Arts and Entertainment

Fairbanks photographer James H. Barker named Rasmuson’s 2022 Distinguished Artist

The Rasmuson Foundation has named documentary photographer James H. Barker of Fairbanks as its 2022 Distinguished Artist.

The award honors lifetime achievement in creative fields and contribution to the state’s arts and culture, and comes with an award of $40,000.

Barker, who is the first photographer to receive the award, grew up in Pullman, Washington, and studied photography at the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles, the Rasmuson Foundation said in a statement announcing the award. He first visited Alaska in 1970 and returned a few years later for a photography project with the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corp.

Barker photographed most parts of his life in Bethel — steam bathing, salmon processing, public meetings. After 14 years in Bethel, he moved to Fairbanks, where he became immersed in the arts community, teaching photography at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, according to the Rasmuson Foundation.

His photographs of Yup’ik dance informed the imagery for the book “Yupiit Yuraryarait/Yup’ik Ways of Dancing.” Barker has been honored with the Alaska Governor’s Award in the Humanities and lifetime achievement awards from the Cama-i Festival and the Alaska Press Club.

“His photographs are visual vignettes, capturing intimate moments that we normally never get to share. But whether he takes us to a seal hunt on the Bering Sea or a research trip to Antarctica, he finds beauty and reveals something universal in us all,” Diane Kaplan, Rasmuson Foundation president and CEO, said in a prepared statement.

“You look for critical moments where there’s an expression, a movement and such that will talk about what they’re doing. I look for that particular moment,” Barker said in a video accompanying the award announcement.

According to the Rasmuson Foundation, Barker was selected from a slate of nominees by a panel of Alaska artists and art experts. The remaining 2022 artist awards — 25 project awards and 10 fellowships — will be announced later this year.

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