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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Kalib, birthday #4 - Thomas was there

Kalib, on his fourth birthday, as shot with the iPhone 3gs.

My friends, I am too tired to write anything tonight.

But if you are a regular here, then you know all about Kalib already. If you are not, and you are curious, go exploring. You can find images and stories about him from his birth to the present. I would start with yesterday's post, so that you will know something about his relationship with Thomas the Train as well.

If you are old friends or family or even if you just got here and you would like to see more images from his fourth birthday party, then go to the slide show. I have put 22 Kalib birthday pictures there, including this one.

I did bring one of my regular DSLR's to the birthday party, but, alas, I had forgotten to put a compact flash card in it.

So I borrowed Margie's iPhone. I had my own iPhone, but the lens in it is terribly degraded. Today or tomorrow, I plan to buy an iPhone 4s, because the camera in it is a few cuts above this one. I need to buy it this year, so that it will qualify as a business expense for 2011.

If you think seriously about it, it is something to be able to get even these very noisy images out of an outdated phone.

This time of year, it is very dark in Jacob and Lavina's house. Not so long ago, when I was shooting film, I could not have taken this image at all - not with available light, anyway - not in color. Even the highest speed color film would not have recorded it.

Pushed hard, the highest speed black and white would have, but the grain would have exceeded the noise level here. I would have still shot it available light, on high-speed, black and white film push developed to the max. Rather than use flash, I would have pushed it and would have gone for the impressionistic effect.

I have done the same thing here, in iPhone color. Pushed the sensor to its max, going for the impressionistic effect - pretty much the only effect available to me, but I don't care. I am happy with it. I just love to take pictures, period.

I will go for the noisy, impressionistic image with feeling over the perfectly clear, grainless-noiseless, static, feelingless image anytime.

Anyway, enough technical stuff. Now I invite you to view:

the slide show of Kalib's fourth birthday party

And yes, you will see: Thomas was there big time, even if not in HO scale.


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Reader Comments (2)

4.. man.. seems like he was just a baby.. Thank you for letting us watch him grow and change.. he's such a fixture on this blog. :) I hope the new year comes in well for you!

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRocksee

what an impressive train set , Happy Birthday Kalib ♥

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertwain12

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