Rider’s Lens: Danny Upshaw’s Photography
Our latest Rider’s Lens features the work of Navajo photographer and designer Danny Upshaw, who shares some of his ongoing documentation of the interesting people and places around his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. Learn more about Danny and find a selection of his creative and colorful images here…
We first came across Danny Upshaw’s photographs back in January when a mutual friend tipped us off to the vibrant and often mesmerizing body of work the young photographer is creating in his hometown. We reached out to Danny to learn more about what he’s up to and how bicycles inspire and encourage him to create new work. Find the story behind Danny’s photography in his own words below.
Words and photos by Danny Upshaw (@unheard_harmony)
My name is Danny Upshaw and I was born born, raised, and currently live in Phoenix, Arizona. I’m a full-blooded Native American from the Diné Tribe (Navajo) and a creative who is learning from life in the city. My culture influences my work in the creative field of photography, videography, and design. I work for a local design and advertising agency doing video motion graphics. When I’m not at work I love to explore my city on foot, skateboard, and bike. I don’t just ride my bike to get from place to place but I also as a form of exercise and a way to hang out with friends and family.
My work mostly consists of life in Phoenix, Arizona, and the bit of traveling I’ve been able to do. The work I’m creating these days is 100 percent inspired by my friends and family and the cultures that occupy Arizona. I enjoy hearing stories from people and capturing a part of them through my photography. Being an Indigenous person, I enjoy sharing the stories and the culture of the Diné and other Indigenous tribes too.
The stories I most love to tell are a direct reflection of myself. I love photos of Phoenix, my Navajo culture, my hobbies, and the activities I love to do: photography, art, skateboarding, and of course cycling. I think my relationship with bicycles has fueled my need to explore. Riding my bike allows me to slow down and see parts of the city I wouldn’t have seen if I was driving in a car. Many of my photos are based on finding new perspectives, and riding my bike allows me to see perspectives that would otherwise be overlooked.
I like capturing the mundane, hopefully in a unique way. I would love to visit new places and see them with my own eyes, but also through the eyes of people I meet along the way. As I continue making more work, I hope to interact with more people and see their cultures and create an understanding and ultimately be able to capture it and share it.
Lately, I’m exploring new avenues of creativity. I capture photos and share them via social media but I think seeing the photos in different contexts is what I’m trying to figure out now. I’ve had a couple of shows and had some work published in magazines, but now I want to see what my photos look at a larger scale. I’m currently experimenting with wheat paste.
Danny’s Photography Gear
When I’m out riding with my camera, I use a few different bags to carry my gear. I fit my SLR and one lens in my Chrome Industries Kadet Sling Bag. If I need to carry more lenses, I use my Saddleback Leather Front Pocket Backpack. If I need to carry more gear, I use my Peak Design bag. The most common camera I carry with me while riding is my phone and I just put that into my pocket, ha!
- Canon 90D camera body
- Sigma 18-25mm lens
- Sigma 10-20mm lens
- Canon 70-200mm lens
- Sony RX 100 V point and shoot camera
- Samsung S21 Ultra phone
Out of all my photographs, I’d like to highlight one that is one of the first photos I was proud of when I was first getting into photography. My features photo features an older gentleman carrying a guitar while riding his bike. I often wonder what he was up to. Was he on his way to a gig? Was he meeting fellow musicians for practice?
I love this photo because I shot it on a Pentax K1000 35mm film camera. At the time, I was just getting familiar with taking pictures and had borrowed that camera. Film photography is a bit more difficult for me to get used to, as with digital I can put it on burst mode and shoot a million photos and one of those will be ok. For that photo of the seasoned musician riding his bike, I nailed the focus and composition, and as a photographer that’s the best I can hope for. It’s not the most glamorous photo but it means a lot to me, and those kinds of moments are what drive me to continue pursuing photography.
Before I go, I’d love to give a shoutout to some fellow creatives who I look to for inspiration: Jessie Yazzie, Shela Yu, Sam Fresquez, Diana Calderon, Justin Yee, Kenneth Shirley, Tato Caraveo, JR, Andy Brown, Carrie Marill, Abe Zucca, Lin Seegar, Jesse Teer, Tindal Muzic, and Desirae Redhouse.
About Danny Upshaw
Danny Upshaw is a photographer from the Diné Tribe (Navajo Nation) and was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. He works for an advertising/design agency where he does video editing/shooting and motion graphic design when he’s not out riding his bike and working on photo projects. See more from Danny on Instagram @unheard_harmony.
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