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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Child janitor caught at work during last night's Fox News Republican debate - right under the approving eyes of Newt Gingrich as Mitt Romney glared in disdain; it all got swept under the table

Jobe, who regular readers know has been an enthusiastic child janitor ever since he first discovered a broom - this one in particular. He sweeps for free - you don't need to pay him anything. Provide him with a Thomas the Train toy engine and he'll be happy as can be.

I caught him during last night's Fox News Republican debate when he worked right under the televised eyes of Newt Gingrich, which seemed to look on in approval and Mitt Romney, who appeared to glare at his opponent in barely constained disdain.

Jobe swept it all under the coffee table. 

Jobe just loves his broom.


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Reader Comments (10)

Those boys have changed so much since we saw them last. Goodness, how quickly they are growing. I have a lovely broom here, if Jobe ever feels the need to branch out.

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

Best laugh I've had all week!

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermocha

Somethings never change... child labor and republicans.... screeeeeech. wait... nevermind that thought.

One thing has changed ==> duck tape!
Mr. Hess, duck tape comes in a multitude of colors and patterns now.
And that broom needs some.

Giddy up now, take the child janitor to the duck tape store and pick out his favorite designer duck tape to wrap the handle with.

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMae

He is so cute and mischievous!

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGane


I sent this on to @gottalaff (Laffy) at The Political Carnival. The juxtaposition of your photo of Jobe and the debate just seemed perfect for her site.

She sent out the following tweet.... (see below)

Bill Hess-Wasilla PHOTO: CHILD JANITOR @#ClusterFox GOP Debate http://tinyurl.com/c2pq3jh H/t: @Knishette #OilOfOyVey

If you end up with more hits to the site today, this might be why.

I can't believe how big Jobe is these days. It brings back memories of Kalib and his spatula. I wonder what will become Lynxton's constant companion.

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMirage

The cutest little janitor ever!

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLynne

What are Abby's Home Cooking's hours tomorrow? How late is she open?

December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTodd

First, Todd: Sorry to be so late. Given circumstances it was unavoidalbe: Abby opens at 9:00 and closes at 8:00. She does not open Sunday and Monday.

Kathryrn - I am very confident that Jobe would love to man your broom. You might be mush less than 100 percent pleased with what he would choose to sweep away and leave behind.

Mae - We will have to check out this duct tape with duck designs. I like that - ducks on duct tape.

Gane - Is he ever. So cute he can get away with any mischief he makes.

Mirage - Thank you. That did indeed bring some extra hits for Jobe and his broom.

Lynne - Yep!

December 17, 2011 | Registered CommenterWasilla, Alaska, by 300

I'm curious what kind of camera and lense you used for the pictures. The clarity and colors you captured are amazing.

June 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGwen

Gwen - it was probably my Canon 5D M II - now out of commission - and my 16-35 F 2.8 Canon "L" lens, now sheared into two pieces as the result of an accidental drop in India.

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