Polar Souls Project
Arctic Village, ANWR and its Environs
Statement of Plans
Polar Souls is a photographic study of the Polar Regions of our planet with a concentration on creating a typology of the human presence in these fragile places. I am requesting funds this grant cycle to continue my study of the Neetsaii Gwich’in subsistence tribe who have lived on the North Slope of Alaska within the borders of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for centuries.
The first segment of my project began in 2008 after being awarded a National Science Foundation Artists grant, which supported a 3- month expedition to Antarctica. There I photographed scientists and support personnel using my traditional 8X10” view camera. In addition I captured many representative images of landscape and wildlife. In 2011-12 I received the PSC CUNY Research Foundation Enhanced Award. During the summer of 2011 I began photographing and documenting the residents of Arctic Village, Alaska thanks to the Enhanced grant funding. There accompanied by two CUNY students who served as assistant and videographer I documented the lives and environment of these Polar Souls who live on the edge of the livable world and have thrived there in spite of the worst odds. I documented this place using a still camera 8X10” film format, a still digital Single Lens Reflex camera and a digital video camera.
My motivation for continuing with this photographic project is to complete a comprehensive portrait of representative people from the earth’s edge. These people add value to our society and help to remind us of the fragility of our planet and our lives. They are the ”canaries in coal mines” of climate change. They show the strength and soul of humanity and our foibles. Through still photography and video I will work towards finishing this segment of my project. To do so I must return to Arctic Village for two reasons.
First: to provide a comprehensive view of these people’s lives I need to show them during the unforgiving winter. I previously spent two months in Arctic Village during the Arctic summer. I will return to Arctic Village during the late winter of 2013-2014 to photograph traditional ice fishing, winter hunting and spring ceremonies much of it done through environmental portraiture. I will complete my aerial imaging segment by spending one week flying with Jay Wattenbarger, professional bush pilot. Mr. Wattenbarger provided bush air service for me during the last excursion in Arctic Village.
Second: to revisit the tribe and re-interview a variety of subjects to make comparisons with the original interviews done in 2011. The study of subtle changes within tribal life over time will add depth to the documentary film that will be accompanying my still photography exhibition.
Accompanying me during this one-month expedition will be a student chosen from the LaGuardia Photography Program. This enables one excellent student to participate in a unique internship. The student will provide me with physical help carrying equipment to often-remote locations. The student will document the process of creating a documentary in an extreme environment using a Canon 5D Mark II camera which has HD video capability. In the past I brought a student assistant with me to Antarctica and two to Arctic Village and am inspired to share the experience with a student once again. My interest in experiential learning has led me to a concurrent project. For the past three years I have built a study abroad program for CUNY students interested in photography conducted in the Chilean cities of Valparaiso, Santiago and in a variety of Patagonian wilderness locations. The value of including students in real world opportunities brings good will and enthusiasm to this project and has been well received by most if not all of the subjects in my photographs.
My attraction to the Polar Regions is rooted in man’s interactions with wilderness in the most extreme circumstances. Nowhere else are nature’s forces felt and experienced with such a constant intensity. Through my camera I am compelled to investigate and describe clearly the delicate balance between man and his environment at the edge of the earth. Caught in the crosshairs of the energy crisis and the actual effects of global warming, ANWR and Arctic Village could not be a more crucial place for an artist’s eye.
Thank you for your consideration.
Link to film documentary film trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ux1ucPEDzkk