Bill Hess – Aġviq: Sacred Whale, Carrier of Life

Never during my original 1985-1995 documentation of Iñupiat whale hunting did I experience a day in sun so hot on skin as May 5, 2015. Aaron Milligrock. Point Hope, Alaska – Tikigaq.

Bill Hess

Aġviq: Sacred Whale, Carrier of Life

 

May 5, 2015: Rays stream from sun onto ocean to strike hunters from all angles, cooking them out of their clothing layer by layer until finally they stand bare chested at the water’s edge. I remember a beach in Mexico – but this is Arctic Alaska, where Iñupiat hunters have ventured onto Chukchi Sea ice to seek the gift of aġvik – the bowhead whale. Since Time Immemorial, aġvik has given Iñupiat not only nutrition, but the foundation of a resourceful, resilient, culture and enabled them to thrive in one of the harshest environments on earth.

Multiple threats have followed the British explorers who sailed into their home in the early 19th century, followed by the Yankee whaling industry, which decimated the bowhead. Imported diseases decimated the Iñupiat.

Both survived and slowly began to replenish their populations. By 1977, the Iñupiat had adapted to incredible change. Money to buy imported goods, high-priced food included, had become vital. Yet bowhead remained central to diet and culture. Each spring, Iñupiat ventured onto Chukchi Sea ice and paddled their bearded seal-skin covered umiaks into the lead to meet bowheads migrating to summer waters in the Canadian Beaufort.

Come the open water season of late summer and early fall, hunters again met aġvik as bowheads migrated back through the Beaufort and Chukchi to their winter home in the Bering Sea. Through intimate observation, Iñupiat knew bowheads numbered many thousands, were increasing and so were shocked when the International Whaling Commission suddenly placed a moratorium on their hunt. IWC claimed the Western Arctic bowhead population numbered as few as 600.

Iñupiat joined other Alaska Inuit, organized the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission and took their fight to an IWC convention in the UK. Greenpeace protesters waved “Save the Whales!” signs at them. AEWC secured a pitifully inadequate quota of 18 strikes to land 12 whales for ten Alaska whaling villages spread along a coastline longer than California’s. With financial support from the Utah-sized North Slope Borough, founded by Iñupiat in 1972 to tax oil company property and thus recapture a sliver of the Prudhoe Bay wealth Congress had just taken from them, AEWC launched what with support from the US and Canadian governments became the most intense, ongoing, scientific, peer-reviewed whale census ever conducted. Additional federal studies proved the deep Iñupiat nutritional and cultural need to hunt bowhead.

The most recent tally shows a best-estimate of 16,892 bowhead, growing by 3.7 percent a year. Alaska whaling villages currently hunt under a block quota of 306 landed bowhead, parceled out over six years. Future quotas will be based on future census numbers. Even Greenpeace now favors the Iñupiat right to hunt bowhead. Ailments of the modern world not withstanding, the hunt is strong.

Now the big threat is climate change, happening faster in the Arctic than anywhere else. The spring hunt in the Chukchi becomes ever dangerous as ice thins. The Beaufort late summer/early fall hunt also grows more dangerous. Huge reaches of open water allow violent storms to whip up waves that threaten hunters and shorelines alike. Polar bears have always been present to hunt and be hunted by Iñupiat, but hunted seals from plentiful icebergs and seldom bothered fall hunters.

Now, there are fall seasons when no icebergs can be seen. Polar bears need solid platforms to rest and den upon. They need to eat. They come to Cross and Barter Islands, where Iñupiat from the villages of Nuiqsut and Kaktovik hunt. Many bears now turn to the Iñupiat and the bowhead they land in their own quest to survive. Whalers must be continually wary, lest they fall to a nanuq.

From 1985 through 1995, I repeatedly returned to six whaling villages spread along the Arctic Slope from Point Hope in the west to Kaktovik near Canada to make my magazine, Uiñiq, funded by the North Slope Borough. This resulted in my book, Gift of the Whale (Sasquatch, 1999).I spent the next dozen years plus covering Native people and issues elsewhere across Alaska, but returned to the Slope enough to see the dramatic impacts climate change was bringing to the Iñupiat and their hunting way of life. I saw what looked to be pending offshore oil development – both opposed and supported within the Iñupiat community. For now, oil exploration has stopped in the Chukchi, although smaller scale, near-shore development continues in the Beaufort.

In May, 2008, I launched what I intended to be a comprehensive update but one month later fell, shattered my shoulder and got a new one. A variety of ailments and surgeries followed, but now I am at it again. Should health, life and funds permit, I hope to complete my update by the summer I turn 70 – four years from now.

Then I plan to go sit on a beach in Rio.

I joke!

I will stay here, in Alaska – most of the time.

 

Bio

When he was five, Bill Hess looked up into the ethereal shimmer of a rare display of northern lights in the Oregon night and felt a mysterious call to the north. The call persisted as his Mormon family migrated about in the land and mythology of the American West. Reality punctured myth during the two years he served on a mission to the Lakota and the five he spent as a one-man-band newspaperman and freelancer on his wife Margie’s White Mountain Apache Reservation. On July 14, 1981, his 31st birthday, he finally followed the call home to Alaska. No job awaited, no house for his family and he knew no one, yet his soul was soothed. He has dedicated his career since to learning about his home from those who know it best – the First Peoples of Alaska. He extends his thanks to them for allowing him to walk, eat and sleep upon their lands, waters and ice, for all they have so generously shared with and taught him.

Related Links

Bill Hess – Born Into Exile

Alaska Public

Harald Claessen – Connect/Reconnect

harald_claessen_DAH-26 

Harald Claessen

Connect/Reconnect

Suddenly and unexpectedly, my untroubled life, formerly defined by nonchalance and filled with love, was overwhelmed by fear, anger and despair. After this assault, I didn’t know if I could ever recover my former peace. My earlier sense of harmony and wellbeing seemed beyond reach.

Even after the immediate and serious threat to my family was resolved, my wounds were fresh and deep.

These photographs reflect an escape—my effort to open my heart again to trust and joy.

Coney Island provided a ready escape from the frenzied streets of Brooklyn. The force and power of the ocean helped me, and other visitors, to distance ourselves from the burdens of our daily lives. Coney Island provided a space for us to let down our guard.

I wanted my soul to connect with other souls, so I could once again celebrate the beauty of the day and let myself become whole once again.

 

 

Bio

Harald is a Dutch photographer who lives and travels between Cyprus and Russia. Once fulfilled in his business life, at the age of 42, he decided to focus entirely on his passion for photography that he cherished from early childhood. Previous life gave him an insightful privilege of experiencing the daily life of ordinary people in more than 35 countries around the world where he travelled to and lived in. The variety and peculiarities of cultures, backgrounds, environments and similarity of emotions in all of them is what he always wanted to share through photography. “I look at my surroundings with sincerity of a child who doesn’t wish to break into someone’s intimate moment but rather be embraced by it. It’s like capturing frames of a life long movie, the frames that beat along with my heart. Every picture of mine has a piece of my soul in it. That’s why I do it, it’s my way of absorbing this world with all its beauty and flaws and give back a part of myself.”

 

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Harald Claessen

Aji Susanto Anom – River of Hades

Aji Susanto Anom

River of Hades

[ EPF 2016 FINALIST ]

River of Hades is an mythological approach to document reality and construct a fictional historical record of real life experience. Inspired and captivated by the magic of the river mythologies from my city and another riverside that i had chance to encounters, from that experience I try to create fictional narratives based on the myth of the river of Hades.

In Greek mythology, the Underworld, may be the land of the dead, but it has living botanical items, like meadows with asphodel flowers, and geographical features. Among the most famous are the river of the Underworld that connect the Earth and the Underworld. That river is called River of Hades (Hades is the Ruler of the Underworld).

The surreal wilderness of the night in the riverside has always fascinated me. The riverside I walked through during the day, completely transformed after sundown. There was a dark side in it: the ghost-like creatures that I imagined wandering around in the deepest shadows. Because of my fear, I could never bring myself to approach these mysterious beings directly. They partook in unknown activities and so they shall remain.

Regardless, photography has given me the energy to enjoy the discomfort and experience of this nocturnal wild side. While confronting the darkness outside, I also redeemed the darkness within.

 

 

Short Bio

Aji Susanto Anom (b.1989) is a photographer based in Solo, Indonesia. He is now still studying in Indonesian Art Institutes of Yogyakarta (ISI Yogyakarta). His work is basically explores all his personal question about the darkness of his deeper life. He has published three photobooks independently called ‘Nothing Personal’, ‘Poison’ and ‘Recollecting Dreams’. In 2015, he was selected as one of the participant of ‘Angkor Photography Workshop’ under the mentor: Antoine D’Agata and Sohrab Hura. His works can be discovered through his featured publication on BURN Magazine, Lens Culture, The Invisible Photographer Asia, Top Photography Films, Monovisions, Dodho Magazines, Sidewalkers.Asia and more.

 

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Aji Susanto Anom

Laura El-Tantawy – I’ll Die For You

An Immortal River #2

Laura El-Tantawy

I’ll Die For You

[ EPF 2016 FINALIST ]

On June 11, 2010, 35-year-old cotton farmer Sanjay Sarate stumbled to his home & fell on the ground. “I’ve taken pesticide. I’m going to die” he told his wife. “This is the end of my life.” Sanjay hugged his then-six-year-old son, Sameer, as he journeyed from life to death.

In the past 21 years, nearly 300,000 farmers committed suicide in India. Many borrowed money through government lending schemes or private lenders to plant more efficient crops, but couldn’t pay off their debts. Due to the fast transition India has undergone from rural to an industrial, urban economy with an open market, farmers have been confronted by immense social & economic problems. Most farmers, like Sanjay, consumed pesticide, others set themselves on fire, hung themselves or threw themselves down a well.

Six years ago I began to visually explore the intimate relationship between man & land. My work seeks to memorialize the faces of farmers whose hard way of life led to their death. My paternal grandfather Hussein is my inspiration. A farmer in Egypt’s Nile Delta, his devotedness to his land eventually killed him. ‘I’ll Die For You’ meditates on this unique bond: drawing on a farmer’s dependence on the land for living & the land’s reliance on its farmer for survival. It’s a solitary way of life where man & land are one.

With your grant, I’ll take my series to the US state of California. The largest agriculture industry in the US, severe drought cost farmers in excess of 550,000 acres of fallowed land in 2015, exhausted groundwater reserves & caused billions in economic damage. There are underlined themes here: the erosion of farming as a craft, the human impact of erratic weather patterns & the disparity between rural & city life ‘as busy urban dwellers, do we consider the people who cultivate our produce’.

As of 2014, there were 570 million farms in the world. With more than 90% run by an individual or family, these farms fed the bulk of the world’s 7.5 billion people.

 

 

Short Bio

Laura El-Tantawy is an Egyptian photographer born in England and raised between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Her photography is inspired by questions on her identity – exploring social and environmental issues pertaining to her background. In 2002, she started her career in the US as a newspaper photographer, moving to freelance in 2006. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia (USA), with dual degrees in journalism & political science. Additional degrees include an MA in Art & Media Practice from the University of Westminster (UK/2011) and a Research Fellowship from the University of Oxford (UK/2009).

She has published three books and is currently working on her upcoming monograph ‘Beyond Here Is Nothing’ – a photographic meditation on the emotional loss of home. In 2016 she was nominated for the Deutsche Brse Photography Foundation Prize for her book ‘In the Shadow of the Pyramids’ (self-published 2015).

 

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Laura El-Tantawy

Dominika Gesicka – This Is Not Real Life

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Dominika Gesicka

This Is Not Real Life

[ EPF 2016 FINALIST ]

There is a place where no one is born and no one dies. Of course you can die anywhere but you cannot be buried here as it has been discovered that bodies fail to decompose here.

You cannot be born here because pregnant women are to return to the mainland to give birth. There are no cats, no trees, no traffic lights. There is no amusement park, but there is a circus troupe. In the winter time it is completely dark, but in the summer sun never sets.

The place is called Longyearbyen and it is the largest settlement and an administrative center of Svalbard. It is also the world’s northernmost city. Although it is difficult to regard it the best place to live, many people fall in love with it at first sight. Some people came here just for two weeks and stayed for five years or more, but not many decide to settle down here permanently.

Sometimes you have an impression that people here are trying to escape from something; that this is just a retreat.

This is not a real life.

 

 

Short Bio

Dominika Gesicka, born in 1981 in Wloclawek (Poland). Graduated from International Affairs at Warsaw School of Economics (Poland), student of Institute of Creative Photography in Opava (Czech Republic). Member of People You May Know collective. Laureate of Show off programme, Photomonth in Cracow (2014). Finalist of Lens Culture Exposure Award (2016) and a winner of the Idea Tap Foundation and Magnum Photos grant (2015).

 

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Dominika Gesika