Mark Kelley wins major award for photo book

Award-winning book written, edited and designed by present and past Juneau residents

Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2001

Juneau photographer Mark Kelley recently took home the Oscar of the publishing world.

Kelley, a photographer known for his yearly calendars of Juneau and Southeast and several photo books, was awarded the 2001 Benjamin Franklin Award in the travel-essay category for the coffee-table book, "Glacier Bay National Park."

"There's no movie stars or rock stars associated with it, so no one's ever heard of the award," Kelley said with a laugh. "(But) in the book publishing world this is the highest (honor)."

The Benjamin Franklin awards honor total book design.

"It's not for the photos. It's not for the writing. It's not for the design," Kelley said. "It's for the whole package."

A number of Juneau residents - past and present - collaborated on "Glacier Bay." Sherry Simpson, a journalism teacher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and former Juneauite, wrote the essays, while Larry Persily, former managing editor of the Juneau Empire, served as text editor. Juneau graphic artist Laura Lucas designed the book.

"She's a wonderful graphic designer," Kelley said. "It's really something - I come in there with 200 pictures and say, 'Here, make a book.' She comes back three weeks later with a book and I look at it and go, 'Wow.'"

Lucas said the "Glacier Bay" project moved smoothly.

"Mark had a very clear picture of what he wanted," she said. "I can honestly say, unlike a lot of projects I've worked on, the book flowed together pretty easily."

Kelley's book "Alaska's Ocean Highways" was once a finalist in the Benjamin Franklin Awards. That book focused on Alaska's ferry system, and was published by Epicenter Press in Seattle. As publishers, they were responsible for entering it in the contest.

Kelley published "Glacier Bay" himself, with some financial assistance from Goldbelt, Juneau's urban Native corporation. The book includes a wide range of photographs, some dating back to a 1980 expedition Kelley took with Joel Bennett, a local wildlife filmmaker.

"We just drifted around in a Zodiac in the icefield for four or five days," Kelley said. "They don't let you do that anymore."

Kelley took most of the photos over a span of 11 weeks in 1998 and 1999. "Glacier Bay" was published in the spring of 2000. It hasn't turned a profit yet, but Kelley hopes the second selling season will change that.

"If my sales are as good this year as last year ... I'll start making money this year," Kelley said. "It was a very expensive project."

The prestige of the awards may also help boost sales. The gold seal of recognition is already fixed to the cover of "Glacier Bay."

"There's no monetary award," Kelley said. "It's mostly the privilege of having the award."

Unfortunately, the prize itself is in Korea, where Kelley has the books printed. He was unable to make it to the recent ceremony in Chicago, and his printers accepted the award on his behalf.

"I think it's some sort of Benjamin Franklin head or something," Kelley said. "They took it back to Korea with them. I'm sure they're sending it to me, but mail's slow."

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