents taught me these teachings through their own words and actions. I have grown to appreciate Mother Earth and Father Sky. I believe they are what contribute to our existence. Without them, we are nothing.
Pictured: EMBER MOC VELVET
Tyana, sure-footed and composing her shot. Pictured: HURRICANE XLT2
Your indigenous heritage and background shows so beautifully in your imagery, how do you bring that to life when creating photographs?
At times I don’t realize I am sharing my indigenous culture. It’s usually presented naturally. But when I am intentionally sharing my indigenous culture with my audience, it is always my intention to have the utmost respect for what I’m sharing. Being indigenous is more than a label; it is who I am. No matter where I go in life, I will always have my indigenous culture.
It’s important that I respect that aspect of myself because my ancestors had to live through years of genocide and hardships to get where I am. My great-great-great-great grandfather, Ramon Jesus Arviso, was the interpreter for Chief Manuelito during the Treaty of 1868. His strength to keep moving forward reminds me of how lucky I am to live. I am part of the Navajo tribe and a handful of my images are taken on the Navajo Nation. I also live near one of four sacred mountains — Dibé Nitsaa, known as Hesperus Mountain— and have photographed its unspoken beauty a handful of times.
Within the Diné teachings, we are told that we originate from the Earth (the spirit world) and entered the current world (the Yellow World). We call it the Yellow World because the sun, moon, and stars are yellow and when I am among the sun, moon, and stars, there is a spiritual connection that resonates within me. I feel vulnerable and in my element. It’s always a sacred moment to watch the moon rise above the mountain and to also watch the sunrise. There’s a moment of stillness that feels really magical. In addition, turquoise is often photographed throughout my work. Many overlook the sacred meaning of turquoise, but we do not wear it as a trend. We wear it to be recognized by Creator and we wear it proud, everyday, because it is part of who we are.
Tyana grew up chasing sunset lighting with her mother, Lapita who is also a photographer.
How do you blend your personal style with the landscape around you?
Living in the Southwest has a great influence on my personal style. I tend to wear blues and neutral tones regularly, but I’m always experimenting with contemporary, western, street wear or a plethora of prints. I wear denim a lot and with denim—you can dress it up or down. It’s timeless. I also can’t seem to go anywhere without my hat. It has managed to become a symbol for my brand.
Most of the tones I wear are inspired by the colors of the Southwest. The De La Vina Los Shorty boots are great because it’s impossible not to wear a pair of boots when you live in the Southwest. These boots pair easily with denim and my favorite hat. I’ve worn Teva sandals for as long as I can remember so the Hurricane XLT 2 sandals are another favorite. I also loved pairing the Velvet Ember Mocs with my personal style. The amber color reminds me of golden evening hues.
I believe that every artist has their own personal style and clothing has always been a way to freely express myself. As an artist, creating is all you know and it extends into every part of your life whether it be fashion, home decor, cooking, etc… There is an art to everything.
Pictured: DE LA VINA DOS SHORTY.
Pictured: DE LA VINA DOS SHORTY.
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