Good People

Here’s just a couple of random portraits of some interesting folk i’ve met along the way – looking back, i’m missing a lot of people that I would’ve liked to have up here for memories sake.  Its taken me a while to get my systems for riding and shooting figured out, a lot harder than what I anticipated, especially balancing stills with the moving image, but i’ll get there..  IMG_2502 Above is George, he’s been fishing the Situk River in Yakutat since 1948.  He was in the process of building a new fishing hut on the river bank when I met him.  Told me an incredible story about how he’d been fishing out in Icy Bay just North of Yakutat, when he realised his fishing companion had left the bung out of the boat – they both nearly drowned and suffered from hypothermia before managing to rescue themselves.  They’re a hardy breed out here in Alaska – and kind, he actually gave me this fish (Sockeye Salmon) to take back to my campsite which fed me for a couple days.  He also gave me a beautiful Dolly Varden trout, which i’d hung from a tree near my tent in delicious anticipation for the coming days, but I didn’t put it high enough and a bear took it in the night. IMG_2239 Above is Walter Johnson, a 75 year old Tlingit man living in Yakutat since 1957.  He told me a tragic story about how he had lost his best friend (William) in a fishing accident when a net coil wrapped around William’s foot and dragged him overboard into the icy fathoms – they never saw him again.  When I asked him how he managed to deal with the loss, he told me “I haven’t, i’m still dealing with it.  But I named my son after him, I named him William Williams.” IMG_1993 Above is Zoe Urness a 30 year old Cherokee/Tlingit/Norwegian photographer who has been dedicating her time to documenting and championing her native heritage through photographing fellow native Americans across the country.  When I asked her why she does it, she told me “This path has been there before I was even here, it is a message that is much deeper and important than me.  I am just the messenger”. IMG_3892 Above is Larry Bertland, a character from Portland, Oregon.  He builds awesome igloo style homes for people all over the world, reckons he can build them from scratch to finished with a deck for less than 20k, in just a few days.  Super energy efficient too.  I wouldn’t mind living in an igloo style house one day – but i’d probably have to paint it green. IMG_3878 Above is Vinnie Johnson, he likes to spend a lot of time at the central hangout in Yakutat, the Glass Door bar, and I had a number of conversations with the friendly guy.  Unfortunately for the most part I couldn’t work out what he was saying, although I could tell by his intonation and tone that it was all good-natured.  After a while of not understanding him, I would sometimes have to politely cut the conversation short, and walk away assuming that he was a little merry, so to speak.  Then one day he decided to jump up on a makeshift stage and transformed himself into an articulate man, started wailing on the guitar and playing with the dexterity, poise and subtlety of a class musician – I was blown away… IMG_4618 David Cheney is a 64 year old shaman healer from the Kenai Peninsula, when I met him he was on his way to tend to the spiritual needs of a family in mourning in Deadhorse.  “That’s what I do man, funerals.  I help people, i’m a healer”.  He offered me a puff on his pipe.  Looking back, it probably would’ve been interesting to have a puff on it?  IMG_4315

Ken Fanning is somewhat of a local legend in Yakutat, grew up leading hunting parties, sports fisherman and even worked as a senator for a while.  His house is the most incredible log cabin i’ve ever seen, the above photo barely does it any justice at all.  To be honest, when I heard he had all kinds of taxidermed animals from around the world, I wasn’t sure how the interview would go – sports hunting is not something I personally understand very well.  What I did find though, was a very articulate and intelligent man, with clear and respectable morals towards the people and environment around him.  I enjoyed our conversation greatly, and think I walked away with some insight into the Alaskan way. When I asked Ken about his house he told me “We built this place 13 years ago, and the front door has never even been locked, and you can see there are a lot of valuable things in here.  When you’ve got that sense of trust in a community, it allows you to be the most positive, creative person, family and community member that you can be.  Yakutat is a magnificent place.”

 

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