A Diné and a Dené – Hannah Manuelito, Guest Blogger Q&A

HM: Yá’át’ééh, shí éí Hannah Manuelito yíníshyé’.Tsi’naajinii nishłį́. Tł’ízí Łání ’éí báshíshchíín.Tódích’íi’nii éí dashicheii. ‘Áshįįhí ‘éí dashinálí.

Hello to all my relatives out there. I just introduced myself a Diné gal originally from Ganado, AZ. For a little over eight years I’ve been a photographer but it hasn’t been until the past three years where I’ve really focused on it and honed in on my craft. Alongside photography, I have pursued my love for makeup artistry as well. Creating bold, out of the norm makeup looks is one of my favorite things to do. I’m very thankful I have been able to do both creative outlets. Through my photography I have been able to do Fine Art concepts, edgy fashion shoots and meet tons of new folks I know consider close friends. One of those folks is Tenille, my feisty, adventurous Dene sister…man do we have stories…FROM JUST ONE TRIP! haha.

TC: Edglandeh. Ayyeeeeee, so in January, I was invited to speak in Austin, TX (Texasssssss, I say with a country drawl now) and I instantly invited Hannah of Hannah Manuelito Photography to guest speak with me. She’s an amazing artist who I instacreeped many years ago, and basically was all “we gonna be friends, love me.” It worked. So we spent four days in Austin, then I hopped over to Phoenix and spent four days there, visiting Hannah and her community. It was life changing in many ways, and I really wanted Hannah to write about her experiences, so we decided a Q&A was the best way to go about it, sharing some personal images as we go.

TC: Since I was the one who made the first move, ha, what were your first impressions of me, online, and did they match when we met up in real life? 

HM: Oh man, when I saw that you followed me, I’m pretty sure that I was that stalker and scrolled through your Instagram profile. I instantly fell in love and wanted to get to know you more.

It was great seeing another loud, thick queen killing it in the photography community. 

So when I landed in Austin I was thinking, “Hannah, don’t be a dork you’re meeting Tenille.” I was trying to prepare myself to be cool but I’m pretty sure I froze when I ran into you at the airport. You are SO MUCH more feisty in real life haha cause on Instagram you post your cute ass selfies and risqué poetry but that’s just the surface! You aren’t afraid to use your voice and I appreciate that. 

TC: So you met me, this aggressively-friendly stranger from Canada, who invites you to Austin, TX with her and was like, “stay in my hotel room, it’ll be fun” – what made you say yes? 

HM: When you asked me, it had been at least a couple of years since we’ve started talking. I already knew I wanted to hang out with you at some point and I’m glad it was for something we both thrive in. After trusting you with some information and you always checking in on me, I knew it would go well. I actually didn’t realize how creepy the situation seemed until we started telling people at the conference how we met haha. Also, it was reassuring that the first night we were singing to each other and some of the songs were Disney songs haha. I knew it was going to be fine after that. 

TC: Collaborating on our talk together for Friends of Fearless, what was one point you wanted to be sure to make to our crowd of attendees understood, and what was something you learned from our talk? 

HM: One point that I wanted them to hear was the “You’re not really honouring us.” We made them see that their “cute, Pinterest teepee” was not adorable but rather offensive. In no way would we see that and be like, “Wow, they’re honouring us on so many levels.” I think it was important for them to see that because a lot of photographers probably are faced with those types of requests from clients. So if they ever wonder if it’s bad, I’m glad we were able to say “That sucks, don’t do it!”  

From our talk, I learned that you don’t have to be considerate of everyone’s feelings. If it was just myself up there, I don’t think I would have been as forward but that’s just because I am more on the timid side. Seeing Tenille be fearless and forward with everything was incredible. 

TC: Emotional Labour and Friendships. There was a LOT of behind the scenes discussions of allyship, kinship, and what makes white people problematic at the conference we attended, as one of the three indigenous people there (that I know of), how do you feel about the emotional labour that was going on (always being asked ndn questions) and did that hamper your experience in being present or feeling safe at the conference?

HM: Oh boy, I can say that it was a lot and I wasn’t expecting it to be so much right away. The first night we were there even, there was some comment made and I was like “Did anyone else hear that?” Then more and more things happened which is insane because this was a large group of people who made it seem like they were in the “know” of everything. I would overhear a lot of talks about political matters and how people should be progressive and think not for themselves but for everyone…then something like “let’s powwow” or “I honour the culture” would happen. 

It was a lot to process but having grown up in the city I’ve been through it already. There are times when I just find it funny and kind of back off. 

TC: One thing you wish we had time to do in Austin, and one thing you wish we had time to do in Phoenix?

HM: Oh man, I think in general I wish we had more time to explore in Austin and in Phoenix. We really didn’t get to go out and take photos, which is crazy.

It would have been more fun to go out with our cameras, have some margs and fill Austin with our laughs. 

TC: Oh, Phoenix. I loved Phoenix so, so much. Thank you for inviting me to your space, and for letting me meet your family. When are you coming to Saskatchewan to visit the Dene, and what are some of the things in your head when you think of Saskatchewan/Canada?

HM: It was pretty funny when you met my family. I know you were pretty excited to meet my grandma and she was coming out of her room for dinner. My mom or sister was guiding her to the table and she went passed you. Then we decided to leave and once we were in the car you were like “It was pretty rude of your grandma not to say hi.” I bursted out laughing and exclaimed “SHE’S BLIND!” It was a good laugh. 

I want to come as soon as possible; really wanted to make it up there for my birthday this June but Miss Rona is being a pain. When I think of Saskatchewan, I think of open lands and it being cold. I know you want me to come during the winter but…. gurl, I am a desert hoe. 

TC: Do you call it bannock, fry bread, oven bread, fried bannock, oven bannock? 

HM: I call it fry bread cause that’s my tribe calls it. In my head, bannock is a different type of bread so that’s why I don’t confuse the two. 

Tenille and Dominique from D. Daye Hunter Designs

TC: You’ve an artist in many forms, most known for your makeup skills and your fashion photography. What are some of your future goals in your fields? 

HM: Right now I would really like to pursue photography more, feel more passionate about it. I hope to do larger photography jobs, doing campaign shoots for big companies and also still create work for my personal fine art concepts. The past couple of years I have been going to the Indian Art Markets and often picture myself in those booths. To have my photos in an art gallery would be fulfilling as well. Eventually, I would like to be able to visit the schools on the reservations to show them that it is possible to pursue a creative job. Most of the schools don’t have art classes or clubs because they can’t afford them. It would be wonderful to take what I know and bring it back home. 

TC: What is a recent fear or self-doubt that you’ve conquered, and how so? 

HM: For a while there, I had major self doubt in my work and who I was. I had a recent falling out with someone I thought I was close with and the words they had said to me stuck to me. It made me believe my work wasn’t good, that what I was creating wasn’t good enough. One day, I opened up my old hard drive and looked at the photos from the past years, they blew me away. The growth that I had in the photos and the amount of creativity I had in them. Then about a month later after that, one of my photos was featured in Vogue! Thankful that happened and to featured among other talented artist. 

TC: Sharing connections, who are some artists from your area we should know about already? 

I love these artists on so many levels!

Nate Lemuel @darklistedphotography is a photographer New Mexico. I met him, I believe three years ago, and we clicked right away. The visuals he creates have a feeling to them and they’re so beautiful. 

Tyana Arviso’s @tyanaarviso work is beauuuuutiful, crisp and gentle. She sees images that I think I would just pass by but she truly does see the beauty in everything. 

Cara Romero, QUEEEEEEEN! I love her work, she is the Native Annie Leibovitz for sure. I fan girl every time I see her haha. Her insta is @cararomerophotography.

Tomás Karmelo Amaya @tomaskarmelo this dude is like a boss at what he does. It’s really cool to see how he works and you can tell he’s super patient while on the job too. Tomás is so advanced but so humble at the same time, which is really nice.

Leah Kolakowski @leahrosephoto she is a badass photographer! Her work is so beautiful and rich. She see’s the world in a different way and I love her work. 

– hannah manuelito

HM: What was your first impression of me?
TC: Online, I thought you were really cool and chill, and I loved it when I found out you could sing – it’s the one thing I have always wanted to be able to do but am truly bad at it. So, you were like all the things I aspire to be – great at makeup, a hella talented photographer, a singer, and outrageously funny. Then once I met you, in person, there was absolutely no awkwardness. You are exactly who you present yourself to be online, and it was really great to be able to vibe with that. 

HM: What’s one thing you didn’t expect me to do? 
TC: Tell me to leave you alone, lmaooooo. Context: we were getting ready for something, and I was done before you, and I was low key teasing/bitching, trying to hurry you up, and you very calmly looked at me and was all “You can go. I’ll be okay to get there on my own.” And I was like “…. well then.”

It was just a reminder to me that although I was super protective of you in that space – bringing you into a conference, into a majority-white space, etc – that you are actually a very accomplished adult and didn’t need me to babysit you. So I sat my ass down, played Mario on my phone, and just waited, because I needed to chill. Not like I ever show up on time anyways.

HM: Would you get another matching tattoo with me?
TC: I would totally get another matching tattoo. Something with Dené and Diné syllabics/words maybe? Wildflowers from each region? I don’t know, but I’m game for ink. I still love the fact that we did it after two days of knowing each other, but let’s be real, sisters in another life.  

HM: On a scale 1-10, how much do you miss Whattaburger?
TC: I am a solid 10 on missing Whattaburger. It may be due to the fact we only hit up in the early morning hours while tipsy AF, but the burgers, the REAL iced tea, the BBQ sauce… that was my after-hours delightssssss. 

HM: What was your favorite part of the trip?
TC: My favorite part of the trip was going to see all the cacti. I love the land in Phoenix, and wish we had more time to see more of it. But seeing all the variety of plants and medicines made my heart so happy.

Just being able to get in the car, drive around, see some nature, make some laughs, I loved it.

 And the amount of convincing you and Dom had to do to make me NOT TOUCH the cacti was hilarious. It’s my greatest regret that I didn’t, because I don’t think a little touch would have hurt, but you guys were so stressed about it, and I didn’t want a hospital visit in case you were right soooooo….. next time?

HM: You are a pretty fearless, badass babe…how can I get on your level?
TC: Stahhhpppp, you’re already there. Your work is always so on point – I love that your fashion shoots incorporate traditional elements with hella modern representation, because too often we get stuck with having super traditional images of Indigenous stylings thrown at us, and we need more imagery that examines the couture in our life beyond ribbon skirts and braids. 

HM: At which point of the trip did you think “Oh damn, I f*cks with this girl”?
TC: Right off the bat, I liked your energy and enthusiasm for life, but I really enjoyed it when you weren’t on my case for how I ubered everywhere (hahahaha) and let me have my space when I was low energy. Because let’s be real, travelling can bring out the worst and best in people, and you were so patient and even-tempered that you made it real easy to get along. And I’m not gonna complain about the amount of makeup and non accessories we both brought along – I still dream about owning that much turquoise.  

HM: What was something either I did or we both did that made you crack up the most?
TC: My favorite damn part of this trip was how EXCITED I was to meet your Grandma, because I knew she lived with your family from your Insta stories. So we go to your house (being allowed to wear shoes inside – was that normal? It didn’t feel right, ha) and I meet everyone, then your Grandma comes out, being helped to her seat by your nephew. And she sits there, and you introduce us and I smile REAL BIG at her, because I wanna make a good impression. And she ignores me, and continues eating on, and that was that. On the way out, I mention how I was sad your Grandma didn’t say hi, even though I was smiling at her real big, trying to make eye contact, and you stop and were all “Tenille, she’s blind.” 

I ded. 

HM: What’s some advice you could give to young female Indigenous photographers/creatives?

I would just encourage our young Indigenous photogs/artists to keep shooting, to keep creating, and to love what you do.

Although I work very hard and sacrifice a lot to be able to do photography/writing as my main job, I still love it even when I’m frustrated and unhappy with what I’m producing (it happens). But so long as I’m pushing myself, so long as I’m learning, and so long as I walk away content, I’m all good. It’s a blessing to wake up everyday and love your job/s.

HM: Did you enjoy your visit in Pheonix?
TC: I loved it. Austin was a lot of fun visually – it’s a photographer’s dream, and I wish we took time to actually bring our cameras somewhere there, ha – but Phoenix, once I stepped off the plane and got to the land itself, I felt like I could breathe again. The wide open space, the skyline, it all felt so familiar. And getting the chance to meet other creatives through Instagram and the Poets night you put together – that was truly special. Getting to know the community in a real way made Phoenix so amazing for me.

Plus the cacti was bomb.  

– tenille k campbell

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