Heading out of Aztec New Mexico, traffic was sparse. I had just finished up a grueling magazine photo-shoot – (the kind that reminds you …you’re NOT 25 anymore). Now at dawn, my plan was to fight fatigue, find creativity and make more photographs for my magazine photo-shoot client. But trickles and grey skies blocked out morning light. So I decided to hit the road.
It’s funny how people jump into your brain when you’re driving. God-angles and aunts keep me focused on the one who needs me, Thank you!
Spinning tires, spinning mind. I was happy to see the hitchhiker.
It’s not popular to pick up hitchhikers in 2017, but driving alone, I usually do. Vance jumped into my car blowing out 701 reminders for a few hours. My new traveling companion was on his way home and anxious to see his newborn daughter for the first time.
An American Native from the Navajo tribe, Vance wore no jacket. In fact, he had few possessions other than nylon strap he found along the road. “This could be useful” he said. An adept conversationalist, my exchange with Vance drifted from philosophy to comedy with effortless rhythm.
Vance confided about his battle with alcohol and about his family. Around almost every highway curve, he described the terrain beyond visible.
I told stories of my days living with a Navajo family in a hogan near Canyon De Chelly. I remembered what the the blind grandfather said. “The problem with cities is there’s nowhere to just go and sit” Vance knew and I reconnected with the grandfather’s words. Of course, there are plenty of places to “just sit” in the city. But somehow the desert releases caged thoughts more easily.
Vance spends his summers guiding horse tours in Monument Valley. His ancestors settled there after The Trail of Tears and have guided tour groups for generations. But now his family is in a battle with the Navajo nation which wants to modernize the operation.
As we entered into The Jicarilla Apache Reservation I could feel Vance’s excitement grow.
I drove him a few miles off the main highway to his home where I asked to photograph him.