Brian Adams’ book, I Am Alaskan, is a celebration of a state and its people. For those of us in the Lower 48, it’s an eye-opening look at a place full of beauty and diversity, one bound to defy broad characterizations. “It’s really basically me wanting to share my love for Alaska and everyone who lives here,” Adams said.
For Adams, who grew up in Girdwood, Alaska, and has lived most of his life in Anchorage, presenting an honest and realistic picture of the state is an important personal endeavor. In elementary school, Adams said, a pen pal in the continental United States wondered whether he lived in an igloo. And as the book’s description states, “[W]hen asked to visualize someone from Alaska, the image most often conjured is one of a face lost in a parka, surrounded by snow.” While there are, in fact, plenty of parkas in the book, and plenty of snow, Adams provides us with a swath of new and unexpected images to add to our visual lexicon.
I Am Alaskan, which was commissioned by Alaska Humanities Forum and published by University of Alaska Press, incorporates portraits from the course of Adams’ long and successful freelance career, as well as some new portraits taken specifically for the book. Among those portraits is a veritable who’s who of some of the state’s most well-known residents, including athletes, artists, and other newsworthy individuals. Yes, that does include Sarah Palin, whose portrait Adams has taken on a few occasions since 2008. “By the third time, it was pretty normal to drive up to her house and hang out in her living room or backyard while waiting to take her picture,” Adams said.
Thanks to a recent onslaught of reality television focused on the state, Adams said he thinks people across the country are more aware of Alaska than ever before. And while he’s not sure whether those portrayals are always the most faithful or helpful to Alaska’s image, he said he’s usually happy to see his home state get attention. “To me it’s a really unique place that is part of the United States, and I think it’s really special. I just want to share that with other people,” Adams said.