HIgh in the Arctic .. .. Eskiimo !!
Hello ! my name is David I am originally from Boston Ma. I am / was an electrican with an obsession for photography that had consumed me literally. I moved to Alaska.. working as an electrican I was sent to this tiny Eskimo village called Point Hope Alaska. For just 3 weeks, to wire two construction camps. When the job finished, I quit and stayed here.
A tiny whaling community of only 750 Inupiaq Eskimos who live their lives centered around the bowhead whale.
Point Hope is the oldest continually inhabited settlement or village in all of North America, life can accurately be traced back some 3,000 years to this very spot.
That was 27 years ago ! and I am still here. I was presented with the ultimate challenge. I had my Besler enlarger shipped up here, the chemicals and cases and cases of 11 x 14 color paper. Working with film @ 50 below zero was a first for me. but the ultimate challenge was.. ..
something I never expected.. .. I had no water !.. .. .. .. 'just .. snow !
Come see the Eskimo way at the top of the world 200 miles above the Arctic circle, Tikigaqmuit - "People of Point Hope Alaska" - North Americas Oldest people.. Greenland was founded by people from Point Hope, Most villages in Alaska are founded by People from Point Hope who migrated across the land bridge from uppper mongolia some 3,000 years ago.
Aaka & Aapa - Grandmother & Grandfather - Lilly & Donald Oktollik
My four sons - GREAT-grandparents.
Donald was a whaling capatin & an Episcopal Minister in his day.
Elaine & Minnie - Two teenage girl-friends pose for me in Traditional dress @ 40 below zero !
Do they look cold ? No. when dressed properly and eating the correct food at the correct time is how you keep warm up here.
When the community is out on the ocean ice for whaling, as they currentlyl are at this very moment in May, The hunters sleep outside for two months @ temps of 30 - 60 below zero & colder with wiind chill added.
This is a typical whaling camp 7 miles out on the Ocean Ice pack of the Chukchi Sea in the Bering Strait of upper Alaska
18 whaling camps are spread out on the ocean ice pack at distances of 1/2 - 3/4 of a mile. Animals are migrating.. this is how we obtain food.
I have to obtain water, but the house I am in has none, At the time I had built and owned Many, too many color darkrooms, from moving around too much. I was extremly familiar with C-41 processing & Ep2 techniques & proper replenishment rates etc.
but using snow ? I had to melt tons of snow, literally tons, to obtain the necessary precious water, to mix chemicals and process film & prints.
When melted, the water was FILTHY, animal hairs, soot, other debris, scum and such.. yuk ! The water was filtered through towels and it still had a yellowish tinge to the overall look. How do you WASH film with NO RUNNING water? I had to come up with something, that worked FIRST TIME.
I knew these images were are very valuable and 27 years later these 6 x7 negatives are still in pristine condition.
Many miles out on the ocean ice. Kathy Rock age ten, is sitting on a snowmachine, she knows me well, as a frequent visitor to her home, her Dad is Elijah Rock "Alaskan Eskimo Whaling Commissioner
I raised my camera to create an image, and she smiled, I brought the camera down and said Kathy, please do not do that! I want you to look right past me as though I am not even here.YOu can't see me I kept repeating, I knew what I wanted, but had to convince her to relax and just look past me. oh tghere it is.. Yes ! Yes ! -=[click]=- I spent 1/2 hour speaking with her, and I only expolsed one frame of film.
I had to obtain the permission of many different Eskimo agencies, that is why, still to this day, I have the only COLOR COLLECTION of Eskimos on a sacred bowhead whale hunt. I have been honored to have been on 5 whale hunts. My sons continue where I left off. But the images I am posting are the original ones 27 years ago! processed with snow. It was only because I was so familiar with mass processing techniques that I dared attempt this seeminlly impossiblel task, here is an image of one of my many darkrooms in Washington State
When I purchased paper and chemicals, for years, I always purchase by the cases! tens of thousands of sheets of paper ! I finally got it down PAT !
iT TAKES: the combined effort of hundreds of people to blaize a trail using picks, axes, chipping tools by hand to smooth out a trail for miles. to transport equipment and supplies out to the edge of the ice pack.
All this incredibly hard work, no PAY FOR THIS WORK, but just the RIGHT TO EAT !
Beautiful work David.
I shall never again complain about cold hands during the winter or my water supply being temporally out because of local construction.Against all odds you have produced some remarkable immages that will forever document a unique way of life.
Magnificent, David...Make sure the negatives will live on. This is a real society, not what we have down here in the US..ALl the best, Evan Clarke
Wow... incredible story and photographs! And, as Mike said, I'll never complain about my cold basement darkroom again! I'm sure it would feel balmy to you!! Welcome...
David, you have done a remakrable job on your photography, in less than ideal conditions, congratulations and welcome! I envy your decision to "unplug" from the modern world and join the people. Please post some of your work in the galleries when you are able. Didn't know you could work in those conditions, but it seems anything is possible if there is a need. Nice darkroom. Best, tim from sunny tucson, arizona
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Fascinating work, David! Welcome to APUG.
I feel that this will be a historically important collection.
I would love to see a museum exhibit of large prints up close.
I hope this exposure will not cause much disturbance to the community. But the remoteness and the weather will keep most away.
Great work! Can't add much more than what folks here have already said.
I think if there were a "Shackleton's Endurance" prize in photography, you'd get my vote!!!!!!! Mere mortals would have sent their films south to be developed and printed...the fact that you have the self confidence and single minded beligerance to pull it off probably suits you well to your chosen environment.
The historical significance of your work from all these years, and maybe more importantly from future work as your world changes, is huge. When will you entertain the idea of a book?
P.S. Anybody know a documentary film maker?
Note to self: Turn your negatives into positives.