Winoka Begay is a Navajo photographer currently residing in Alburqurque, NM. Her art inhabits a haunted place; with an eye for both the big and small picture, she’s able to put us in another world and then make us kneel to smell the flowers. Her work examines life in the American Southwest.
We are thrilled to share Noka’s art in this edition of Literary Orphans–an issue that focuses on Native American writing and art. Please start following her Tumblr now, so you won’t miss out on what this powerful and emerging photographer’s got in store for you next!
1.What sparked your interested in photography, and when did you know you would pursue being an artist?
My interest in photography started when I was about 14 years old. I enjoyed taking pictures of pretty much anything that I found interesting. My belief is that everything has beauty in some shape or form and we must capture that beauty to share with others…as for being termed an “artist”…well I wouldn’t define myself as such. I know of so many Native artists and photographers that exude talent and artistry…just putting myself in that category would be an insult to them and their work. I am only starting out as a photographer, but one day I hope to be where they are.
2. What other artists and art forms have influenced you and your work?
I enjoy the work of Jeremy Singer, Jonathan Nelson, Georgia O’Keefe, Larry Price, Pamela Shields…etc.
3. Can you describe your current artistic process, habits, techniques you have formed?
I don’t really have a particular process or technique.
4. Is storytelling important in your photography?
Storytelling is not entirely important in my photography, but with my current project it is; because I am focusing on places that define who I am as a diné (navajo) woman. So I am focusing on places that have some significance to the Navajo culture. I am also focusing on places that tell my own story, where I was born; the schools I attended, and places that are special to my family.
5. What are some of your favorite books, movies, poems, authors?
My favorite book is the Great Gatsby, my favorite movie is A Bronx tale.
6. Can you put into words the way you have evolved over time as a photographer?
Like I said before, I am just starting out. I do believe that I have improved as a photographer and that I am starting to take more risks but I still have a lot to learn and more to improve.
7. Where do you turn for motivation and new sources of inspiration?
I follow a lot of Photographers on social networking sites such as Facebook and tumblr. I often look at what they are currently working on and find my inspiration through that. However, I tend to find inspiration wherever I may be. If I like it, then I will capture it.
8. What do you think is more important for your craft: passion, dedication, or raw talent and can you elaborate on why?
If you don’t have a passion for what you are doing, than why do it? That’s my motto. I enjoy taking pictures, it’s my way of connecting with my surroundings, with other people, with myself. It’s what I love to do.
9. What is a project you are currently working on, and a project you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
Right now I’m working on two projects; one was described in question 4 and the other is iphoneography, basically using the iPhone instead of a DSLR camera to capture photos. Just to show others that you don’t need fancy equipment to express yourself artistically. You only need your eyes, a creative mind, and a functional iPhone.