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Women of the Iditarod for Vogue

If you had asked me what publication most likely to do a story for next, it would not have been Vogue. But sure enough, in December, Vogue got in touch about a story involving dogsledding, Alaska, and the most incredible group of women mushers. Although it did take a bit of convincing that I was the appropriate photographer given that I’m not a woman, conceptually I was onboard right away.

It turned out to be a good fit– I relied a great deal upon my experience shooting in the Arctic. I hung off of sleds sideways, rode snow machines while piloting drones, and battled the sleet and snow constantly obscuring my lenses and viewfinders.

The first woman to win the Iditarod was Libby Riddles, in 1985. While other teams waited out bad weather, she left the safety of the checkpoint at Shaktoolik to mush into a blizzard on the frozen Norton Sound. By the time the weather cleared, she had the advantage.

Blair Braverman for Vogue

It was a terrific experience thanks to the art direction and production from Emily Rosser and Nikki Krecciki, as well the hospitality of these talented mushers who invited me into their lives. Thank you Alison, Kristy, Blair, Alison, Magda and Jessica! Additional thanks to double threat Blair Braverman, who is not only a musher, but also an incredible writer.

Chosen as one of PDN’s 30

I’m again honored to be chosen as one of PDN’s 30 New and Emerging Photographers. It’s one of our industry’s most notable achievements for early-career photographers, and I’m amazed to be a part of a group of heavyweight photographers that have been named over the decades.  They include: Lynsey Addario, Alec Soth, Taryn Simon, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Norman Jean Roy, Ami Vitale, Aaron Huey, Olivia Bee, Jonas Bendicksen, Wayne Lawrence and Daniella Zalcman.

We published our first PDN’s 30 issue 20 years ago. Despite significant changes in the markets for editorial, commercial and fine-art photography, a lot of things have stayed the same. As we look through hundreds of portfolios of photographers recommended to us by editors, creatives, curators and some of the leading voices in professional photography, we are still drawn to striking images, unique stories, original perspectives and a consistent vision.

Conor Risch, PDN

Living in my Grandmother’s Stories: Lenscratch

One of the favorite people I met in 2018 was Aline Smithson, of Lenscratch. We spoke at the conference PhotoNOLA, about searching for one’s home everywhere you go– and that’s certainly true for me in my artmaking.

Many thanks to Aline for being so curious and lifting the lid on the driving forces in my life.

Aline interviewed me for Lenscratch and we spoke at length about what it means to be a person driven by stories– not stories in the contemporary journalistic sense, but mythology from the culture of my ancestors.

Interview with Hamidah Glasgow of Strange Fire Collective

One thing I have begun to explore lately within photography is going beyond changing the narrative we tell of indigenous peoples. I’m trying to show the dominant culture what it is like to see the world from a Native point of view, yet even that’s not quite right. In this interview for the Strange Fire Collective, I speak about making photographs as looking at the contemporary world, strange as it is, though indigenous lenses. That’s what Hamidah Glasgow has pulled out of me in my many conversations I’ve had with her over the last several months. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I’ve enjoyed talking to Hamidah.

A great way to illustrate this is the reaction to an image of a butchered seal. From an indigenous viewpoint, that seal meat is a gift from the seal, and it’s nourishing food. From the colonial gaze, it’s either seen as quaint and exotic or as a repulsive tradition.

Excerpt from Strange Fire Interview

Talk at National Geographic Photo Seminar

It was one of the greatest honors and privileges of my life to speak at National Geographic in Washington DC before an audience of my photographic heroes. I used the platform of the 2019 NatGeo Photo Seminar to speak about my story on the Iñupiaq, and about the importance of representation for marginalized peoples in photography.

The world is full of stories. How many of those stories don’t just repeat what we already know? How many stories teach us to see the world from a truly different perspective? Indigenous peoples are cast as tragic victims, of colonization, of climate change. Yet the views from the inside are not ones of despair, but joy. While the dominant cultures continue to gaze at us as they always have, Native storytellers work to offer our own perspectives through modern mediums.

Many thanks to Sarah Leen for bringing me to speak at the Photography Seminar, and to Elizabeth Krist and Vince J Musi for their hard work to make it all happen. Most of all, thanks to the people I photograph, you’ve supported me by letting me into your worlds. Banyalan.

Anaiyyun: NatGeo Short Films Showcase

I’m happy to announce that my short film Anaiyyun: Prayer for the Whale is now in the National Geographic Short Films Showcase. This is the official online release of the film after a year of screening at film festivals around the world. Quyanaqpak to all my Iñupiaq friends that helped to make this film about their lives on the sea ice.

On the sea ice in northern Alaska, the Inupiat wait for the whales. The tradition spans 1,000 years, and a successful catch will feed an entire community for the winter. During whaling season, crew members spend their days watching the icy Arctic water for the right moment to strike. It will take courage and skill to achieve their mission, and they must avoid desperately hungry polar bears along the way. But in the long moments they stand on the ice, protected from the wind inside a fur-lined parka, a timeless gratitude develops. In those moments, the patient act of waiting transforms into a prayer for the whale. Anaiyyun: Prayer for the Whale,from filmmaker Kiliii Yüyan, tells the story of an Inupiat whaling crew that hunts where the vast plain of ice meets the waters of the Arctic Ocean.

Podcast Interview on Hunter-Gatherer Societies

Recently I spoke with Ted Alvarez, host of the Explorist podcast, a well-crafted podcast on the interaction with nature and people. The first season of the podcast is all about hunting and gathering in modern times, from looking at non-natives those who are involved primitive skills, to subsistence indigenous communities. My interview closes out the season with hair-raising stories from the sea ice, and major themes in my work as an indigenous person from an extant hunter-gatherer culture. It’s one of my favorite interviews.

You can find the podcast page here, or find it through Apple Podcasts.

Exhibition Opening and Talk at Glazer’s Camera

Thanks to Glazer’s camera for a successful talk and exhibition opening last weekend! It brought a lot of people in from the NW who were interested in the stories of the indigenous Arctic, and I think it stirred a lot of people’s deep curiosity. Special thanks to Will Kutscher and Dana Rasmussen for their efforts, as well as Nikon and Moab Paper for sponsoring the exhibition. The exhibition will be open until the end of December 2019. 

The Arctic Refuge in Sierra Magazine

Last spring, I got an email from Sierra Magazine, asking if I would like to photograph in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge while paddling a solo packraft for an 8 day expedition on a Class 3 river. Obviously, yes.

The Arctic Refuge, a battleground between oil interests and environmentalists, has become a symbolic struggle over the last 30 years in America. Aside from all of that, it’s of particular interest to me because the people with the most vested interest in the Refuge are the indigenous people that live within it, the Gwich’in, who depend on the caribou for their way of life. This is a story I’ve long been interested in.

Carrying me and my tiny packraft back upstream to camp along the Hulahula River.

There’s no need for me to expound here, as writer Brooke Jarvis has already done a terrific job at weaving together the different perspectives on ANWR and why, at this moment in time, we need to leave at least one corner of this vast wilderness for the caribou and the indigenous peoples who have kept this place beautiful for millennia.

Many thanks to Jason Marks for the story, Sam Murphy for a great edit, and my fellow expeditioners who made our journey safe and brought human warmth to the Arctic.