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Monthly Archives: April 2014

God knows there are too many web sites out there with too many pictures: I’ve tried to use this blog as a way of discussing photographers and photographs I like, with a bit of added discussion about my own ongoing process of living and photographing. It’s part of my attempt to participate in the conversation of photography, something I can do to hopefully add to others understanding and enjoyment of the art.

 

Alaska as the Measure Ad

Of course, there are other ways to participate in the conversation. I love books of photography—looking at them, buying them—and making them. So far, I’ve managed to publish two books—“Far to the North: Photographs of the Brooks Range” and “Front Street Kotzebue”.   Both of these were relatively small projects, with photographs selected from one place, but easy to sequence into a book.   But I lived in Alaska for 26 years, and made many photographs, including about 5000 with an 8×10 view camera. The question is how to turn them into a book.

Panorama Mountain, 1994

Panorama Mountain, 1994

When I first came to Alaska in 1987, the Ansel Adams boom was still echoing across the landscape, and the smart money in the “art world” was that the black and white natural landscape had “been done”, and a young photographer had better find some other niche to fill. My photographic hero was Robert Adams, who photographed the human landscape, avoiding the National Parks and the monumental landscapes. But the landscape I found myself in, hundreds of miles past the end of the road in northwest Alaska, was wild beyond imagination, and I found myself point my lens at landscapes without any human artifacts, beautiful.

Matanuska Glacier, 2010

Matanuska Glacier, 2010

 

What does one do with photographs of beautiful natural landscapes? For years, I did not exhibit them or show them to many other people—I put them in boxes and let them age. Then, in 1996, at the suggestion of a gallery director, I sent a group of photographs to Robert Adams. He responded with an encouraging letter, and responded most strongly to the natural landscapes. Eventually he offered to sequence and edit a book of the work.

 

Tanana River at Freeze-up, 1993

Tanana River at Freeze-up, 1993

“Alaska As the Measure” is the result of his generous offer—a book of photographs that attempt to show the scale and beauty of the Alaskan landscape. I’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign, in part to fund the design and printing of the book, but also to show people what I’ve seen. I realize that not everyone is a photographic book collector, but I think this book is worth making—and I’m hoping to find a group of people that help make this book become reality.

 

Tok Cut Off, 1994

Tok Cut Off, 1994

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In Akira Kurosawa’s “Dreams” one of the scenes involves a day when it rains when the sun shines, a day when children are advised to play indoors because the foxes have their weddings, and do not like to be seen, but a boy disobeys, and watches anyway, and gets in trouble.

I thought of that scene today when a funny spring storm, with bright sunshine and rain mixed with snow fell just as we were leaving our farm and heading back to Spokane.  We have splendid views of the sky to the west and the south, but both the north and the east are hidden by mountains, so when weather comes from those directions, it feels like it’s on top of us before we can see it coming.

 

Snow and sun, Evans, WA, April 12, 2014

Snow and sun, Evans, WA, April 12, 2014

I did not see any foxes, and doubt if they were getting married—as a matter of fact, I’m not sure that foxes are common in our neck of the woods—we do see lots of deer and turkeys, and an occasional coyote. But the light of sun shining through rain mixed with snow is definitely strange, magical.

My wife and I have owned that piece of property for almost 25 years now—we bought it while we were living in Kotzebue—a place to buy a one way ticket to when they ran us out of town—a joke that would have been funny if it didn’t cut so close to the bone—but we’ve never managed to live there.   For years, we had a variety of renters in the old farmhouse—they helped pay the mortgage, but they all seemed to be troubled people—at least two died from drug overdoses, and one spent time in jail for child molestation. For the past few years—since our last renter left in the middle of the housing boom in 2007—we’ve let the place sit vacant—we call it “our cabin”—and now that we are living in Spokane, less than 100 miles away, we can visit on weekends—or during spring break. We spent the past few days planting trees (my wife’s task) and fixing the plumbing (my job)—but taking breaks to sit on the porch and enjoy the view. While digging a trench to access a valve, I kept thinking of the Towns Van Zandt song “To live is to fly”

“We all got holes to fill
And them holes are all that’s real
Some fall on you like a storm
Sometimes you dig your own

The choice is yours to make
And time is yours to take
Some dive into the sea
Some toil upon the stone

Well to live is to fly, all low and high
So shake the dust off of your wings
And the sleep out of your eyes
Shake the dust off of your wings
And the tears out of your eyes.”

Driving into the farm earlier in the week, we were playing Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s version of “Somewhere over the rainbow”—the one where he gets the words all wrong but gets the song so right—and when we left today, there was a rainbow over the whole canyon. Who knows how our lives will go—but wonderful things happen when rain and sun mix—maybe foxes do marry—maybe magic things happen—maybe dreams do come true.

 

Rainbow over Dead Medicine Road, Evans, WA, April 12, 2014

Rainbow over Dead Medicine Road, Evans, WA, April 12, 2014