Deep in the heart of Alaska is a 200 resident strong town called Whittier, accessible only via a 2.6 mile long tunnel which runs through the neighbouring mountain, and which closes at nighttime. This leaves Whittier incredibly isolated overnight, even more so due to the fact that almost all of the town’s inhabitants live on top of one another in a 14 storey condominium.
Sound foreboding? It is a bit, so naturally it was the choice of subject of Jen Kinney, a photographer and writer currently living and working in Whitter. She explains: “It is a vertical town, with walls so thin the missionary can listen in on the bartender next door. Those who don’t live in the tower—in winter, fewer than 40—live in another condominium just above the railroad tracks, in their boats or trailers, or in hotel rooms in the Anchor Inn. ‘A lot of people don’t stay here because they think it feels like prison,’ one resident told me. ‘I just laugh. I tell everybody, We all live in the same house, we just have separate bedrooms.’”
The resulting images reflect exactly this strange warmth that’s shared by the residents, the proximity within which individuals live to one another counteracting the relative isolation of the town. Affection between friends and the ghostly landscape both play a part too, but the thread pulling the series together remains an ineffable yet incredibly potent sense of connection with the subjects. This is documentary photography at its very finest.
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