An Indigenous Community Photographer

man standing on cliff above houses

Joey Montoya’s journey started with using photography to share the issues of indigenous cultures, when he saw that there was a lack of information and narratives being shared.

As a Lipan Apache from Texas, he cares so much about indigenous people and their cause. Being raised in San Francisco and surrounded by all those industries and tech, his culture drowned out.

So as an indigenous himself, he wanted to share with people the stories of indigenous people. “Using photography and design to show that we’re not invisible and that we’re actually still here.”


Learning and Sharing


girl jumping on seashore during sunset

Joey Montoya is a multimedia artist, fashion designer, and entrepreneur whose work is aimed at increasing the visibility of indigenous people.

He is the founder and owner of Urban Native Era, a brand that specializes in clothing design and content creation.

He wanted to share the passion, and wanted to be represented in so many different ways and forms, not only in the community, but also in mainstream areas as well, like fashion, photography, videography, content creation. He wanted to use all those tools to really bring that out.

Through that process, he was learning about those issues and wanted to share that, and that’s what pushed him to continue.

“Not thinking about myself, but thinking about how can I help other communities.”

Many other artists and photogs tackle this issue, but each in their own way and form.


How Joey's Company Sheds Light on Indigenous People


man skateboarding on pathway viewing bridge


His company works on products that represent the indigenous communities, made by indigenous people themselves. Through it, he and his team want to continue to give back to the community and help their own people, in whatever they’re doing.

A photo and content can really hold a lot. He learned that shooting protests or just other folks from different communities is about the narrative you’re trying to share, so you have to be really cautious.

You have to pay attention to the photos you’re taking, and wonder if that will hurt the community or not. It is very important to be respectful of the indigenous people you’re taking pictures of; ask them where they feel comfortable to take pictures, and let them wear whatever they feel like, whether it’s cultural clothes or modern cool outfits.

In that way, photographer can build attention, and make people care about those issues.

You have to also be really conscious to how photography and content creation can really affect other communities but also can be very powerful of what you can create and share.

Taking a good picture and sharing it, can really be used as a means to get more attention and attract more audience.

The consistency of creating and taking pictures every day and sharing it, is how it started with him. His pictures were getting a lot of attention and shares.

At first his main channel was Facebook, but then Instagram became his top platform, not only for sales, but also for better connecting with their community.

 “You gotta create and share photos of what resonates with you can really help push that along.”


Your Importance As A Community Photographer





As an artist, you can really take a current event and amplify it even bigger, like BLM for example. Taking pics with passion and genuinely connecting with the community, through creating content and engaging with them, by simply asking “how can I help”, is an effective way.

However they can get overwhelmed with that, so there’s that thin boundary of being able to help and knowing when to help and not to be too much.

“Love what you’re shooting, love the content you’re creating, your content doesn’t always have to be perfect” Joey says.

As a community photographer, you shouldn’t be embarrassed if the photo is not good enough… It’s not about you, it’s about the story and keeping that going; and also using it like a documentary approach and not the art approach, and seeing if it is important to the context of what you’re about to say vs the art of it.

It’s important to keep in mind: The context always wins over the beauty of whatever you’re creating.

Joey’s final words to you: The passion can fuel you. It can get you to continue to move throughout the day. Recognize what really fuels you inside, so you can put out that work and you feel comfortable and good overall.

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Written by Angela Zoghbi

Content Creator

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