Who are you and what do you do?
Yá’át’ééh (Hello), my name is Hannah Manuelito, I am Black Streak Wood Clan born for Many Goats Clan. I am a Navajo photographer currently based out of Chandler, AZ. My main focus in photography is fine art portraiture but for the past year I have been doing a lot of fashion photography for the company I work for. I am getting back into my fine art practices this summer with an artist residency I recently was selected for, yay!
How did you get your start?
When I was in high school I would go to a lot of local metal shows and noticed that the photographers would get in for free sometimes and I wanted part of that deal. After photographing a couple of shows I didn’t like missing out on the actual performances so I just stuck to being a little emo fan girl in the crowd.
It wasn’t until I saw a couple of photos from Richard Avedon’s In the American West during my sophomore year in high school I was truly moved by fine art photography. Ever since that moment I saw the guy covered in bees, I knew I wanted to pursue fine art portraiture.
What inspires you?
My family, they are my life, my breath, my guidance. As a Navajo I was brought up with strong cultural teachings, which I have put into my work. I was born on the Navajo Reservation but my parents brought my sisters and I to Phoenix when I was six years old. There was a disconnect from my culture but my mom did an amazing job at teaching my sisters and I about our culture. With my artwork I explore those teachings to better understand them and I still have many teachings to explore.
What do you like about AZ?
I like Arizona because my home is here, I’ve been fortunate to travel several places but I always look forward to coming home. Other things I like about Arizona is the art scene, I feel like there’s a lot of artists coming together to make a difference in the scene. I am not sure if it is just me but I feel the art friends I have made in Arizona are pretty badass and I am amazed they talk to me haha. Having just stepped into the art scene here and having a job that lets me connect with incredible artists allows me to actually talk and receive guidance from local artists that I look up to.
Where can we see you(r) work?
You can see my work on my website or you can follow my on Instagram and follow my daily shenanigans. I am pretty active on Instagram and I will doing an artist residency this summer so you’ll be able to see if I crash and burn haha.
What would you like to accomplish before you die?
There are so many things I would love to do! Some more serious things would be, create a traveling workshop for Indigenous youth that shows them its okay to pursue the arts, another would be to have my own solo show in galleries around the country, I guess another one would be to have a studio of my own where I can provide classes on different areas of photography.
What is your mantra?
“She laughs without fear of the future”, I love this Bible verse so much I actually have it tattooed on my arm. This verse perfectly describes every woman in my family; they are strong, powerful and overall badass women. When faced with challenges they rise up and face them straight on without hesitation. Although we have moments where we fall they remind us to smile, they bring back that laughter into our lives even at the darkest times.