With his current Gallery ABBA exhibition, Alaska, Jesse Wiles shares the story behind his Field Experience in Glacier Bay National Park. Walking in the footsteps of ecologist William Cooper, who conducted studies of plant succession in the park starting in 1916, Jesse hoped to capture evidence of shifts in Glacier Bay’s landscape over many years . . .
His photographic journey drew evidence of an even greater change than he could have ever imagined.
My original idea for the project was to photo document a few ecologically diverse areas in Glacier Bay National Park that have only been photographed one or two times before by an ecologist from University of Minnesota named William Cooper. However, the points of interest were too difficult to get to due to rapid ice melt and the introduction of new forests. Instead, I focused on capturing the enormity of the landscape, the plethora of textures ranging from glacial ice to rocky beaches, and the emerging landscape that is developing due to anthropogenic climate change.
Because the scale of the glaciers and mountains is so vast, the camera doesn’t always do justice to the landscape. I wanted to capture both the environmental changes happening in Alaska and also the many textures of the landscape. Alaska is more than just snow and ice. Most people are surprised to see that it’s also a temperate rain forest.
While curating my exhibition, being responsible for the way people viewed my experience and attempting to portray my thoughts and emotions was both easier and more challenging than I had anticipated. Picking out photos was the toughest part, in the end I chose a few photos that I hadn’t thought about since I took them and they ended up being a lot of people favorite photos (the picture of the oyster catcher for example). What came a lot easier than I expected was how easy it was to get across how vast and untamed the landscape is and how miniature it makes people feel and look. All in all it was a great experience and a perfect ending to my Field Experience Grant.