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Photography group captures life on the Kenai Peninsula in new exhibit

Hunter Morrison

The Kenai Camera and Coffee photography group is currently displaying its first public art installation at Kenai River Brewing Company in Soldotna. The exhibit centers around the question: what inspires you about your life on the Kenai Peninsula?

“That could mean many different things to a lot of us; what we do with our families, what we look forward to seasonally or every day, what gets us through the harsh times and the really exciting times of living down here,” said Colette Gilmour, photographer and founding member of the Kenai Camera and Coffee group. “All of our pieces reflect that, and every artist wrote an artist statement answering their question.”

The installation features twenty photographs from eight central Peninsula-based photographers. For a few of the featured artists, this is the first time they’ve had work on display in a gallery.

Upon walking into the brewery, onlookers will recognize the various landscapes and scenes that make the Kenai Peninsula so unique. On display are photographs of the Kenai River Estuary in the winter, Mt. Iliamna in the summer, and a caribou resting in the grass, among others.

“There is incredible beauty out there, and sometimes it's in the simple things,” said Irene Howdek, a member of the group whose work is on view in the gallery.

What started as a passive hobby while backpacking in the early 1980s has since turned into a passion Howdek regularly pursues. With a focus in nature photography, she has two pieces on display in the exhibit.

“The one piece is some fall leaves with a really cool hoarfrost on it,” Howdek said. “I [also] have the beach down on Land’s End where the emphasis was on the rocks, and it's late evening lights so the rocks are lit up really cool.”

Kimberly Sparacio
Hunter Morrison
Kimberly Sparacio

Hanging adjacent to Howdek’s work, Kimberly Sparacio’s photographs focus on the fishing scene of the peninsula. Sparacio and her husband, a fishing guide, moved to the area from Northern California in 2016.

“It’s pretty much our culture,” Sparacio said. “We fish every year, harvest fish, and it kind of just brings our family together. I thought both of these pieces would really explain my life and story, I guess.”

One of her pieces highlights a fly rod placed next to a line of sockeye salmon. Sparacio hopes that onlookers, specifically fishers, resonate with her two photographs.

“A lot of local people will enjoy it, they’ll see a lot of their own lives in it, so I really hope they enjoy that” she said.

Kenai Camera and Coffee was formed in 2019 and is open to photographers of all ages in and around the Kenai Peninsula. Although this is the group’s first public showing, they hope to exhibit more of their work at other venues in the future.

“It’s always interesting to look at the world through other people’s eyes,” said Ben Wishneck, a member of the group whose work is on display in the gallery. “When you can do that through photos, it’s a unique opportunity.”

“Alaskans, we’re off doing our own things in the winter and in the summer, but we all share similar values and why we live here,” Gilmour added. “Knowing that we all come from different backgrounds and different cultures, we all wake up and fill our lives with different things, to ultimately do the same thing; to enjoy our life and take part in what the Kenai Peninsula has to offer.”

The installation will be on display at the brewing company throughout the month of September.

Hunter Morrison is a news reporter at KDLL
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