lives in Window Rock, AZ/Navajo Nation
born in Ft. Defiance, AZ/Navajo Nation
raphealbegay.com | @rapheal_begay
Photographer Rapheal Begay (Diné) has spent several years developing his series, A Vernacular Response, which presents images from the Navajo Nation. “Through the documentation of the cultural landscape, a moment is created that both celebrates and interrogates its source of creation,” writes the artist. Intensely thoughtful, Begay sees significance in objects and quotidian scenes and is able to begin a conversation with the viewer through his lens. With installations and discussions about his work, he adds a further dimension of storytelling that engages community (as opposed to audience, he points out).
Community is a powerful motivation for Begay, who serves as a public information officer for the Navajo Nation Division of Human Resources in Window Rock, Arizona. His role in the community informs his perspective, work, and advocacy. The participatory character of his photography stems in part from a dialectic weaving of opposites—traditional versus contemporary, Native versus non-Native. “I’m reflecting on how the work functions within the reservation—knowing that is the source of the work—but also externally,” he says. Begay explores ways in which ideas based in the Navajo Nation translate and transform throughout different communities. “It’s a continuation of the values and perspective that inform me, not only as a person or an artist but as someone who’s a part of history with respect to their cultural lineage.”
Begay received his BFA in art studio with a minor in arts management and a certification in museum studies from the University of New Mexico. He has exhibited, curated, and collaborated in many creative initiatives since, highlighting Indigenous and queer art throughout New Mexico. A Vernacular Response is on view at the UNM Maxwell Museum of Anthropology now through October 3, 2020.