How do you move through a place that is roadless, shaped by countless versions of the Alaskan rainforest itself: fallen giants, steep set stream beds, and soggy muskegs? What kind of steps do you take in a clear cut, a landscape of instant destruction, the chaos of logs crisscrossed many stories high, unstable and sinking into the mud? What about a young dense forest, dark, sharp and brittle branches holding you back at every step? How do your movements and therefore your body change based on these shifting environments?
Walking is a creative act, a place to express yourself through steps and respond to the messages inside the landscape. You cannot record it and play it back. Like breathing it is hard to appreciate until it’s too late.
On our journey this was by far the most challenging experience to capture on camera. Elsa and Mara call it ground truthing: bearing witness to a landscape. Being in a place, listening, directly experiencing places we cannot easily access. Our technology felt clunky and awkward but I’m grateful for our images none the less. Elsa, Mara, and Natalie moved hundreds of miles like this getting to know the place intimately. Their movements were a language that impacted the forest and reciprocally the forest marked their bodies. The forest remembers through broken spruce branches, footprints in the mosses, a rock rolling down a steep ravine. They remember in their muscles, in a scrape turned to scar, in an ache, ultimately translated all into the language to protect these sacred places.
Words and images by: Gleb Mikhalev