Brian and I like feeling that we're ready for anything, at every moment. We might be dreamers and artists, but one of the reasons we both enjoy what we do--recording life through photography and writing--is that it affords us the opportunity to live in a state of awareness, to look at life and then look closer.
Last week, Brian and I were in Wasilla working on a story when we received a call that would take us on an amazing 42-hour voyage to Iliamna. By the time we were home from the assignment in Wasilla, it was already almost four in the afternoon, and we had been informed that we'd be leaving by 10 that night, drive to Homer, board a barge, take a truck, then board another barge to Iliamna. We were detail-poor, without almost all of the specifics, but we decided to just trust that things would work out (they usually do, after all).
The drive to Homer was quiet and enjoyable and, in retrospect, very quick. It was 2am when we arrived, greeted by workers from Iliamna Development Corporation as they busily prepared tanker trucks for the barge ride to Iliamna. We photographed until 5am, and it felt good to be cold, tired and busy as the day fanned out over the horizon, though we had no idea how tired we'd be in 36 hours.
Above photo. 2010 © Ashley Skabar
We rode the barge for the next twelve hours, photographing, wandering around the boat, talking with the crew, and just enjoying the ride. Brian and I climbed through the hatch to the roof of the ship, and it was thrilling to stand up there together, caught in so much wind, without a clue as to where we were. We were at the mercy of the waters, the boat and its crew. It was a rush to feel so small.
After we pulled into Iliamna Bay and docked, things moved very quickly. We slapped on our backpacks, Brian photographed the crew as they prepared and moved the trucks while I searched among the four men on shore for Moose, our contact. I instead met Alex, the captain of the next barge we would take, first, after which Brian and I jumped in a tiny green pick-up to ride ahead of the fuel trucks as they wound their way along the treacherous pass through the hills to Pile Bay. We stopped every few miles so that Brian could document their passage, and so that we could briefly admire the lush grandeur of our surroundings--verdant life enshrouded in fog.
By the time we had loaded onto the next barge, which was infinitely more cramped and lacked luxuries such as bathrooms, it was 9pm. We had already been going for about 24 hours, and we were beat. Brian photographed as much as he could, and then we just enjoyed the ride and our conversatons with the four-man crew.
All photos 2010 © Brian Adams
We arrived in Iliamna at 2:30, to the site of two grizzlies batting at the water just 50 yards from where we docked. The following hours, again, moved very quickly--from the dock, to the car of IDC's Operations Manager, to the fuel tanks where the trucks finally transferred their fuel, to a room across from the Pebble Kitchen where Brian and I passed out for the thickest 3 hours of sleep I've had in a long time.
We awoke, ready for coffee and toast at the kitchen, then met with Lisa, IDC's CEO, for several more hours of shooting. We hadn't intended to stay that day, but we are so glad that we did--the photographs Brian was able to make and the people we had the opportunities to meet were so worth it. Lisa, for one, is incredible; ambitious and intelligent, she sincerely cares about her community and wants more than anything to support her fellow villagers by providing them with jobs, affordable fuel, and cheaper foodstuffs. And, before taking us to the airport for our final leg of traveling, she gave us some of the best homemade dry fish Brian and I have ever tasted.
As we boarded the plane, Brian and I briefly shared a look that said both, "What just happened?" and "Look where we've been!" It was an exciting 42 hours, but when we finally climbed the steps to our porch, we had to admit that it felt so good to be home.