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Alaska Life

A letter to Alaska

  • Author: Bob Hallinen
    | Opinion
  • Updated: November 12, 2018
  • Published November 10, 2018

This is a thank-you letter on my retirement from the Anchorage Daily News.

Thank you to the Daily News for sending me all over the state — from Ketchikan to the North Slope, from Northway to Attu Island. Over the past 33 years, I have been to all of Alaska's cities and many of the villages, photographing the people and places. Also thank you to the Daily News for hiring me after the Anchorage Times decided that I was not working out there.

I have photographed the scenic grandeur of Denali National Park and its wildlife, the rainforests of Southeast and the austere beauty of the Aleutian Islands and northern Alaska. Bears and moose, Dall sheep and birds and other life forms have passed in front of my camera, sometimes in incredibly beautiful locations.

Thanks to the family I have worked with at the Daily News. I have had the mentorship of great photo editors in Mike Campbell, Richard Murphy and Anne Raup. Looking at the photos of my colleagues on the photo staff has made me a better photographer. Working on stories with writers at the paper has been a real collaborative endeavor and a joy.

But most of all, I thank the people of Alaska. Thanks to everyone who said kind words about my photos and, especially, the people who opened their lives and homes to me and my cameras. Like the Anchorage couple I photographed fishing at DeLong Lake, who invited me home to photograph the fish they had drying on their back porch, braided in the traditional Western Alaska style. Or the Matanuska Valley Colony barn owners who welcomed this random stranger who made a cold call to ask if I could photograph their barn. The response: “Sure, let me get my jacket and show you around.”

Jeff King and family provided a place to sleep and fed us when we spent several days with them doing a story for the We Alaskans Sunday magazine. Martin Buser welcomed me to spend New Year’s Eve with his family.

Thank you to the many people in villages across Alaska who opened their homes and lives to my cameras and me. The family on Chirikof Island when we were doing a story on sea lions. Susie Silook, who hosted us for an amazing stay in Gambell, on St. Lawrence Island. The trapper in Beaver, in the Interior, who we went out with on snowmachines on his trap line at 30 below and stayed overnight in a wall tent.

One of my first trips for the paper was to stay with a family who lived remotely in a one-room cabin and trapped beaver. I had forgotten about that trip until I was looking at old photos. My wife remembered because I told her when I got home that I slept on the floor underneath the beavers hanging from the rafters. Going to the fish camp of Ida and Roy Alexie along the Kuskokwim River was one of the highlights of my time at the paper.

I have had the honor to record the people events and places of Alaska for the past 34 years. Photographing sweet moments like a boy and his puppy. Moments in the political life of our state. The Exxon Valdez oil spill and personal tragedies like fires and accidents. Thank you to the people who were gracious when I showed up to photograph what was one of the worst days of their lives.

Thanks to my wife and kids, who put up with me leaving home for weeks-long assignments -- and for a whole month while covering the oil spill.

Thank you, Alaska.

Although it is probably not a complete goodbye, I will still be around making pictures and you will probably see a few in the newspaper and online. After more than 45 years of photojournalism, I am not quite ready to hang up my cameras.

[Join us in a celebration of 65 collective years of Anchorage Daily News award-winning photojournalism. Visual journalists Bob Hallinen and Erik Hill will be on hand at King Street Brewing Co., 9050 King St. in Anchorage, on Thursday, Nov. 15th from 5-8 p.m. Enjoy a beverage and join Bob and Erik as they show photos and talk about their combined 65 years of photography at the ADN.]

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