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

We had a great Christmas here, a wonderful Christmas - even if it ended in tears most bitter, with an excited little heart most broken. It was the kind of Christmas when the driveway fills up with cars, driven by loved ones, who did not let falling snow and ice upon the highway prevent them from coming.

It was the kind of Christmas where many gifts were exchanged, where all present engaged in a feast in which every item - from the turkey to the squash cooked with berries and nuts and the grand finale pumpkin chiffon pie - seemed created to perfection.

It was a wonderful Christmas, a great Christmas, for we were all here. Not a child born into this family or descended from it was absent, and those adult children of others who have merged with our children in intimacy were all here as well.

There is even one more car that you do not see - a little tiny one parked behind the big, black, truck in the row to the right.

I took a flood of pictures, too many to deal with in a short time, and I had intended to make two big posts today - one on all the usual proceedings and the other upon a gift meant for all to enjoy, a gift made possible by the generous and beloved spirit of a niece/cousin/aunt from India, now living in London, soon to be married in Pune.

But I was too tired this morning. I got up early, but then fell back asleep. Now I have no time to make either of these posts.

I have no time because today is the fourth birthday of this little boy, Kalib, who loves Thomas the Train; this little boy who yesterday was brought to the heights of joy and excitement by that love, but also to bitter grief and pain. In just over half-an-hour, we must leave for Anchorage to help him celebrate his birthday - although he may not want to see me, his understanding of certain things being limited, both by his age and desire.

Regular readers are familiar with the Thomas the Train that he plays with here. It is not a gift from this Christmas. Yet, many Thomas items did appear under the tree this year.

So the question I now face is, do I put my Christmas posts up tomorrow, two days after Christmas, combined with a birthday post from today?

Does anybody want to read about Christmas come December 27?

I don't know.

I will give it some thought.

There is a story to be told - not a huge story, not an earth shaking story; not a story that will make a difference to the course of world events - but a story just the same, and I kind of want to tell it.


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Reader Comments (8)

And we want to read your story as yet untold...

Happy birthday to Kalib!

December 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPat in MA

We would love to hear your story. Daisydem.

December 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdaisydem

We always want to hear about Kalib!

December 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterManxMamma

Absolutely yes! Christmas on December 27 or April 27 or or or...

Your stories are good any time.

Hope 2012 is the best ever to and for you, kind sir!

December 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAkMom

Yes, we do! Happy Birthday, Kalib!

December 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJerrianne

Much disappointment here too! I so wanted to read the story. I wanted to learn about Jobezilla. It sounded exciting and adrenaline inducing! Post right away, Brother!

December 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLittle Sister

We are all waiting.....

December 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrandma Nancy

I wait with a worm on my tongue. You know. Baited breath.

December 27, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdebby

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