Evan James Benally Atwood
Photographer and Artist
Born to the clans Ta'neeszahnii (Tangle clan) and Naakai dine'é (Mexican clan), Evan James Benally Atwood is a queer Diné photographer and artist whose stories give voices to marginalized communities and honor their ancestral roots. Evan’s work is often intimately personal, yet invites others who similarly identify into the story to reflect and connect. Their work has appeared in TIME magazine and Vice, and at the Smithsonian and Native Cinema Showcase in New York, among others.
Evan’s work addresses and underscores who they are now, and where they came from, passionately and thoughtfully packaged into stunning photography and honest films, with the intent to inspire others in shared communities.
Why do you create and tell stories?
For the past few years, it's been my intention to uplift and empower marginalized communities and honor my own balance of feminine/masculine. This past summer specifically, I've been fortunate enough to work with local movement artist Princess Bouton, on a project where a black trans femme can tell a whole story without speaking a word. I also worked on a music video with Black Belt Eagle Scout on normalizing a queer Indigenous prom. Currently, I'm working on a documentary called The Ties that Bind: An Invisible Mother, about a local, two spirit activist, Lukas Soto, who's been trying to reconnect with their biological child for a decade. All of these are culminations of the intersections I find myself at—where a queer identity intersects with an Indigenous identity—because more often than not, there's little overlap in dominant discourses.
How do you know when a project is done and ready for others to see it?
Sometimes, it's about a deadline and however much time you can put into editing. Shorter videos are easier to wrap and share with people. Since I've been creating films, I've learned and practiced all aspects going into a final project. Currently, with this documentary, it's difficult to place a deadline on work that moves so slow. So, ultimately, it depends on the project.
What is currently the greatest influence on your work?
It’s the influence of queer Indigenous critiques on our modern society, the recovering of an Indian perspective on history, and the need to document some of our most marginalized community members fighting for what most of us take for granted. This work fuels this passion I have to create and cultivate positive change for those I love and support.
Which of your films do you still think about?
After a summer of collaborating with Princess Bouton on a few short movement films, the energy from these has stayed with me in my day-to-day life. Princess inspires me and so many others, so I feel really fortunate that this work still moves with me. One of our first films we made this year, Float Bitch, has been selected to screen at the Rewire Film Festival in Eugene, Oregon, in November. It's so exciting to share the film with people who might not know who Princess is.
It’s the influence of queer Indigenous critiques on our modern society, the recovering of an Indian perspective on history, and the need to document some of our most marginalized community members fighting for what most of us take for granted.
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far?
Most recently, I was fortunate enough to be included in the 2019 Native Cinema Showcase, curated by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. It showed in NYC in March and at the Santa Fe Indian Market in August. I had the sweetest time in Santa Fe because I grew up in New Mexico, and my family came out to support me there. To be included in such a beautiful gathering of Native artists—I felt so proud that I cried in the quiet moments.