Cover stories about Living Wild in the Stone Age, with National Geographic Traveler China and Coast Mountain Culture (Canada).
2017 In Review:
NatGeo China, PDN, LensCulture
As I reflect on a tumultuous 2017, I try to remember that the stories I’ve worked on will outlast this one moment in time. It has been a breakout year for this emerging photographer, with awards and cover stories, yet my favorite memories have all been when I’ve stood in the middle of nowhere, far from any internet connection, surrounded by timeless human community. –Kiliii Yüyan
As a long-form documentary photographer, I often don’t see my work come into publication for many years. This December though, it seems that it has all landed at once– My work with the Living Wild project is on the cover of November issue of National Geographic Traveller China, and I have two additional features in the December issue.
December’s issue covers the Iñupiaq relationship to the Arctic Ocean, and includes a feature on my work in the collection of “Greatest Photographs of 2017”.
It is my hope that the indigenous perspective opens eyes in China, where it is generally unknown. Nonetheless, millions of indigenous peoples live in China, and their stories are the stories of Native peoples everywhere: Land is life.
Jonathan Blaustein, a writer for the NYTimes Lens Blog as well as for APhotoEditor, is one of my favorite photography writers. He’s got a stream-of-conciousness style, taking us on a journey into his life, and out back out again through the art and photography. I met him briefly at Review Santa Fe, which is an amazing place to meet photographers working at a high level, as well as editors and gallerists at the top of their game. Jonathan featured my work on APhotoEditor as well as some other excellent photographers (check out Adair Rutledge, a transplant to Seattle as well).
The PX3 competition is one of Europe’s largest photo prizes, despite being only a decade old. This morning as I was logged into the PX3 website to enter for 2018, I made a surprising discovery– that my work Tuvaq, had won the Gold award in the Press and Nature/Environmental category for 2017. I suppose their email notification had disappeared into my junk mail box?
This edit of images from People of the Whale has a distinctly fine-art perspective, and is a look at what sights and sounds you encounter when living on the sea ice in Arctic Alaska with the Iñupiaq. Quyanaq for looking.
Far out on the ice, under the never-setting sun of Arctic spring, time evaporates. The mind calms and you begin to inhale the world around you: the cold, the wind, the ice, the quiet, the wait.
But underneath the damper of stillness, life boils. Out on the tuvaq–the expansive interface of sea and ice–everything happens. On the tuvaq, the whale breaches. The maktaq is eaten. The hunters watch the horizon. We wait. There is no need for words. The mind is still.
Many thanks to my Iñupiaq friends and crew who made it possible to tell the story of life in the far North, and to the mystery of the sea ice.
His documentary work reveals the interdependent nature required of those who want to live,not just survive, in the wild. The frankness of the portraits, against black backgrounds, offer an up-close look at the serious, often weathered, faces of those trying to dedicate themselves to the land.
Writer Loren Talbot of The Week interviews me and takes a deep dive into my project, Living Wild. She lifts the curtain off what it takes to live with people in the wilderness without modern conveniences, and looks into what brought me there in the first place.
In the farthest reaches of northern Alaska, aboriginal hunters carry on ancient traditions of kayak-building, fishing, and subsistence hunting, all of which are under threat from rapid changes to our climate.
Lens Culture, now a decade old, has transformed from an award to an authoritative magazine on contemporary photography. It’s an honor to be featured there.
Author Gina Williams delves into my photography and recent story ‘People of the Whale’ to find out more about what made it happen and what it’s all about.
The World Photo Organisation, which hosts the Sony World Photo Awards, did an interview with me and asked a few questions about what I’ve been up to since being shortlisted for the 2016 awards.
In a sense, my story ‘People of the Whale’ forced me to step up as a photographer because suddenly I found myself with a subject I cared about deeply, and understood more than an outside journalist could. The real challenges came from learning how to craft the beautiful images I was already known for, from the real-life situations of an Arctic subsistence culture. It is at once far more difficult and infinitely rewarding.
PDN has awarded my series ‘People of the Whale‘ in the 2017 Photo Annual. It’s a small set of images that give you a glimpse into the deep community of Iñupiat village Utqiagviq, Alaska.
My selection of images for PDN focuses on an Iñupiaq concept called ilitqusiat, or that which makes strangers into family. In a sense, I found this idea to be compelling because I was a stranger when I initially arrived in the Arctic villages where I did this work, but more so because the Iñupiat are at their core, about community.
ilitqusiat– (n) that which makes strangers into family.
I think if I’ve come away with any single observation, it is that Western cultures have a difficult time even conceiving how deep and different the indigenous concept of community is. Rather than some kind of single collective mind consuming all individual will, the Iñupiat are just individuals that believe in individualism, but whose highest callings are to serve their communities.
Qunayaq to all the friends who have made me their family there, and to my ilitqusiat experiences on the North Slope.
Although I originally shot these as separate stories, I have begun to see some themes in my work with non-native people that are close to the land. It’s an easy connection to see between Jim Gnapp, the Canadian trapper, and Aaron Allred, the American falconer.
The desire to be close to the natural world by participating in it is inherently human. It is likely universal. Yet what that connection looks like continues to change over time, with most of the industrialized world moving towards the outdoors for recreation. But far from the simplicity and safety of the recreational outdoors, both Jim and Aaron have found a deeper reward through their patient diffusion into ancient arts. Neither trapping or falconry is for weekend warriors– indeed both are some of the last living skills that require apprenticeship in this day and age of YouTube learning.