A blog by Bill Hess

Running Dog Publications

P.O. Box 872383 Wasilla, Alaska 99687


All photos and text © Bill Hess, unless otherwise noted 
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Wasilla is the place where I have lived for the past 29 years - sort of. The house in which my wife and I raised our family sits here, but I have made my rather odd career as a different sort of photojournalist by continually wandering off to other places to photograph people and gather information, which I have then put together in various publications that have served the Alaska Native Eskimo, Indian and Aleut communities.

Although I did not have a great of free time to devote to this rather strange community, named after a Tanaina Athabascan Indian chief who knew Wasilla in the way that I so impossibly long to, I have still documented it regularly over the past quarter-century plus. In the early days, my Wasilla photographs focused mostly upon my children and the events they participated in - baseball, football, figure skating, hockey, frog catching, fire cracker detonation, Fourth of July parade - that sort of thing. 

In 2002, I purchased my first digital camera and then, whenever I was home, I began to photograph Wasilla upon a daily basis, but not in a conventional way. These were grab shots - whatever caught my eye as I took my many long walks or drove through the town, shooting through the car window at people and scenes that appeared and disappeared before I could even focus and compose in the traditional photographic way.

Thus, the Wasilla portion of this blog will be devoted both to the images that I take as I wander about and those that I have taken in the past. Despite the odd, random, nature of the images, I believe they communicate something powerful about this town that I have never seen expressed anywhere else. 

Wasilla is a sprawling community that has been slapped down hodge-podge upon what was so recently wilderness of the most exquisite beauty. In its design, it is deliberately anti-zoned, anti-planned. In the building of Wasilla, the desire to make a buck has trumped aesthetics and all other considerations. This town, built in the midst of exquisite beauty, has largely become an unsightly, unattractive, mess of urban sprawl. Largely because of this, it often seems to me that Wasilla is a community with no sense of community, a town devoid of town soul.

Yet - Wasilla is my home and if I am lucky it will be until I grow old and die. Despite its horrific failings, it is still made of the stuff of any small city: people; moms and dads, grammas and grampas, teens, children, churches, bars, professionals, laborers, soldiers, missionaries, artists, athletes, geniuses, do-gooders, hoodlums, the wealthy, the homeless, the rational and logical, the slightly insane and the wholly insane - and, yes, as is now obvious to the whole world, politicians, too.

So perhaps, if one were to search hard enough, it might just be possible to find a sense of community here, and a town soul. So, using my skills as a photojournalist and a writer, I hope to do just that. If this place has a sense of community, I will find it. If there is a town soul to Wasilla, I will document it. I won't compete with the newspapers. Hell no! But as time and income allow, it will be fun to wander into the places where the folks described above gather, and then put what I find on this blog.


by 300...

Anywhere within a 300 mile radius of Wasilla. This encompasses perhaps the most wild, dramatic, gorgeous, beautiful section of land and sea to be found in any comparable space anywhere on Earth. I can never explore it all, but I will do the best that I can, and will here share what I find and experience with you.  

and then some...

Anywhere else in the world that I happen to get to, such as Point Lay, Alaska; Missoula, Montana; Serenki, Chukotka, Russia; or Bangalore, India. Perhaps even Lagos, Nigeria. I have both a desire and scheme to get me there. It is a long shot. We shall see if I succeed.

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Kalib reaches out and touches a falling snowflake


Yesterday, out in the back yard, I took a very nice picture of Kalib, his grandma and a pair of pruning shears and decided immediately that, no matter what else I photographed that day, that would be my single picture for this post, as I am still in single picture mode.

But, that was yesterday - today it is snowing, lightly, tiny flakes drifting down, and so I am running this image instead.

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Reader Comments (6)

great picture

October 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertwain12

Beautiful -- there's magic in this picture.

October 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFiona

There IS magic in this picture. I remember the wonder of the first snow of the season. Now I am older, and I wait for the first snow and I dread it's arrival. How did that happen? When did it change?

I think that I will refer to this picture often...to remind myself of the proper way to greet a changing season.

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdebby

What a wonderful picture of Caleb and Kalib!

So much for the snow yesterday. Hubby said he woke up to pouring rain this morning. I dont know about you Bill but I am ready for the Valley to be blanketed in a few feet of white!

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisaJ

Really nice picture: I am much, much older than Kalib, but I love snow and living in the South, we get so little of it. Thanks to Kalib for showing the wonder that I feel.

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdaisydem

There are just so many beautiful things about this picture!! I'm a little jealous that you already have snow (winter being my favourite holiday!), but mostly because you have such a beautiful little boy. following high blood pressure diet

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary

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