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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On the way home from the wedding, I see a railroad get ripped apart; I witness Lynxton being burped

I did photograph the wedding of Arlene Warrior's exquisitely lovely daughter Aurora - especially so in her white buckskin dress - just like she asked me to at Abby's Home Cooking restaurant one week ago. It took place at Alyeska, about a two-hour drive from here. Along the way, I dropped Margie and Jobe off at what was then the empty house of Jacob and Lavina.

It was a truly beautiful wedding. I was a bit off my usual game, because I am afraid that five weeks of shingles has really left me drained, my energy low. Still, I did the best I could - yet I was not at my best. I will see if I can get a few up tomorrow.

When I stopped on the way back to pick Margie up, I found Kalib engrossed, once again, in the Thomas the Train Railroad. It had some new features, including the overpass and the green bridge arches.

A minute or two after I started taking pictures, Jobe came along to drive his own Thomas the Train engine under the overpass.

Somehow, Jobe managed to knock out several links of track, plus the green bridge arches.

I wanted to get home so I could get the download of the wedding going before I went to bed and also put up this blog. I grabbed Margie and off we went without hanging around to see what happened next at the railroad.

We did make a quick stop upstairs though, where Lavina had just fed Lynxton. Now she was burping him.

"Burp! Burp! Burp!, Belch! Belch! Belch!" went Lynxton.


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Reader Comments (2)

love the boys..they are growing so fast

December 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertwain12

They were so small, but look at them now! Very cute kids! Waiting to see the wedding shots!

December 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGane

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