Ben Huff (b.1973) was born in LeClaire Iowa, migrated to Colorado in his 20’s and moved to Fairbanks, Alaska in 2005. He currently lives, with his wife, in Juneau.
His first monograph, The Last Road North, was published by Kehrer Verlag in 2014. He’s had solo exhibitions at the Pratt Museum, Alaska State Museum, Museum of the North and Newspace in Portland, Oregon. He was an artist-in-residence at Lightwork, in Syracuse New York, in 2014, awarded a Rasmuson Fellowship in 2016, and received Alaska Humanities Forum grants in 2015 and 2016, most recently for his ongoing work on the post-cold war military outpost on the Aleutian Island of Adak.
Atomic Island, Adak
The island of Adak, Alaska is situated half way out the Aleutian Chain. Bering Sea to the North and Pacific Ocean to the South. Closer to mainland Russia than to Anchorage.
My interest in Adak began several years ago after reading the account of the bombing of Dutch Harbor during WW2, and learning more about the Japanese occupation of Attu, the furthest west island in Alaska. I was stunned to find an island out the chain that was once home to nearly ten thousand army personal, and later the air force, and finally the navy during the Cold War as a nuclear submarine surveillance outpost.
I was born, in the Midwest, during the height of the Cold War. I’m a product of duck and cover drills, Red Dawn, War Games and the perpetual fear of the USSR. The island is a sort of time for me – at once menacing and strangely comforting. But, always a symbol of our waste and a relic of deteriorated power.
In 1997, the army left the island. In the the span of two weeks, nearly 6,000 people left the landscape. Now, 78 people live among the detritus of our military ambition.
Atomic Island, Adak is an ongoing project. My next trip to the island will be over the week of the 4th of July, where I’ll make pictures of the red white and blue, fireworks, and celebration of independence against the backdrop of an abandoned military outpost in the Westernmost city in America.
To view more of Ben’s work please visit his website.