There's a lot of news to share and it's much better news than what you'll find on American TV at the moment I am pleased to say, but for now I just want to mention this group show I will be a part of through the next month at the Los Angeles Center of Photography. I am super excited to be in such good company with yet another Kotzebue image--this one of one of the strangest buildings in the village. I feel a little silly offering up a picture of a warehouse as part of a landscape series, but the structure made me laugh every time I walked past it so I finally made a portrait of it one day last summer when I was in northwestern Alaska for the wedding of two of my favorite people, a wedding that strangely enough I was responsible for documenting with my cameras (please note I did not nor will I ever refer to myself as a wedding photographer; I don't have the courage for that trade and I am in awe of those who can herd cats, perform advanced crisis counseling, and take pictures at the same time.)
A wedding in the arctic unsurprisingly enough will offer unique challenges to everyone involved, and this one proved to be no exception to this rule. I arrived a couple of days early because I knew travel to northwest Alaska can be notoriously unreliable. You have to book in days to prepare for delays and sure enough the arctic that summer was plagued by fog. A westerly wind whispering out of Siberia kept pushing the cloud bank across the sound right up to the edge of the village. My flight ended up being the last one to land for three days. None of the subsequent Alaska Airlines flights which make the 600 mile run up from Anchorage twice daily were able to land, including the flight with the bride and groom to be and her parents. Their jet came frightfully close a couple of times--we could hear it approach through the thick grey rising out of the sea, but at the very last minute the pilot aborted the landing and hustled back to Anchorage. The poor betrothed souls missed their own rehearsal dinner/engagement party, which we had without them because the food was already prepared and the local store was running out of fresh food. Meanwhile, in Anchorage, the list of stranded passengers grew longer and longer. I'm told tempers flared. Meanwhile, in Kotzebue, we combed the beach for beach glass to make wedding dinner favors and scoured the tundra for blueberries for making chipotle blueberry jam and stripped the stalks of fireweed of their bright pink flowers to make fireweed syrup for the wedding dinner cocktails. A few wedding revelers began their celebrations early and quickly the supply of fireweed syrup was depleted, which stimulated yet another scavenger hunt on the tundra and another night of boiling the flowers.
On the third day the evening flight returned and tried to land again--and once again the pilot aborted, but this time he retreated only 200 miles south to Nome and sat on the tarmac there and refueled and dumped some luggage and a lot of coolers full of food (all of which would spoil, including the food for the wedding dinner). The pilot had decided to wait for a phone call from the airport in Kotzebue saying there was a break in the fog. And then, suddenly, it lifted--briefly--and he headed out. I was walking the three blocks back to the airport yet again to try and document the arrival of the bride and groom when I noticed that funky warehouse was suddenly glowingly ready for its closeup, which became the picture I have in this show. At the airport, people had lined up along the chain link fence separating the hanger from the runway. Everybody had been waiting for somebody for three days now and the appearance of the plane over the sea had become an important event. When wheels finally touched the tarmac we all cheered--even the Alaska Airline employees who had been dealing with the brunt of everyone's frustrations. The village had fresh eggs and fresh milk again, and the bride and groom to be were finally walking the ground where their hearts were first entwined three years ago and where their vows would finally be made.