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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Bill Hess's other sites

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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One, then two, and finally three boys bring the year - and this blog - to an end

I figure I might as well end this blog with a picture of Jobe, bathed in the light of the season.

I will make another post tomorrow, once the new blog is up, with a link that will take you to it.

I have fallen way short of my original goals with this blog, but still it has been fun and I think I have created a different kind of record than you will find anywhere else.

I plan to have even more fun with the new blog. It's not going to solve all the problems I have with this one, but I hope it will be a step in the right direction. It might not last that long, before I try something else. On the other hand, maybe I can build on it and make it do the job.

I thank all of you have followed this blog. I hope you join me in the new one.

Oh, hell!

I might as well add one more of Kalib loving Thomas the Train, HO scale, on Christmas night.


It doesn't seem right to feature his two older brothers and then leave Lynxton out.

So here he is: Lynxton, named for the wild cat that came to his mother and eldest brother shortly before he was born.

Lynxton - Alaska born member of the Navajo Nation, also one-quarter Apache and one quarter the mix that is me.


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Reader Comments (9)

Beautiful boys!

Now, I have to say phew... for a second there I thought you were ending the blog entirely!
Of course I will follow you on your new adventures. :)

Thank you so much for keeping us informed of the goings on in the Hess family. I'm so grateful to have "met" your extended family across the globe. I sometimes catch myself wondering what complete strangers are up to, from the tippy top of Alaska to India. I've come to love and adore your entire family circle. Also, a HUGE thank you for featuring the boys as much as you do. I'm fortunate that I get to see one or two of them about once a year when they visit AZ. The stories and pictures help with the heartache of not being there to watch and help them grow.

Happy New Year to you and yours!

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterangel

Happy New Year to you and yours! Will follow along, of course.

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

Bill, of course we will follow you. You bring a sense of peace and sanity to everyone. And the boys are priceless. Looking forward to your next 'chapter'.

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterManxMamma

We will follow you wherever you go. Cannot do with my portion of peace and serenity that you share with so many of us every day. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, your family, your unique perspective of your world with us.

And to think I have Sarah Palin to thank for finding you. Without my quest for knowledge about her back in 2007, I wouldn't have discovered your wonderful blog. Guess there can be good in everything.

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrandma Nancy

I found your blog thru Sarah Palin also! What an odd way to find what is a non-political blog for the most part. Of course you DO live in Wasilla. I definitely will follow your new blog. Hoping for a wonderful 2013 for all of you.

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLee H

Happy New Year, Bill, to you and all your family and friends. I have greatly enjoyed seeing Wasilla (and surrounding areas) through your blog. Thanks for visiting my blog, too. And, yes, we all weep and we all joy some time in our lives. I like how the Bible encourages us to weep for those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice. May we have more rejoicing than weeping in 2012. God bless you.

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWhiteStone

Mr Hess, You will continue to be a stop on my daily journey around the World Wide Web, thanks for sharing all the while and don't forget to leave the light on.

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMGSoCal

Bill, this feels like graduation day. Upward and onward to bigger and better things. You know we will all follow you! We would miss your family and watching the boys grow and the furry friends.

You have taught us so much about the Alaskan natives and the Arizona natives and how they all have mingled together with an outpouring of love. Your photos of the native villagers living in the harshest place on the earth has been so educational. I have yet to see an igloo that I thought they all lived in! :-)

I'm sure we all are a little apprehensive about the new blog, as we have come to be so comfortable with this one, no matter what camera was available to you across the globe! Will check in the morning to see what is new. Will Thomas the train be following you too? Before we know it, Kalib and Jobe will be getting on the big yellow school bus and Lynxton will be spending some private time with Thomas while the boys are at school. Time flies when you are having fun. Thanks for sharing your world with us and looking forward to more!

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMrs Gunka

Lynx looks just about ready to break out and start exploring his world. Thank you for the privilege of watching your grandsons grow up on this blog. I hope that your new blog gives you all the technical freedom that you hope for. Happy New Year to all of your lovely family.

January 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterViva

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