Home > Trip > Dispatches > Local Dispatches > Local Dispatch #54

January 29, 2012: Cross Even a Shallow River Deeply

Yesterday Pete and I went to Anchorage in order to check out the photo exhibit on Michio Hoshino’s work. Michio was a Japanese born photographer who specialized in wildlife photography. Pete and I met him when we lived in Fairbanks. He was a very good friend of our friend Bill Fuller, who died in 2007. Michio was quiet, quick to smile, and very observant. He died in August, 1996, was out taking photos on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Eastern Russia. He was mauled to death by a bear.

There were only a handful of photos in the exhibit. The one up at the University

NIMBY is a chicken who eats her eggs
NIMBY is a chicken who eats her eggs

of Alaska Fairbanks museum is far more extensive. However, I did very much enjoy looking at the few on hand. In part, this exhibit was put up to promote the upcoming Perseverance Theatre production “The Blue Bear,” which will be running from February 10-18. This is based on a book with the same title. Lynn Schooler is the author.

The photos: one was of a polar bear, taken from a higher point, walking towards a horizon line. Another was of caribou, many caribou, running, legs blurred to emphasize speed. Another was of an owl, wings outspread, a lemming in its mouth. I was as much taken by the titles of the works as by the photos themselves. The caribou photo was entitled “Tormenting Insects can cause caribou to stampede—The Brooks Range.” And one, which was a night photo of his winter camp, was entitled “The Aurora Dances over my Winter Camp—The Alaska Range.

These titles – they were informational, descriptive, and very much to the point. Here we have (in a more traditional form) the juxtaposition of image and words.

By way of introduction to Schooler’s book and play, the introductory paragraph about Michio and his work mentioned that when he was a teenager, he wrote (in Japanese) in his journal “Cross Even a Shallow River Deeply.” I am not going to elaborate on what I think this means, but leave this up to each individual to determine. Seems like the best thing to do.

I saw a short clip of the play – dunno if I want to go and see it. The video featured a man reading a book or journal, and a Japanese fellow dressed like Michio. He was wearing a winter hat, and a thick wool sweater. He was not Michio, and this bothered me. It just didn’t ring true. The character’s gestures were not like those of Michio’s. While Michio had considerable energy, he did jump around. It might have been better to have photos of Michio in the background, as he was reading. Or if there were clips, show them.

I read Kim Heathcox’s Only Kayak a few years ago. This was a moving account of his friendship with Michio. I have not yet read Schooler’s book, but will do so soon. I will be a cautious reader, for I have my reservations about writing books about people like Michio. It’s far too easy to take other’s lives out of context, and in this way distort character, making them cult figures. But on the other hand, this is an instance in which art begets art. In this case, photography has inspired writing and drama.

Seeing this small exhibit gave me a great deal to think about. I would like to go to more exhibits, photo and art included.

Next: 55. 1/30/12: A Walk Around the Loop with Tinni