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Photographer gives ubiquitous boots the Alaska icon treatment

  • Author:
  • Updated: May 31, 2016
  • Published December 7, 2010

When Juneau author-photographer Larry Johansen was looking to write about the Alaska lifestyle, he wanted to get beyond scenery, he told Sitka radio station KCAW. He settled on footwear -- but not just any footwear. He celebrates a Bush "fashion" icon in his new book, "XTRATUF: An Alaskan Way of Life."

Johansen is convinced that Xtratufs are more about relationships than style. ...

"When people travel they're interested in learning about culture and about why people live the way they do. And it came to me: How do I tell that story? And the one ubiquitous, unifying footwear that's innocent, but defines people in a way that words cannot, is the Xtratuf boot."

Johansen worked for Cruise West for 25 years until the sudden shutdown of that company this fall. He did interpretive training for guides, and photography was just a hobby. But Xtratufs proved to be such a great icebreaker that a book -- and possibly a new career -- was launched.

The Juneau Empire reports that the book "combines photos and text, and includes both personal profiles and more general observations. From brides to senators, wildlife biologists to construction workers, Johansen's subjects fill out the definition of the area's residents, expanding it in many directions at once."

The Ketchikan-born Johansen told the Empire he originally planned to document Alaska's broader "Xtratuf nation" but never ventured beyond Southeast.