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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Two girls, a puppy, and red pickup truck on a windy day in Fort Yukon - from my time of hiatus

The date was August 15, and I was on my way to Arctic Village, via Fairbanks and Fort Yukon, where I spent about half-an-hour on the ground. As I waited to reboard the airplane, these *girls and this puppy showed up on the gravel tarmac.

As you can see, it was windy in Fort Yukon. Later, after I arrived in Arctic Village, I heard a rumor that right after we left, a gust of wind picked that puppy up right out of that red truck and sent it sailing all the way to Birch Creek, where it landed safely in a hammock.

Then a kindly eagle came along, picked that puppy up and flew it right back to the two girls, both of whom were very happy to see it.

I am not sure if I believe that rumor. But what kind of person would ever make up such a story?

Maybe it's true.

It MUST be true!

Otherwise, I would not have written it at all.


*Eliza, a reader who has also taught school in Fort Yukon, has identified the two girls as Melinda and Mary. They are cousins.


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Reader Comments (6)

Stranger things have happened in the Fort.. :) .. I could believe it..

November 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRocksee

I think it's true, they all look like they belong to each other.

November 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertwain12

Cousins, Melinda and Mary! Yay for photos from Fort Yukon. One day I'm sure we'll cross paths there again. :)

November 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commentereliza

Rocksee - I am glad you believe.

Twain - yep, they do.

Thank you, Eliza, for identifying them. I will put their names in the main post. I look forward to that day.

December 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterWasilla, Alaska, by 300

They all look cute, but the puppy got my attention. I want to hug it! Oh, what a lovely day for them to take a photo! They look good together! They are truly happy with each other - maybe the story is true. :-)

Duncan Moredock

January 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDuncan Moredock

I wish you could hug it, Duncan. I don't know how the story could be anything but true.

January 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterWasilla, Alaska, by 300

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