Northern exposures: A 20-year retrospective of Juneau Empire photographer Brian Wallace

Posted: Sunday, August 04, 2002

Twenty years ago former Juneau Empire managing editor Carl Sampson hired me as a photographer. I'm grateful for the chance he gave me and still think he is one of the best of bosses despite the fact he thinks The Captain and Tennille are the end-all in music. My mentors have been many. Mainly former Empire photographer Mark Kelley. One of the first things he said to me the day I was hired was "You don't focus sharp enough. We have to work on that."

Thank goodness for auto-focus.

Things seemed simple then. Take the photo, rush back to the darkroom, process film and make prints all on deadline. Now it is the digital age. I can take a photo and have it ready for publishing in seconds. If you asked me what a megabyte was back in 1982 I probably would have answered that's what I do when I eat a Mama's Burrito at El Sombrero.

I used to have a killer stereo system in the darkroom and every few days the boss would pound on the door and tell me to turn my music down, kind of like the way my parents used to do at home. Nothing like rocking out to Van Morrison to help your attitude on deadline. I remembered the time I was processing film and instead of grabbing my Dr. Pepper I picked up the film developing tank and took a giant drink of Kodak D-76 film developer. Definitely not fit for human consumption. The rest of the day was downhill after that.

Twenty years! Two decades, two different centuries, two different millennia, 23 Van Morrison CDs. If you put all the film end-to-end I shot for the Empire over the years it might reach Ashtabula, Ohio. Here are just a few images from the past 20 years.

I've seen many tragedies and triumphs over the years as an Empire photographer. Fortunately there have been more happy occasions than sad.

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