ANCHORAGE EXHIBIT HIGHLIGHTS ‘UNSEEN’ EXPLOITS OF COMBAT MEDICS

alaska public media

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An exhibit opening Friday, July 7th, at an Anchorage art gallery takes a look at a reality most of us hope to avoid — the world of combat medics. The photographs feature Alaska National Guard members jumping out of aircraft, training exercises for recovering casualties in combat zones, as well as for Search and Rescue missions state-side.

Ahead of it’s opening, photographer Joe Yelverton is putting the finishing touches on the show, which is titled “Unseen.” On the white gallery walls are 33 large-format images of soldiers rigging parachutes, trudging along mountain tops, and leaping out of helicopters looking as calm as if they were ordering lunch.

“They are strangely at ease in situations that would make an ordinary person just freak out,” Yelverton said.

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THE UNSEEN – ‘SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE’ DRIVES ALASKAN PARARESCUERS — WHO SEE THEMSELVES AS ANYTHING BUT HEROES

anchorage press

Unseen is an environmental portrait of the Alaska Air National Guard Rescue Squadron, a group of enigmatic individuals highly skilled at standing in harms way. The opening for Unseen will be Friday July 7 (5-9 p.m.) at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art. Address 427 D St, Anchorage, 99501


"Wearing body-armor and a helmet, I observed intensely dramatic combat rescue simulations that involved a variety of powerful weapons and live ammunition.

On another missions we flew to high altitudes in helicopters to practice landing in mountainous and highly glaciated areas, where I experienced the limitations of an amazing helicopter in an extreme environment."

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IN THE CROSSHAIRS WITH ROGER SPARKS

anchorage press

"Smoke rises from a bundle of burning sage, wafting towards the ceiling like a curious ghost. The earthy ambrosia is an introduction into the unorthodox ways of a complex artist, working in his studio. The tangy smoke puts him at ease. It sets the stage.

In the background is a bluesy voice on the stereo, William Elliott Whitmore singing “Who Stole the Soul.” It's a fitting song that complements a more immediate sound in the foreground. An enigmatic, electric buzz emanates from a primitive looking, hand-held machine no bigger than a deck of cards.

A tattoo machine."

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THE ANONYMOUS SAMURAI

forum magazine

DUTY BOUND is a new initiative of the Alaska Humanities Forum. It draws on the power of the humanities to support deepened understanding of the experiences of Americans affiliated with the armed services, whether active-duty, reserve, National Guard, retirees, or veterans. Projects supported by the Forum in the spirit of Duty Bound include Unseen, an ongoing series of portraits of the men and women of the Alaska Air National Guard Rescue Unit, created by Alaska writer and photographer Joe Yelverton. 

Anonymous Samurai and the accompanying photographs resulted from time Yelverton spent with Alaska Air National Guard pararescue jumper Roger Sparks, who received the Silver Star for conspicuous valor in combat for his actions during a battle in Afghanistan in November 2010. 
“Most military rescuers are intrinsically private about their work,” states Yelverton. “One of the unspoken doctrines of rescue work is that a rescuer isn’t a hero when they save people’s lives; in essence, they are professionals who are just doing their jobs. Hollywood and popular culture have created a skewed perspective of military rescue and the special forces in general. In order to build trust with individuals who are innately distrustful of media, the first step is having genuine interest in their lives, their well-being, and what’s important to them outside of their professional life.”

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ART BEAT: EXHIBIT FOCUSES ON SILVER STAR PARARESCUE JUMPER WHO BECAME TATTOO ARTIST

alaska dispatch news

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We have previously reported at length on Alaska Air Guard pararescue jumper Roger Sparks for his action under fire in Afghanistan, the Silver Star he received for those actions and any number of daring rescues in Alaska. Previous dispatches have noted his increasing interest in tattooing and work as an emerging tattoo artist.

Local photographer Joe Yelverton has been taking photos of Sparks as he inks clients for the past year, during which he's noticed "a compelling story emerge about adaptation."

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