There is grace and power in names and naming. Your father's grandmother gave you your name, Tafv, which means 'feather' in the Creek language. Do you feel like it fits you (or do you fit it)?
Everyone assumed I was going to be a boy when my mom was pregnant with me. My parents kept trying to come up with boy names, some in Creek (Fus-wah was on the table, meaning 'bird' in my language). I'm not even sure they bothered to think of any girl names. Then one day my great grandmother said very matter-of-factly that I was a little girl named Tafv, as if she already knew me, and that was that. I can't know what it feels like to not have such a strong connection to one's name, but for me it feels like a very large part of who I am (possibly why I am!). I didn't grasp the importance of a traditional name when I was younger, but as I get older I'm understanding the magnitude of being so connected to one—a beautiful word in a near extinct language, a name that only my Oklahoma family can really say in just that particular way. It's grounding to have a name with such deep roots and long history in an age where we get farther and farther from where we came from.
Your photographs are like entire richly built worlds, vivid and wholly realized even in a single frame. What does it feel like to capture a universe in a moment?
I've always been someone who is deeply nostalgic, clinging frantically to the past like tangled Saran wrap, completely devastated when anything ends. The mourning of time gone by found a cushion of abatement when I discovered photography in my early teens. All of a sudden I could hold onto something as clear as it was in that moment, and look back at it anytime I wanted. As I carried photography into adulthood I found that I was most drawn towards taking photos of the people I already had in my life, people I was close to. Photos of scenery or even models on a set who I had no previous connection with did not give me that sense of urgency to keep them, and that's what photos are to me, keepsakes. Without that longing to hold onto something it's very hard for me to know when that instinctual 'moment' happens. Capturing the universe in a moment for me is capturing 'us' in the universe at that moment. What you're feeling, how we feel towards one another, that intimacy is what I'm after. That's the universe right there.
There is a beautiful tension between vulnerability and power in your work. How do you experience that as a creator?
I am someone who has never tried to hide much of my vulnerability, I pretty much lay all the goofy stuff out on the table upfront. You have to if you expect the people in your life, and the people you’re shooting, to give it in return. I’ve worked in the art department for fashion shoots for 10+ years and I realized early on there wasn’t a lot of joy happening on set, no laughing, no tenderness, everyone felt pained and stressed, the end result naturally lacking soul. I made it a point during my shoots there had to be laughing, even gleeful chaos, because once the dust settles from that, you get the intimacy. In a successful shoot you get to the point where you’re both passing vulnerability and power back and forth, a vibrational giving and taking that is unspoken and effortless. It’s really such a sexy exchange.