The question I’m asked most frequently is how a black doctor in his 50s working on the Navajo reservation started doing street art on said reservation. In retrospect, it was only natural for this evolution to occur.

I started working in a small community between the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley called Inscription House in 1987. I’d always been drawn to photography and built a darkroom shortly after my arrival on the Navajo Nation. My passion photographically is shooting black and white in a documentary style inspired by people like Eugene Smith, Eugene Richards, Joseph Koudelka and others. By going out and spending time with people in their homes and family camps, I have come to know them as friends. Interestingly, these home visits enhance my doctor/patient relationship by helping me be a more empathetic health care practitioner.

I’ve always been drawn to street art, graffiti and old school hip-hop. I was attracted to the energy of the culture in the 80s and though I was miles away from the epicenter, I thought of myself as a charter member of the Zulu Nation. I would travel to New York City to see graffiti on trains, on buildings and in galleries. I did some tagging in the 80s before coming to the Navajo Nation and participated with a major billboard “correction” on the reservation shortly after my arrival.



It used to read “Welcome to Pepsi Country.”


My early interventions on the street were largely text based saying things like “Thank you Dr. King. I too am a dreamer” or “Smash Apartheid” and so on.

In 2009 I took a 3-month sabbatical to Brasil which coincided with a difficult period in my life. Though I wasn’t looking for an epiphany, I was fortunate to stumble upon a passionate group of artists working on the street who befriended me. It was during this time that I appreciated how photography could be a street art form.  Inspired by Diego Rivera and Keith Haring, I’d become disinterested in showing my photographs in galleries isolated from the people I was photographing and wanted to pursue a more immediate relationship with my community reflecting back to them some of the beauty they’ve shared with me.  And in truth, I was infatuated with the feeling I got being with the artists in Salvador do Bahia and wanting to find a way to keep that vibe going I started pasting images along the roadside in June 2009.

My early photographic influences include the work of Joseph Koudelka, Garry Winogrand, Charles Moore, Robert Frank, Eugene Smith, Gordon Parks, Larry Towell, Mary Ellen Mark, Susan Meisalis, Roy DeCarava, Sebastio Salgado and Eugene Richards.  I was blown away by Richards’ work in the late 80s and early 90s for Life Magazine and had an opportunity to spend 5 days picking his brain at Santa Fe Photographic Workshops in 1991.  It’s this one person with one camera, frequently with only one lens shooting black + white film in ambient light aesthetic that informs my eye as well as 25 years spent in my home darkroom pursing the zone system.  It’s been an interesting challenge attempting to bring that look to black and white prints on regular bond paper coming off a toner based plotter. I’d like to think that my vision is a part of the storytelling, first person, humanist tradition of the people I look up to mixed with a healthy dose of Diego Rivera + Keith Haring.

Regardless, I give thanks that the journey continues.

In beauty it is finished.

  30 comments for “about

  1. kat
    June 16, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Instantly inspiring, deeply lovely and fully heartfelt. Looking forward to more posts, photographs and stories! Thanks, Chip!


    • jetsonorama
      June 16, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      thanks kat!


      • H Chris Anderson
        July 5, 2021 at 7:29 pm

        If you haven’t spoken to him get in touch with Cano in Antonito, Co (Cano’s Castle). He is one of those descendants.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Susan
    October 11, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    What an incredible and naturally beautiful example of inspiration and connecting with ones community.
    As artists it is so important to remember that our art is infact communication, a dialog, not just an aesthetically pleasing composition. Looking forward to your lecture at SFCC!


  3. April 5, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    This is incredible. So happy I’ve stumbled onto your work. I worked in Fort Defiance for a spell and remember seeing these murals while traveling the reservation and always wondered where they were coming from. Mind blowingly good and important work. Kudos


  4. April 28, 2015 at 8:43 am

    A friend sent me the link to your website and blog. Great work and particularly I loved your Africa photos – what a breath of fresh air.


  5. Laura Vidaurri
    March 28, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    A friend posted a video of your work today. As I watched, my heart expanded, my heart broke, my heart was refreshed by the images you’ve captured and its essence…I am so very glad you’re on the Planet…thank you…


    • jetsonorama
      March 28, 2018 at 6:23 pm

      Thank you Laura!


  6. Katherine Pruitt
    March 28, 2018 at 10:30 pm

    I find this work enables an in your face reality as life today- the unknown becomes known. Love you eternally, Sweetie Pruitt


    • jetsonorama
      March 28, 2018 at 10:42 pm



  7. wildhorsewoman
    March 28, 2018 at 11:58 pm

    Your art is the language of the spirit; your writing, the language of the heart.

    My husband is a physician at the Arapaho Clinic here in Central WY; we actually travelled to Blanding, UT prior to moving to Lander. He worked for over 20 years at the U &O IHS clinic.

    I have been asked to help coordinate a series of murals to brighten up one of the schools on the rez and wish you lived nearby so I could draft you. 😉

    Your work is intense and inspiring. It has a delicate, gritty beauty that showcases the beautiful people who have touched your life.

    It was a privilege to read about you and I simply want to thank you for creating such moving pieces to share with the world. Be blessed.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Mary Kathleen Senchyna
    March 29, 2018 at 10:31 am

    wow so inspired by your work! I’m a social worker in public health in San Francisco, artist, writer, mid 50s and still a
    fighter! thank you for your voice!!! ever looking for a helper?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Miki Kay
    March 30, 2018 at 6:09 am

    So inspiring and heartbreaking. Your work with both the body and the lens shows just how organic our world is. The size and scope of the murals draws us into the souls of the subjects. Thank you so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. March 31, 2018 at 7:22 am

    As an architect and activist, your work is an inspiration to me. It shows how art can transform a wall into a living testament of the people who are survivors of so many wrongs. You’ve given voice to those often unheard and opened a window for all of us on the outside to look in. Thank you and please keep sharing your works and talent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jetsonorama
      March 31, 2018 at 8:49 am

      thank you for this.


  11. Lynn Thompson
    June 3, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    Dr. King: As a social activist of the 60’s, I can only say, bless you for your work as a physician as well as bringing attention to those this country has so dishonored. May you have many years doing such work.


    • jetsonorama
      June 4, 2018 at 10:13 pm

      Thank you Lynn!


  12. Matt Maley
    June 4, 2018 at 7:21 am

    Each generation has a few very special people that stand out beyond all others. Today, I saw a PBS piece related to Dr. Chip Thomas. There is no doubt that he is definitely one of those very special people. His devotion to Native Americans is exceptional and most commendable.


    • jetsonorama
      June 4, 2018 at 10:03 pm

      Thank you so much for the kind words Matt. All the best to you.


  13. Rebecca Regan
    June 13, 2018 at 2:32 pm

    Your work is amazing. Thank you for gracing the world.


    • jetsonorama
      June 13, 2018 at 7:37 pm

      Rebecca. Thank you for taking the time to share that. All the best to you.


  14. Kayle Nez
    October 2, 2018 at 11:52 am

    Jetsonorama, Im a freshman in college. and today ( 10/02/2018) I have the opportunity to do a little inside research on your artistic work and I would to get more information from you. thank you for the wonderful and. awesome work across the reservation.


    • jetsonorama
      October 2, 2018 at 12:15 pm

      Thank you Kayle!


  15. February 20, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    I had no clue who you were, just your art and you and the art are AMAZING!


    • jetsonorama
      February 20, 2019 at 8:39 pm


      Liked by 1 person

  16. Juelz Klein
    February 26, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    I just learned of your work last night as I was doing research for my grad school art class (I found your link in an article by Matthew Fluharty: http://www.mnartists.org/article/burn-maps ). I’ve been a fan of street art since I was a child, but I must say your work is some of the most stunning I have ever seen on this planet. I hope to get out there in person one day to see the magic. It is men like you that give me hope in this world. Sending you love and blessings from Colorado ❤


    • jetsonorama
      February 26, 2019 at 8:40 pm


      you rock. thank you so much for your kind words. all the best to you.


  17. October 28, 2020 at 9:05 am

    Thank you for the amazing work you do. As a quilter who dyes her own fabric and often writes on the textiles, I resonate with your goal of telling stories and doing the work with love and for love. Your work as a doctor and an artist is about healing. We all need that. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jetsonorama
      October 28, 2020 at 6:46 pm

      Thank you so much Judy. All the best to you.


    • jetsonorama
      October 31, 2020 at 1:52 pm

      Thank you so much Judy. All the best to you and your creative endeavors.


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