By photographer James H. Barker

The following pages present a tiny fraction of the extensive body of work (largely focused on Alaska Native peoples) created by legendary Fairbanks photographer James H. Barker. Now in his mid-80s, Barker was recently honored as the Rasmuson Foundation’s 2022 Distinguished Artist, the first photographer to receive the prestigious award. His photos, reproduced here from Always Getting Ready: Upterrlainarluta: Yup’ik Eskimo Subsistence in Southwest Alaska, are the result of 18 years spent capturing the intimate moments of the people of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to give viewers a glimpse of Native life. Over those years, Barker joined his Yup’ik friends and subjects on whale hunts and trapping trips, in steam baths, and at fishcamp. Though each image represents a single, frozen instant, Barker’s work transcends the individual moment to reveal universal beauty and connection. See more of his work at jamesbarker-photography.com.

—Michelle Theall

Simeon Tulik watches Sam Anthony play Lappball. Umkumiut.
Helen, Maggie, and Shirley Wasuli picking salmonberries, Kotlik.
Marie Hoover with her niece and nephew, Samantha and Nicholas, at fishcamp.
Martina Phillip skins her husband Joe’s seal, Alakanuk.
Mary Ann Sundown (left) of Scammon Bay dances with Helen H. Smith, Katherine Bell, and Magdalene Hoelscher, all of Hooper Bay, at Cama-i (greetings) Dance Festival. Bethel.
Storm in Bethel.
Cutting and drying salmon, Black River fishcamp
Alan Hanson and Joseph Smith resetting a blackfish trap, Alakanuk.
Louise Kanrilak braiding herring with grass, Tununak.

Frances Usugan holder dried seal gut, Toksook Bay.
Edward Aguchak with Scammon Bay dancers.
Lola Evan, Peter Evan, Wassillie Evan, and David E. David from Kwethluk.
Wearing a seal gut parka, Jesse Paul from Kipnuk collects herring eggs deposited on seaweed, Nelson Island.
Byron Hunter, Elia Charlie, and Oscar Rivers, Fourth of July at Black River fishcamp.
James H. Barker at work.

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