I create my art in order to better understand the world around me, to gain a deeper connection to it. That connection fuels a passion, which in turn further drives my desire to gain a full understanding of place. As a canoe guide in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of northern Minnesota, I quickly found myself wanting to be more than a casual passer-by, a mere traveler in the wilderness. I desired a deeper connection, and started to make that connection when I began taking my camera out with me into the field.
Through my art, I notice the world. I see details and light in a way I have not seen them before. Texture, color, lines, shadow; they all come together to tell a story, to isolate discrete elements from what is otherwise the chaos of the natural world. Whether tundra or boreal forest, the land is full of complexities. But as an artist, I can see the patterns, see the isolated pieces, and capture them in time to be studied and enjoyed. And it is both the act of creation and the image itself that hold me in that moment in time. It is both the inspiration and the creation that makes photography important to me; I maintain a connection and vitality of existence that I don’t find any other way.
Living in Alaska has exposed me to a landscape that exists on a scale, with more content compared to anything I had previously imagined as an artist. Living in Anchorage, I explored broadly the southcentral region of the state for several years. But it was my experience as an artist-in-residence in Gates of the Arctic National Park in 2007 that introduced me to the Arctic.
The Arctic has a raw power in its beauty that is only matched by the unique quality of light that washes across its vast landscapes. Being introduced to the Arctic for the first time could not have come at a better time for my development as an artist. This new landscape helped me to understand my craft in a new way. It sparked a completely different level of inspiration, and opportunity for inspiration from a landscape that is constantly changing depending on the light, the seasons, and the weather. It is often ephemeral, with a scene that may be captured one year being forever changed the next. And part of that stark Arctic landscape is the way of life, carried out in ways shared across international boundaries, from subsistence to reindeer herding to dog mushing.
I principally explore through the medium of photography, capturing still images digitally or occasionally on film. Increasingly, as part of my storytelling process, I have been using video and time lapse, integrating them to provide the viewer with more connection to the subject.
Connecting with that Alaskan and Arctic landscape and the way of life, gaining a better understanding for it, has also deepened another reason why I create my art – helping to connect others with the majestic landscape and the people who populate it. So few people have a chance to personally experience vast wilderness, especially the Arctic. Whether sharing my art during a presentation or at an exhibition, I always relish the reactions that people have to my images, because, in that moment and even though in a limited way, they are connected. They can perceive a world that is foreign to them, yet have an opportunity to understand it. As much as my creating my art is a very private process, creation is not the end of how I experience my craft. It is in sharing that the process becomes complete.