Artist Spotlight – Mylo Fowler

We are extremely pleased to feature a customer that has been near and dear to pictureline for quite some time. His images have been featured by clients like Adobe Lightroom, National Geographic, Nissan USA, Adidas Terrex, and Native Peoples Magazine, just to name a few. His photographic journey is inspiring and we can't wait to get an inside look at landscape, wildlife, and adventure photographer, Mylo Fowler!

We've asked Mylo a few questions so that we can dig a little deeper into his story and learn more about his work. Let's take a look at what he had to say below.

What started your passion for photography?

What started my passion for photography was helping photographers when I didn't even have a camera. Many years ago, I helped launch and grow a slot canyon tour company near my home community of Page, Arizona. I was intimidated by people with big camera bags (medium and large format cameras were common), tripods, multiple lenses and so forth. I assumed they knew what they were doing when it came time to take photographs so I focused on knowing the colors and light of the slot canyon for every day of the year, even on Christmas or 4th of July.

mylo fowler monument valley

We were quite busy with people from around the world excited to see Antelope Slot Canyon. I noticed my tips were terrible and that something had to change to make some extra cash. Through months of studying the math of photography, film development, darkroom work, and digital cameras in its infancy, I saved my cash and had enough to buy a light meter. It was a Pentax 1° spot meter. Knowing where the colors and light were going to be vibrant, I memorized the exposure values and began to calculate the aperture, shutter speed, and even the zone system.

The change completely happened when I asked a lady if she would like help changing some settings. I was still intimidated to ask because no one wanted to look like they didn't know their craft amidst other photographers. It was really odd. Nonetheless, she said yes and the digital screen on the back of her 5MP camera looked stunning! I'll never forget her saying "HOLY SHIT!" with a giggling voice and tone of excitement. Everyone came over as she hit "replay" to review other images. Then the questions came from the "pro" photographers "what settings are you using?!" She said, "Ask Mylo"... that day changed the trajectory of my life and career.

We know you have deep roots in your Navajo culture. Has that played a role in how you approach photography?

The slot canyon job allowed me to travel all over the world and spend weeks in China, Europe, and in other stunning places. I took my camera with me to photograph these beautiful places. I had an experience in Europe where I felt like I was chasing a never-ending destination that was unfulfilling until one day I was sitting on a dune deep within an area of Monument Valley waiting for the sun to rise. I played my Native American Flute and saw the beautiful sweet light of morning.

mylo fowlers sweet sunrise

That same evening I went home and saw the sun set over the Grand Canyon, Vermillion/Echo Cliffs. It was then I knew where my photography roots were. I felt a change and a level of excitement that no other place could ever provide. It was the only place I felt I had roots and very, very deep ones. Other global locations seemed like planting unyielding seeds while back within the 4 Sacred Mountains and Rivers, my captions or text about the photographs were mine because I was part of the land.

The role my roots have played in becoming a specialist is to share my culture and stories. I'm asked on a regular basis to photograph our landscape or other Indigenous relatives, athletes, dancers, or Elders. The approach is one taken with more thought and care and fortunately, my first camera was a large format 4x5 view camera. The discipline to pre-determine an exposure required me to be cautious in how many exposures to take. Even with today's 1TB memory cards, I would still prepare and approach photographing a project as if I were behind my large format view camera with only a few exposures to take.

Where is your all-time favorite location to shoot and why?

Anywhere back home on Navajoland is always the answer. I grew up living off the land with my maternal grandparents. The majority of the fruit, vegetables and protein we ate came from our fields.

In 2010 I remember having this deep, burning idea to photograph and show the beauty of "Reservations" because the United States Government gave or forced many of our people across this land to what Government officials thought were wastelands. These were places that were useless, and inhospitable without much access to resources. Many "Tribes" were displaced and never returned to their original homelands. Nearly every Treaty the United States has with Indigenous People has been broken and legislation like "The Indian Removal Act" existed to remove us.

survivors of the land - mylo fowler

Being behind the camera to show this has been an incredible process. I love photographing wildlife like wolves and especially buffalo because not even a century and a half ago, the viewpoint was to "kill every buffalo. Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone." My favorite places are those locations where the stories are rich and unique with Indigenous People reclaiming what was once stolen. It is tough for many in today's society to understand however photographs and words convey it best for me. Soon, one of my photographs will be revealed and part of a book focused on the "100 Greatest Photographs"... This is why I absolutely love being behind the camera!

What's the shot that you're most proud of?

This is also very easy. It's the earliest photograph I can remember ever taking. We were traveling home from my maternal grandparents home which is towards the East part of Navajoland, we lived on the West. In the middle of our route home is Hopi. My parents truck overheated and broke down. My father was and is a genius auto mechanic and knew exactly what was need however the nearest auto part store with the part was a few hours away. Without cell phones my uncle came to the rescue.

mylo fowlers sm

A day later the part was in my dad's hands and my mother as calm as could be. She is sooo sweet. Bored and trying to find something to do, I looked behind our 84 Chevy truck bed seat and found my father's camera bag. I grabbed the Minolta and tried to be sneaky, hiding behind the sage brushes. I know my mother saw me, she played along, and with a telephoto lens on the camera, I found an opening about 50 yards away in the sage brush and took a photo of my mom. She had her glasses on, white shirt with a blue design and her hair was curled. Slightly leaning over sitting on a small boulder, she was stacking rocks like Lego's.

I could easily tell you so much more about the photograph. It's the greatest exposure I've ever taken because of what it's filled with. Nowadays while on assignment, I'll use social media to photograph Diné grandma's and grandpa's during my downtime. Our Elders are the Wise Ones, the Knowledge Keepers and are related to me by my clans.

Besides building your photography business, what else motivates you to continue taking pictures?

My photographs end up printed, on my website or lives online somewhere like social media. What motivates me to take photographs is to use social media as a place that'll hold my work, thoughts and voice so others can learn. I was recently asked how I approach using social media and the answer was really easy. I use social media (Instagram: @NavajoMylo) as a place to archive my work with only one goal of having our kids, at some future time to read, listen or watch what I did behind the camera.

mylo fowler sky dancer

That could be doing something very hard like a 500 mile bike packing trip or helping someone else. A lot of my images have stories of our people, hardships, blessings, songs and way of life. As much as I meet with many Elders and ask them questions about the old ways, my only goal with continuing to take photographs is that our kids will have a library. As I photograph and write for them, the wonderful byproduct is many who read my work also learn in the process. My thought is that everything I do is for a previous generation and the next one.

We can't thank Mylo enough for sharing part of his story with us. What an incredible beginning to photography and what a legacy he has made so far incorporating his images as lasting impressions and memories for generations to come. 

Get to Know Mylo: 

mylo fowler
Portrait of Mylo Fowler taken by Andy Earl

Mylo is a husband, father & loves to share stories that are rich and deeply rooted in his Navajo culture. He was born at the Navajo Nation capital and raised in Northern Arizona as an 80's kid. Growing up and living off the land on 12 acres with his grandparents, Mylo learned his Navajo language and his love for nature began before he was in school. To help retain his language, he auditioned and landed the role of "Crush" in the Navajo version of "Finding Nemo". He also recently voiced a joint project with National Geographic and Tonies on a children's book about horses. Mylo has used proceeds from his photography work to install solar kits on homes across Indigenous communities. In partnership with his 501c3 non-profit partner, Heart of America, they've powered over 250 homes.

To learn more about Mylo, check out his website or visit his Instagram

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