I sailed into the high arctic at the beginning of last winter on board a 1957 fishing boat retrofitted to appear like a tall ship. This floating art and science residency brought artists together from around the world for a three week adventure along the northwestern coast of Svalbard. My colleagues arrived in Lonyearbyen from far flung cities such as Shanghai and Seoul and Barcelona and Luxembourg and Athens and Belgrade. Together we endured close quarters and trying circumstances--rough passages and bad weather and multiple unexpected mishaps and detours not the least of which included a broken desalination machine which greatly limited our supply of freshwater. By the final week we were at sea we only had four hours of workable light per day for making landings, each of which required elaborate preparation. Four rifle toting women would make land first to clear a perimeter in which we were allowed to work, and once we were on land we had to work fast in dim light and weather so bizarrely warm and wet it was hard to believe we were actually in the high arctic.Read More
It has been a long, strange winter filled with hard work and many odd twists and turns. I am particularly grateful to Frank Walker for his feature on my recent work on the Adorama Learning Center website https://www.adorama.com/alc/meet-a-pro-tama-baldwin I specifically appreciate the connections he made between my different bodies of work. I would never have thought to refer to myself as a documentary photographer, but when I told Frank Walker that he just let out a big laugh. Sorry, he said. You are. Maybe, I said. But I didn't mean to be.Read More
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.)Read More
I met a man in Kotzebue who told me he was sure it is possible to hear the sound of the aurora borealis. He said you had to wait for a night when the air was perfectly still and you had to take yourself far out where there were no other sounds whatsoever. The kind of quiet he said where you are suddenly aware of the sound of your heart beating and then as the light descends toward you you can hear it crackling through the atmosphere.Read More
This weekend the Kobuk 440 sled dog race is taking place in arctic Alaska. The start and finish is in Kotzebue and the trail takes the teams 440 miles through the Kobuk Valley. It is April, which means the days are blindingly long, over 14 hours of daylight now, and though the temperatures are considerably more mild there are still all the dangers of winter travel in the arctic--the challenges of river ice, the isolation of the wilderness that deftly punishes the incapable and the unprepared.Read More
When I collected medicinal tundra plants for a cyanotype series during the summer of 2013 it never occurred to me that I would ever rely on those plants to heal myself. I had attended a wonderful workshop on how to prepare medicinal salves and tinctures using arctic tundra plants at the National Park Service office serving the Western Arctic National Parklands in Kotzebue, Alaska. As much as I had enjoyed collecting those plants and learning the processes of making tinctures and salves, I mostly intended to add those botanical images to a much larger compendium of arctic sun prints consisting of found objects--bits of net, bones, gloves, trash on the beach--my attempt to be a visual gatherer I suppose.Read More
The Pine Effect is a wonderful new full-length collection of poems by my Aldo Leonardo collaborator Andrea Spofford. It's a thrill too to see one of my photographs serving as the cover, this lonely shot from the December Meditation series. Congratulations Andrea on the publication of your book. Those of you on my list who love exquisitely well-made poems will truly appreciate Andrea's work which rewards one fully as only the best writing can. The interweaving of personal and natural history from poem to poem leaves you feeling at times that you have read a field guide to a specific heart--a heart that celebrates all the things of the world, from the mundane to the grand, the broken to the wholly new. Preorders for Spofford's book can be placed here: The Pine Effect.
Meanwhile, I am hunkered down in Kotzebue, Alaska, dozing through one wind and cold-shocked winter storm after another, nursing a cold with an Inupiaq antiviral elixir, a shot glass full of stinkweed steeped in vinegar given to my by my tirelessly gracious host Norma. Photos to follow soon. . . . if I ever again see the out of doors that I trust is out there beyond the foot thick walls of this house and the blur of snow flying past the impossibly small high windows. . . .
The dew point is in the 70s this fine Iowa morning after a night of sirens and what seemed like near misses for Iowa City. Route One north of town washed out after five inches of rain fell. Tornados are due this afternoon. I went outside into the tropical rainforest that used to be my garden to try and catch up on last month's weeding and nature just laughed a big fat nature laugh and let a little more rain pour down on us, and so I hightailed it inside to finish some seriously backlogged editing that harkens back to my favorite time of year in my favorite place. I don't think there could be a landscape any more beautiful than a frozen sea in the light of the long slow dawn like that off the coast of Kotzebue. I love that winter moon that scuds along the horizon. I love that it takes almost six hours for the light to shift from the lavender of twilight to the true sunrise which occurs a little before noon. I will send a crisp ten dollar bill to anyone who can find the polar bear lurking in these pictures! A wildlife photographer I will never be--except by most unfortunate accident! Stay cool Iowa friends.
If you walk a mile or so off shore out across the Chukchi Sea you will see some amazing things. Close to the village the frozen chop looks like a 3D lesson in geometry, fat planks of ice jutting up at right angles--triangles, rectangles, parallelograms of frozen sea. Close to shore the ice formations bring to mind polar bears--for every odalisk of ice seems to have a great hulking body of white just behind it--but no, you tell yourself, you are just imagining things. Just because the largest polar bear ever killed was killed right there in Kotzebue, weighing in at over 2,000 pounds--that was a long time ago--and the polar bears of today are well off shore, out where the ice gives way to open water again.Read More