Looking out over the vastness and geologic spectacle that is Northern Arizona, it’s easy to get lost. Lost in the wonder. Lost in the landscape that rises up in surprising shapes and plunges down below, carving out the earth. Lost in the expanse of space that you sometimes forget exists when you live in a city next to buildings of concrete and glass, and thousands of other people. Lost in a connection to time, and centuries of elements…cultures… all evidence of our time here on this earth.
I spent a week traveling through this part of the American Southwest, exploring and absorbing it on a deeper level, so fortunate to be part of a group of women who were tough and fascinating and inspiring, and of course, now we’re best friends. We were lucky guests of Corning® Gorilla® Glass, brought together to climb down canyons, plow through mud, trudge into deep sand, and squeeze through millennia-old sandstone. It was some rough terrain and we were capturing it all on our new Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ devices, which have the toughest cover glass yet – Corning® Gorilla® Glass 4, always a good thing when it slides out of your hand as you jump puddles and duck into caves. I dropped mine about three different times and it’s still like new, so yay Gorilla Glass 4!
Accompanying us during our trip was Raymond M Chee Jr, a member of the Native American Diné Tribe, who grew up on the reservation of the Navajo Nation nearby Page, Arizona. He shared his love and knowledge of the area with us and because he’s a photographer as well as a tour guide, he was able to help us use the cameras on the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ to take stunning photos when the light was hitting the rocky scenery just right.
He and I got to sit down and talk a little bit more about him, his artistic aspirations, and what he enjoys about meeting people from all over the world.
What do you do?
I’m a tour guide. I am also a part-time photographer and sculptor. I’m working on doing a lot of filmmaking as well.
When did you get into photography?
I’ve always had a slight fascination with filming and directing. A lot of it started as a kid. At the time I didn’t think it was logical, because it wouldn’t make money. The day I met Mark Boster, a photographer for the Los Angeles Times, he really, really inspired me. He would tell me about many events he had witnessed and what it was like capturing those moments in life.
What is your favorite subject to take photos of?
Oh man, I enjoy all aspects of photography. I come from a family that’s been going to art shows long before I was born. I enjoy doing abstract landscape photography and portrait photography as well.
What about filmmaking?
Filmmaking…it’s something that I’ve been doing for awhile. The first time I made a film was about one of my childhood friends who lived right next door to me. He passed away riding his ATV, so a couple of friends and I that used to ride ATVs with him made a short film in middle school for a filmmaking class. It paid tribute to him and that’s where I really, really started enjoying a lot of my filmmaking. Today there are other stories that I would like to tell through video.
Would you come to Los Angeles to make films, or would you stay here?
I would stay here. A lot of the things I want to produce, I want to build around Native American media. In particular the Navajo people, in order to give them a voice.
I’d really like for them to express themselves and show that there is more to life than they really think there is, creating a voice of a character that they may portray or pictures they want to take, or videotaping something that they want to share. Expressing and creating that imagery is essentially what I really want to capture here, and inspire other people to do it.
What do you like most about Navajo Nation?
Growing up on the Navajo Nation – it’s different. I love where I grew up and how it developed me as a person. The landscapes are unbelievable, its wide-open land that allows for someone to see for miles. I also spent a big part of my life growing up in the city as well. It’s a huge contrast, but I love home.
I feel close to these people. It’s a relationship, a comfortable feeling that I get when I’m here at home. I enjoy everything that the land offers. The people, the landscape, the smell, and how I feel emotionally and spiritually.
What do you enjoy about guiding visitors across your landscape?
It’s good to see different cultures and how people act. I like to see how they conduct themselves and how they express their feelings.
When I have an opportunity to spend time with them in these canyons that you and I went to, to see them in the light that their co-workers don’t get a chance to see them in…to see a person react and appreciate nature itself and its beauty, that’s what I enjoy most. Seeing someone coming from a completely different part of the world to enjoy where I’ve grown up, what I’ve done as a kid, and what I know. I took where I grew up all for granted, and when people enjoy something that I always overlooked as a child it makes me appreciate everything.
You can follow Raymond on his Instagram at @_raymondmchee. This post is sponsored by Corning Gorilla Glass 4, but everything written is my own opinion, since this is my blog.