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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The three Tikigaq boys who gave up their room for me

These three boys gave up their room so that I might have a place to sleep when I was in Tikigaq - the Iñupiaq name for the village of Point Hope.

They did not complain. They were very good and pleasant about it and sometimes one, two, or all three of them would show up at the doorway when I was relaxing and ask if they could come in and visit me. Then they would come in and we would talk and chat and they would refer to the room as though it were mine.

They were very, very, pleasant and well-behaved boys.

This is not to say that they were never mischievous, because they are young and full of energy and knew how to bounce off a mattress, but, damn, they were good boys!

Thank you, Jesse Jr. (5), Naani (4) and Jonathan (2).

You three are great!

It is a pleasure and an honor to know you and to have you call me Ataatta* Bill.

Good job, Jesse Sr. and Krystle.

And, despite my high hopes, I have no time to blog anymore than this today. Time is pushing real hard on me right now, but I did not want these three to go unacknowledged any longer.


*Ataatta = Uncle.


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Reader Comments (3)

aww they are adorable!

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRocksee

How kind they are! Wonderful parenting.

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

I think those three boys should come visit me in Iowa. I would take them hill climbing. Then I would take them out to the Missouri River to show them how close it is to flooding. If we were lucky, we might still find some morel mushrooms...which we would dip in egg and flour and fry up for something soooo delicious.

I can tell by their photo they are great boys, just as you described them.

June 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWhiteStone

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