Anchorage Press

In the Crosshairs with Roger Sparks

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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Forum Magazine

the anonymous samurai

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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Alaska Dispatch News

Art Beat: Exhibit focuses on Silver Star pararescue jumper who became tattoo artist

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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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