It was October 2022 when I wandered with this young man through the Navajo Nation’s majestic land to find a place to make his portrait. When we arrived at this particular vista, he stood before a vast area and as the sun set, the light was piercing, stunning. It was impossible to avoid being struck by the significance of his position within an endless cycle. Melding into each day beginning and ending, married to this land, this heritage, the hardship and pain and joy of his ancestors, his face to me projected comfort, intimacy, peace, strength, longevity, and eternal wisdom.
He and members of the tribe that call themselves Diné trace their origins beyond “The People,” the translation given to the word they use to identify themselves. According to an elder I heard, Diné contains two components; roughly described as unlimited beings with no ceiling or “surface” who came to live on the finite land and surface we know as Earth.
The symbolism in this image is not only in the white sheep wool string wrapped on the young man’s hair, his dress and jewelry, and the painterly aspect of the background. The greater symbolism to me is that he and his people are the people of this land. These Indigenous people were established on the north and south continents before they became known as The Americas. My intent is to honor and to document them because the Diné are still here. They are here now: they are not relics or one-dimensional. I can think of no greater purpose than to open the window onto their multifaceted, complex, and rich history and culture.