Photographer Tyana Arviso’s
Elemental Desert Vision
In the annals of American photography, few landscapes rival the Southwest as an influence and subject. And yet new explorations keep revealing unknown dimensions of this sprawling landscape. Tyana Arviso’s work in the high desert of southwest Colorado both resonates with the Southwest’s photographic heritage and brings a point of view simultaneously fresh and rooted. Tyana shared a gorgeous portfolio and thoughts on her practice with Wildsam.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN PHOTOGRAPHY AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START PHOTOGRAPHING DESERT LANDSCAPES?
The first photographer I recognized was my mom, Lapita Arviso. When I was younger, I never understood her passion. It took time for me to stop and appreciate the beauty she so deeply admired. Together, we spent countless hours chasing the adventure, watching the sun slip into the night and following the moon's positions with each season change. As my appreciation for the surrounding beauty grew, so did our relationship as mother and daughter.The way everything unfolded was effortless. Our shared language of photography was one that happened without intention; it was sparked by our curiosity and the love we have for one another.
I chose to photograph the desert landscapes because that is where I grew up. The southwest is my home, and I love it dearly. The desert is tough, and it is soft. It is full of character and mystery.
WHY IS PHOTOGRAPHY IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Photography is my form of self-expression. I’ve used it as a tool to navigate through the grief that I’ve experienced in life. It continues to serve as an important outlet to communicate and regulate my wellbeing.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY POV, AND HOW DOES IT REFLECT YOUR PERSONAL GROWTH?
My hope is that as I evolve as a person, not just a photographer, so will my work. My mom, Lapita, has always said, “evolve or remain.” Personal growth starts by stepping outside the comfort zone. Choosing to remain while avoiding a challenge lessens the chances of personal growth.
This past summer, I co-hosted my first workshop with Lapita. I could feel imposter syndrome tapping on my shoulder. With about 10 years of experience as a photographer, my insecurities surfaced. It took stepping out of my comfort zone to face my insecurity. Once we completed the workshop, I felt so much relief, and I felt so proud of myself because this was something I’ve always wanted to do. If I had chosen to remain, then I wouldn’t have met such amazing people and held myself accountable as an artist. I’m lucky to share the language of photography with my mom; together, we encourage one another during times of uncertainty.
CAN YOU SHARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHS THAT REPRESENT KEY MILESTONES IN YOUR JOURNEY? WHAT DO THESE IMAGES MEAN TO YOU?
I always say that my photographs are a direct representation of my life. When looking back at past work, I often reminisce about the memories that are attached to those photographs. Thispast year, I launched an exclusive collection of photographs in collaboration with Banana Republic Home. The photographs that shape this collection have memories of loss, resilience, and euphoria. These images and all images outside this collection are part of who I am andrepresent my evolution.
HOW HAS THE COLORADO HIGH DESERT SHAPED YOUR EXPRESSION AS AN ARTIST?
Photographing the high desert of Colorado has provided introspection on the various types of terrain Colorado has to offer. While it’s often known for its white-capped mountains, mining, and ski towns, Colorado has desert scenes that are far different from its neighboring deserts within the southwest. This is where I’m from; it is my home, and I am sharing that with my audience.
HOW IS DINÉ CULTURE REFLECTED IN YOUR WORK?
Although my connection to the land was absent at the beginning of my career, I was raised to always show respect for the land. The land is where my people come from. There are limits to what I choose to photograph out of respect for my mind, body, and spirit. This includes respecting astrological phenomena like an eclipse, whether lunar or solar.
During the alignment of an eclipse, a rebirth of the sun is taking place. The process is intimate; we honor this sacred moment by sitting in observation and refrain from viewing the eclipse. It is important to avert any need to eat, drink, or sleep during this time. There are limits I choose to live by for the sake of my spiritual well being; this is one of them.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO IS INTERESTED IN USING PHOTOGRAPHY AS A TOOL FOR SELF-EXPRESSION, HEALING AND GROWTH?
If you are looking to find healing in photography, I encourage you to explore and find a form of self-expression that suits your lifestyle. It can be photography, painting, or sculpting; there are so many doors to open. It’s up to you to seek and find what speaks to your truth. When you find something that speaks authentically to you, the process of navigating through feelings is a lot easier. There will always be growth with any new step you take towards bettering yourself. So I encourage you to find what speaks to you and run with it.
WHAT IS IN YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY TOOLKIT?
There’s not much in my photography toolkit; I like to keep things minimal and efficient. I’ve always found the technical side of photography to be overwhelming. Things happen so fast when I’m out shooting, so in my world, there’s no time to waste. Keeping my tools to a minimum has helped me take action as quickly as possible, creating more space for the story.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION AND SOURCE OF CREATIVITY FROM?
I’ve noticed inspiration has a mind of its own. There are times when it feels so barren, and then there are times when it’s so abundant that taking action feels overwhelming. During droughts of inspiration, I try to keep my curiosity open. I’ve found inspiration in the sky and the landscape.Inspiration lives in the light and the shadows of the day. I’ve seen it in movies and the way people are dressed. Inspiration can be felt in music. Inspiration lives everywhere; keeping an open mind is key .