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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« A happy, painful, Christmas thus far untold | Main | We do some early Christmas shopping - Kalib gets trapped in a tube »

As we do our next-to-last minute Christmas shopping, we see Little Alan drive his motorcycle through Dimond Center Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Holidays!!!

The plan had been to head out the door and off towards Anchorage in time to go through the McDonald's drivethrough in time for breakfast. Unfortunately, I woke up at 9:34 AM, Margie at 9:38 and little Kalib - none of us are quite certain when he woke up.

He was still snoozing soundly at 10:00 AM - the time when McDonalds ceases to serve breakfast. At some point between then and 11:00, I stepped into the bedroom and found him sitting up in bed, looking around.

"Good morning, Kalib," I greeted.

"No!" he shouted back. "I'm trying to get some sleep!"

With that, he flung himself back down on the bed and yanked the coveres over his head.

So Margie and I cooked up some fried potatoes and eggs and we headed for town a little before noon.

Yesterday's snow had tapered off to a few random flakes here and there and soon stopped altogether.

The first time that I tried to take a picture, I was very dismayed to discover that I had forgotten to put a compact flash card in my camera.

We started out at 5th Avenue Mall, where we bumped into Caroline Cannon of Point Hope, with the young woman who is about to marry her son.

Whenever I go to town and to a shopping place, I almost always come across friends from the North Slope - and at Christmas time, Always.

From there we went to Sear's and from there to Dimond Center. It was there that we ran into little Alan Beall III  with his mom, Sharene Ahmaogak. Regular readers know them, because when I go to Barrow I almost always stay with Sharene's brother, Roy Ahmaogak, and Sharene lives right next door in the home of her parents, Savik and Myrna, where we take our meals.

I felt real bad that I had forgotten my camera and then I remembered the obvious - my iPhone!

So here is Little Alan of Barrow, Alaska, and his little motorcycle, at Dimond Center, photographed wit my iPhone.

Little Alan drives his motorcycle through Dimond Center.

Next, we went to Pier 1 Imports. And that was it. And this will be my last post until the day after Christmas.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Holidays... happy whatever it is that this season, which marks the beginning of the return of light, means to you.


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Reader Comments (7)

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

Merry Christmas to you and your wonderful family

December 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertwain12

Merry Christmas, Bill, to you and yours. We're in upstate NY until Monday late. See you then!

December 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlbert Lewis

Health, happiness, endurance, and peace of mind to all of you, Bill. Merry Christmas.

December 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeven Werthman

Merry Christmas to you, to yours, and to all your readers.

December 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

Merry Christmas to you and your family, best wishes for a happy and healthy 2012!

December 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPat in MA

Merry Christmas to you and your family! Nice to see Margie on a roll :)

December 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGane

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