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Eugene Tapahe

Ten years ago, Eugene Tapahe left his secure job — with  its predictable pay and beneficial benefits — and set out to tell a story through photography. He bought his first digital camera and set out for the perfect shot. But, after numerous frustrations, he took the advice of his wife, Sharon, to stop trying to take photos of what he thinks others would like, and to instead listen to his own heart and tell his story. That is when the Tapahe story began to unfold. His work has been juried into notable art markets, museums and galleries such as the Santa Fe Indian Market, Cherokee Indian Market, Heard Museum, Eiteljorg Museum, and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Now, Eugene listens to his heART.

Plot Twist Recently, I began a photography series “Art Heals: The Jingle Dress Project,” to promote healing and hope during Covid. The project gained global attention and has also been featured in Vogue fashion magazine. 

Hero’s Journey Living in two worlds is not a new concept for Native American people. Despite the contradictory nature of these two realms, both traditional teachings and modern existence are essential to us. It’s a constant struggle for Native Americans to maintain their identity.

Character Backstory I have been dealing with hearing loss in my left ear for the past four years. It has completely changed my life. I have learned to adapt to my new world of distortion by being patient and trusting that people will be patient with me, too.

The Sequel After completing my graduation (Master of Fine Arts from BYU), I aspire to pursue my career in galleries and museums and expand my work to various communities worldwide. My aim is to create awareness about Native American culture and emphasize the significance of our relationship with the land. I believe that when individuals are exposed to diverse perspectives and backgrounds, it enables them to better empathize and understand one another.

Author’s Note As a member of the Diné community, I learned to respect, preserve and protect the sacred elements of nature at a young age. These elements include the land, trees, plants, water, sky and animals. My grandma taught me the importance of nurturing this connection and relationship with the land. This philosophy has had a profound impact on both my life and my art. It has kept me grounded, humble and grateful for all that I have.