Apr 5, 2007

James Barker

i had the good fortune of sitting in on a lecture, and slide show, by Jim Barker today up at the university. Charles asked me last week if i wanted to sit in on his class, as i had asked about Jim recently. of course, i jumped at the opportunity.

Jim's book Always Getting Ready is the cornerstone of all Alaska books in my opinion.

his access to the Yu'pik people is based on a trust that almost seems impossible when you look at his photographs- it's hard to believe him not Native himself. he brings a level of respect and honesty to his photography that many attempt, but seldom accomplish. Jim lived in the community of Bethel for many years, working out of a dry dark room, and documenting Native seal hunts, dances, and the daily life of those that thrive in a subsistence lifestyle. Bethel has the highest population of Native Americans than any other community in America, and it's a world that is gravely misunderstood. his work is important on so many levels.

i'm so enamored by his nurturing of the photo essay- the series. he showed four separate bodies of work, none that i was familiar with, other than Always Getting Ready. he's a tragically underrated photographer outside of Alaska i'm afraid. i urge anyone to buy his book. his images are like everything you imagine Alaska to be in your wildest dreams. it's photographs like Jim's that give us the frames in which to assemble such dreams.

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