November 1, 2015, was an important date in my career because it marked the culmination of a long struggle to see something through. The adventure began with a disastrously short tenure at The Denver Post, followed by years of almost aimless wandering through the Navajo Nation, trying to make images that mattered and often wondering if anybody would care.
Upon its completion, my Navajo powwow portrait project went a couple of rounds with a renowned magazine synonymous with photography. Editors told me that my timing was off – the magazine had published two Native American stories in the last three years – and gave other reasons for not accepting it.
Disheartened, I thought maybe nobody did care – after all, Native Americans account for less than 2 percent of the U.S. population.
But last November, Native Peoples magazine ran my project as a two-part cover story that included a 3,400-word feature, photographs and multimedia pieces. The publication of my work essentially closed this complicated chapter of my life.
Because of my experience with that project, writing now accounts for more than half of my income and gives me freedoms that few photographers enjoy. I’m happy I didn’t listen to the naysayers. I’m proud I saw this project through because, although it was the most difficult time of my life, it was also by far the best. The pictures aren’t bad, either.
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