With the COVID19 pandemic it became clear that were living in unprecedented times. As an avid photographer I wanted to document in some way the times we are living in. I briefly explained my project idea to the people I asked to photograph and left the interpretation to them of how they wanted to be represented in these times. These photographs are the result.
These images were published on Saturday, May 9, 2020 in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. I was proud to make the headline banner on the front page.
Marie McKinnon is from Ohio and is a veterinarian turned bike mechanic. This has been a year of firsts for her. She volunteered for the Iditarod Sled Dog Race as a veterinarian at Unalakleet. She shot a gun for the first time in her life, went hunting for the first time and lives in her first day cabin. She’s seen here with one of her dogs, an English mastiff. The most challenging part of the lockdown has been not being able to get to Ohio to see family and friends.
This was a self-portrait. I’ve spent the past three summers working with the National Park Service in Alaska. Last summer I was in Glacier Bay and had planned to return for the coming season. Meanwhile I spent the winter in the Interior, volunteering at KIAM radio station in Nenana. I love sled dog races and traveled to Bethel for the Kuskokwim 300, and also photographed the start of the Yukon Quest and Iditarod sled dog races. There’s nothing like Alaskan culture. I lost my job this summer at Glacier Bay with the collapse of the cruise industry and am awaiting the possibility of work with the park service in California. While I wait, I continue work at the radio station, and continue my photographic projects, which gives my days some purpose and structure as I wait.
Mike Arena lives in Interior Alaska, carrying on a tradition his father began decades ago. When Mike’s father was stationed here in Alaska in 1953, he and another airman launched a mission church in Nenana. During the 1980’s, the pastor off that church decided to start a radio ministry. Sixty years after his Father, Mike and is wife Valerie moved to Alaska from Georgia to continue in his Father’s steps. His life has changed little since the coronavirus. KIAM is deemed an essential communications infrastructure and the station continues to broadcast.
Brandi Conrad spent 14 years in the military and said it has not been hard to adjust to health mandates brought by the coronavirus. Her children are 3 years old and 11 months old. 3-year-old daughter undergoes speech therapy. Not being able to go to Head Start has been the toughest adjustment on the family. Her former partner Mark is a mechanic. The slowdown in tourist business is going to be the hardest adjustment financially.
Chris Russell, originally from Utah, is an electrician from a family of electricians. Before settling into work, he spent a year as a ski bum, and a summer as a pike fishing guide. He is passionate about poker fishing and is an avid outdoorsman. He lives in a dry cabin in Fairbanks.
Triston and Meghan Nyquist are leaving Nenana to move closer to family in Southeast Alaska and to await the birth of their first child. In the four years they lived in Interior Alaska, Triston earned a master’s degree in secondary education and Meghan taught elementary students at Nenana City School. The community bid farewell with a heartfelt drive-by of friends in vehicles.
Claire Dal Nogare is one of the most hardcore outdoorswomen that I know. She’s hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail, driven a team of sled dogs across Denali to Wonder Lake and this summer she drove tour loads of tourists up to the Arctic Circle. But catch this, she road her bike to work all winter long, even in -40°F temperatures, impressing even the locals.