Monthly Archive for June, 2014

Freezer in the Earth

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To anyone who may have wondered where one finds a freezer big enough to store a whale in, this is where: in the earth, which here is permafrost, frozen all the time. Each crew digs its own hole deep into the frost, widened out a bit at the bottom. Bruce Nukapigak descended into the ice cellar via a ladder and then began to tie boxes of frozen bowhead maktak and meet which is pulled to the surface by other crewmembers on top. In recent years in some villages, a new problem has arisen: ice sellers have begin to milk in the summertime. Some have been ruined altogether. Then they have to find other places where the permafrost still appears to be more stable and dig new holes. I have taken many pictures this afternoon, but there is no wireless available on the Nalukataq grounds and I have been too busy to post and write even if there had been. It is already time for me to go back for the evening events – the blanket toss and the Eskimo dance. These will not conclude until early tomorrow morning sometime so I don’t think I will post any more today. I will post a couple more of today’s images tomorrow. This is @billhess for @burndiary in Nuiqsut, Alaska. #bowhead #nalukataq #icecellar#maktak #nuiqsut #alaska #arctic

The Flag

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Right at midnight, the crew hung the flag over the village baseball field, which then became the place of Nalukataq. The EMN crew was started by the late Edward Maniksaq Sr and his late wife Ruth in 1957. Family members believe the lower flag may have been sewn in that same year by Ruth. It has flown over many whales and those whales have fed many Arctic Slope Iñupiat, for whom the whale remains the most important and cherished part of their diet, the heart and soul of their culture. A picture of the late Edward and Ruth standing in front of a bowhead adorns the back of the dark jacket just under the “N.” #nalukataq #flag#bowheadwhale #whaling #iñupiat #nalukataq #arctic#nuiqsut #alaska

Bowhead Meat and Maktak

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About a week ago, EMN crew members cut bowhead meat and maktak (skin and blubber) into strips and pieces, placed them in these buckets in this cool, unheated room and came back every now and then to stir the mix and let the air in. It is now fermented mikigaq and is ready to be served at the feast. It is tart and tangy and in my opinion, delicious. Back in the 80’s when I was following the crew of the late Jonathan Aiken, Sr., better known by his Iñupiaq name, Kunuk, mikigaq was sometimes brought to camp and I could not stop eating it. Kunuk looked at me, smiled and said “Eskimo Bill!” That felt really good. #mikigaq #bowhead#bowheadwhale #nalukataq #nuiqsut #arctic #alaska

Claire Harbage – I Sometimes Dream of Devils

Claire Harbage

I Sometimes Dream of Devils


The young adults of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico are navigating a thin line between hope and hopelessness. They strive to leave the poverty and inequality that faces their society, yet are constantly exposed to a barrage of wealth with the influx of tourism and American expatriates. For these young people, engaging in formal employment will never allow them access to the lifestyles they see. Often they are consumed by their own ambitions and desires. Some make it out. Others are attracted to overindulgence and escapism, seeking easy money and brotherhood through gangs and cartels.

On good nights in San Miguel de Allende the air is heady with laughter, music, lights, parties. Worries drown in the overwhelming beats of the clubs, flashing strobes, energizing and uplifting drugs.



Some nights the darkness is too deep to escape.

Teeth grind and shatter as the devils haunt their dreams.

The lives that were taken by force return on these nights.


The sweet song of the drug cartels sounded good once.

Money, wealth, power, friends.



The dreamcatcher

the cross

the amulets

even the gun

can’t save you from the dark.


The night is all-consuming.


This essay was photographed from 2012 -2013 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It captures the experiences of a number of different young adults ages 19-28. I prefer not to share their names for their own privacy and safety and so not to implicate all of them in the same deeds and experiences. I see this piece as a document that describes a lifestyle not so far from many American young adults, and yet with much more dangerous choices. I would like people to understand more about the difficult decisions that young people are faced with, while still maintaining hope for the future. There are no captions for added anonymity of people and places.




Claire Harbage (b. 1986) is a visual storyteller. She currently works as a teaching assistant at Maine Media Workshops in the summer and an Adjunct Instructor at Ohio University’s Department of Visual Communication during the year. She recently attended the New York Portfolio review in April 2014. She was awarded a number of fellowships at Ohio University while completing her dual MA in Photography and African Studies for studying the Wolof language of West Africa. The university also funded her field work for upcoming multimedia project Dakar: Rap-city which is still in progress. Claire plays the banjo poorly and wishes she was more musically talented.


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Claire Harbage



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I planned to cook oatmeal after I finished that first coffee I mentioned, but Margie and Lynx still slept, so I decided to go to Abby’s instead – under my own leg power. Enroute, this Cessna passed overhead. My own little Citabria was still whole and in good flying condition the first time I set out to photograph the Cross Island bowhead hunt of the Iñupiat Iñuit of Nuiqsut. The Citabria is not an IFR plane and I had to land south of the Brooks Range to wait out bad weather. By the time I finally reached the coast, the hunters had just struck and killed their last whale. I landed at Prudhoe Bay’s Deadhorse airport, found a fellow willing to sit in the backseat of the tiny Citabria and then flew out over the ocean and found the whalers about 20 miles out, towing the bowhead to the island. I dropped down very low over the boats and the whale and then, each time I would make a pass over, had the fellow in the backseat hold the stick while I took pictures. “Cheated death again!”he muttered after I got him safely back to Deadhorse. I went on to publish a 96-page essay on Nuiqsut in Uiñiq magazine that included the aerials and the aftermath of the hunt, plus a lot of other stuff, but not the Cross Island hunt itself. Last September, 20 years later, I finally returned and covered the hunt start to finish. This is why I had planned to go to Nuiqsut this week – to photograph the Nalukataq – the whale feast. Then that guy rammed me with his big Ford truck and put the whole shoot into question. This is @billhess posting for @burndiary from Wasilla, Alaska. #airplane #wasilla #alaska

Alec Soth


At Abby’s

At Abby's

At Abby’s, I ordered a half pound cheeseburger, onion rings and Pepsi. Scrumptious! Abby makes the best cheeseburger and onion rings in Wasilla. The waitress then asked if I wanted a piece of pie and of course I did, but normally I would say “better not.” Today, after the bike ride, I said “okay but just a small piece.” So she served me half a piece of chocolate cream pie with coffee. It tasted so good I had to have the other half, too. I then decided I had to pedal another 5 miles to make up for it. I stepped to the counter to pay and found Abby visiting with this young couple, Josh and… and… and… Damn! I forgot! They had just showed her some pictures of their pig, which they had got at six weeks old and it was really cute and they really loved it. Once it gets old enough and big enough, they plan to kill it, butcher it and eat it. They won’t feel bad, they said, the pig is being given a lot of love as it lives and because of this it will taste even better. Once I got back on my bike and started to pedal, I realized my leg muscles were growing stiff and a bit sore. Just a short while ago, I was mostly bedridden for three months and I still have always to go, so decided I had better not push it too hard, too fast. I added only another mile and a half to my 15 mile bike ride, not 5 miles. I think that was enough for now. This is Bill Hess, @billhess, posting for @burndiary from Wasilla, Alaska. #abbyshomecooking #pig #wasilla#wasilla #restaurant

1966 Norfolk, Virginia


1966 Norfolk, Virginia. Hot summer. I lived with this family and published a small book Tell It Like It Is. Book sale price at the time $2. Money was to go for aid to poor. The reprinting this fall will also include the 38 contact sheets to make it valuable as a work book for young photographers . I was 22 when I made this work.



As a child, how many seemingly stranded little birds did I attempt to “rescue?” All died, every one. In February, I had major surgery to fix the damage another surgeon had unintentionally inflicted upon me two years ago and it flattened me. I have been working my way back and so took my first bicycle ride about three weeks ago – 3 miles. I soon increased that to 6 miles a day, then to eight and this past week I pedaled between 10 and 11 miles just about every day. My goal is to do a 50 mile ride before the summer is over but I set today as the day I would go 15. About 1 mile into that 15 I came upon this stranded little chickadee. I looked all around for the mother bird. I could not see her. I listened. I could not hear her. The best thing to do with any baby animal is just to leave it alone, because it’s mother could still be out there just waiting for you to go so she can come in and rescue it. But this particular chickadee was in a most precarious place and I was pretty convinced that if I left it alone it might well get squished. And whoever squished it would likely never know it. I was not quite sure what to do. I knew better than to try to touch it but I had to get it to safer territory. I took this picture as this car sped past. Then the chickadee started to hop – deeper into Seldon, a busy road. So I walked with it, one step behind. I knew if a car came along the driver would probably curse and swear at me, perhaps let me his own bird, but I figured he would probably also slow down and go around me. Fortunately no car came along as I escorted the Chickedee across Seldon. On the other side we got into some bushes but I kept escorting it until it was about 10 feet away from the road, then I walked back to my bicycle and pedaled away. I don’t know if I did the bird any good or not. The odds against its survival are very high, but they are better in the bushes then they would’ve been on the pavement in the midst of traffic. This is Bill Hess, @billhess, posting for @burndiary in Wasilla, Alaska on summer solstice, 2014.

School Bus

Burn Magazine

When school got out for summer vacation two or three weeks ago, almost all the Frequent School Buses disappeared. But now they are back – not as many nor as furiously frequent as before. Summer school, I guess, plus various athletic, scholastic and church camps young people get involved in during the summertime. I came upon this frequent School Bus as I walked about this neighborhood. Being a shy but friendly person, I shyly gave a friendly wave as the bus passed me by. As you can see, no one waved back. Some of my regular followers may remember what might have been the last frequent school bus I posted just before summer vacation. High overhead way above the bus a jet flew by and I waved – not at the bus because it was empty of students, but at the jet. And the pilot waved back. You could see the wave through the cockpit window clear as day. Yet, these students could not even wave at me. No, not a single one of them waved. But the pilot did. She smiled, too. This is Bill Hess @billhess posting from Wasilla, Alaska, on the second day of my Burn Diary week.