Photographer Eirik Johnson's Barrow Cabins Captures Modest Dwellings

Eirik Johnson’s photos reveal the human nesting instinct
Brangien Davis  |   December 2013   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
A remote Alaskan cabin photographed in winter. See the same cabin in summertime at G. Gibson Gallery

Seattle-based photographer Eirik Johnson is captivated by the most modest of dwellings: makeshift hunting shacks, remote forest campsites, animal burrows. In his show Barrow Cabins, he reveals such structures in stark relief, pairing twin shots—one taken in winter, one taken in summer—of slapdash shanties at the northernmost edge of our continent. Built by members of Alaska’s Iñupiat tribe, who use them as hunting cabins (walrus and whales in winter, caribou and seals in summer), the ramshackle plywood abodes sit on black gravel expanses abutting the Arctic Ocean. Johnson (eirikjohnson.com) says the paired images serve as “a meditation on the passage of time.” They also reveal the small comforts people have brought to this landscape, desolate in all seasons. A basketball net, a recliner, a ragged set of curtains and, most striking of all, swing sets and trikes, plastic playhouses and a skateboard ramp—all speak to the irrepressible human impulse to make natural places our own. 11/29–1/11/14. Times vary. Free. G. Gibson Gallery, 300 S Washington St.; 206.587.4033; ggibsongallery.com