Month: July 2014

Sunset over Seattle’s Salmon Bay

We have had an amazing string of clear, warm evenings. All of them produce scenes like the one here, as the sun sets over the distant Olympic Mountains and boat traffic quiets down near the Fishermen’s Terminal at Salmon Bay. (Click on the photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)


Grandpa’s role building an air base at the top of the world

In the early 1950s, a sheet metal worker from Detroit providing for his wife and two kids saw an advertisement for his trade to work in Greenland. He flew there, via Newfoundland, and helped to build a new U.S. air base called Thule. It was built where Inuit had traveled and traded for thousands of years, and still lived. Thule played a key rule during the Cold War as an intercontinental ballistic missile station and air station. This also was the time when the U.S. Air Force continually had nuclear-armed B-52 bombers airborne at all times. During the height of the cold war, these nuclear-armed bombers landed and one even crashed there, to the dismay of Denmark, which includes the vast island in its kingdom as a home rule territory. (I read about this story on my flight to Greenland on a Greenland Air inflight magazine.)

This is how Thule looked when my grandfather took this photo. He described being able to bowl at a bowling alley there and leaving before his contract was completed, as he missed his wife, my grandmother. He never met the locals because the U.S. military had strict prohibitions to prevent the contractors from meeting with the resident Greenlanders. At the time, they wore traditional dress, he recalled. Decades later, he gave me the slides he took.

I still would like to visit Thule one day. I never got that far north, as one still needed special permission to visit the U.S. run airbase when I visited Greenland for the first time more than 15 years ago.

Click on the photography to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.

Seattle industrial typology study

I have always been fascinated by the forms that our modern building systems display. Exhaust, air, heating, and cooling systems are about as basic systems as one finds, and they usually have a place of prominence on rooftops, unadorned and standing like metallic animals and sculptures. Bernd and Hilla Becher called these forms typologies and made a career highlighting them in their master prints and publications. Check them out if you have never heard of them. They, more than any photographers in a long while, have influenced how I see the world and how I think about the ways we construct our physical environment to suit our economic system. (Click on each photograph to see a larger photo on a separate picture page.)

Traditional Greenland kayak and kayak methods


In Greenland. the current generation of Greenlanders have rediscovered the historic kayak building, paddling, and handling techniques. The kayak, or qajaq, enabled Greenlanders to populate the entire western coastline and southeast coastline and survive, mainly by giving the hunters the ability to hunt sea mammals. These boats were all built by hand by people with no modern tools, and all from materials available from animals, bones, and driftwood. Greenlanders, like this man, practice their techniques, including flips with and without their traditional paddles. I took this in Qassaiarsuk in 2000, when there were more than a dozen paddlers showing off their finely honed skins on traditionally built kayaks. See more of my pictures of Greenland on my Greenland gallery. (Click on the photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Greenlandic Elder, Qassiarsuk


I photographed the 1,000-year anniversary of Leif Ericsson’s exploration to the New World in Greenland in 2000. The attendees included the Queen of Denmark and the President of Iceland, along with all of the prominent Greenlandic leaders, artists, and respected elders. I shot this picture of a Greenlandic elder at the celebration ceremonies that took place in the old Greenland VIking settlement of Brattahlid, today known as Qassiarsuk. That was a very memorable experience. I loved it. You can see more of my Greenland portraits on my Greenlanders gallery. (Click on the photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Cherry pickers, Washington state

Given that the fate of migrant children from Central America arriving at the United States’ southern border is now an international news story, I decided to dig up and publish some of my picture series taken in 1999, on cherry pickers and migrant workers in Washington state. The agricultural industry in Washington is staffed almost entirely by foreign-born labor to pick, harvest, and sort the many crops from cherries to apples to hops that make your local beer tasty. Some are workers who travel seasonally. Some are brought here under temporary permits, the H-2A visas. Make no mistake, the state’s economy would grind to a halt without these workers, and their work contributes to the wealth of this huge economic sector, which at last count in 2012 generated nearly $10 billion in the state.

When I took this photo, there was a housing crisis, and workers were camping on public lands, and efforts were launched to find affordable housing. These problems remain. Meanwhile, the debate over immigration and the fate of millions of undocumented workers continues. Here in Washington state, some of the workers will be authorized (they are being brought in from Jamaica, even). Others will be here without authorization. And nearly all of us who eat fruits and vegetables will be continue buying the low-cost produce picked by people why do hard work many U.S. citizens do not wish to do.

For more portrait photographs, please visit my portrait gallery on my web site. (Click on the photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

That which we call a Seattle rose


July means all of the roses are in full bloom at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo Rose Garden. This is a beautiful place, in the highly organized, English garden sort of way, with a diverse palate of roses arranged in the tidiest of beds. Lots of weddings are held here, which likely surprises no one. I came here right after an evening rain. I found the ambiance just right for appreciating these thorny plants that star-crossed lovers and clever florists deem to be essential elements in the critical matters of the heart. (Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)


The not-so Evergreen State east of the Cascades

Washington’s nickname is the Evergreen State. Well, that is for everyone who lives in the Cascades or west of them. For those in the rain shadow to the east, the climate is distinctly dry, parched, and a genuine desert ecosystem in areas. Massive irrigation, thanks to the dams built during and after the Depression era, turned a lot of the Columbia River Basin into productive agricultural areas, which grow everything from cherries to wine grapes to apples. I love the terrain. Right now, a lot of the dry hills north of where this photo was taken, near Vantage, are either on fire or at risk of fire, with the greatest fires the state has seen. This photo and others of the state’s many faces can be found on my Washington state photo gallery. (Click on the photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Harper’s Weekly’s take on how nationalities resolve disputes

Harper’s Weekly was one of the most influential publications in the United States from the Civil War through the early 1900s, influencing elections and tackling the stories of the nation with drawings that were both witty and at times over the top. This most definitely was the Internet, Twitter, and social media of its day.

This drawing is one such cartoon of thousands. This piece is racist, undoubtedly, given the examples. But then again, the United States comes out looking vicious and, well, remarkably consistent with the long view of history in mind. You can judge yourself.

A friend of mine who collected antiques had purchased and framed this, and I photographed it, mainly because of how the artist captured the way Americans, English, and French resolve their differences. Do take a look the amazingly rich archive of this publication to see how many of the toughest issues of the time were addressed, including slavery, the conquest of the West, and immigration. For example, here’s a drawing of the famous anti-Chinese riots in my home city, Seattle.

Click on the image to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.

The Ballard Locks, meeting place of tourists and salmon

The Ballard Locks, run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is one of the most popular spots for visitors and locals alike. July is a particularly great time to visit, to see migrating sockeye, and even an occasional king, swim up the fish ladders, en route to their breeding grounds upstream from Lake Washington. Even if you live here, this is a great place to visit, often. No visitor I have hosted has walked away disappointed. For the record, the official name of this site, built originally for regional flood control, is the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. (Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)