On self-sufficiency, heritage and returning to our roots.
PHOTOS Camrin Dengel
Camrin grew up in rural Alaska, where she first fell in love with storytelling. As a lifestylephotographer in Teton Valley, Idaho, her work often focuses on the theme of self-sufficiency,heritage, and returning to our roots. With an educational background in natural resources/environmental science, her projects regularly overlap with her values in sustainability. She has a love for slow food, minimalism, and cattle dogs.
What sparked your interest in photography?
My parents gave me my first camera when I was in elementary school. It looked like a disposable camera (without the disposable part). That’s where I started. I’ve always been interested in journalism, but it wasn’t until I was in college that I started to explore photography and its potential to intertwine with my studies on the environment. I took a photojournalism class, then some film and digital courses, and then everything just started to snowball into something I saw myself able to make a living at.
My original hope was that I’d find a path in environmental photojournalism. I now find myself exploring culture, food, themes of the American west, and craftsmanship, along with my forever pull toward humans and their interaction with the natural world.
What would you like people to know more about Alaska, your home state?
It isn’t as intimidating as it might seem.
You’ve photographed ranchers, farmers, artisans, and various people who are deeply connected to nature. What do you seek to capture in them?
Honesty. I’m always looking to tell a real story, the way it unfolds in front of me, the way the light falls on someone’s face, the stains on their jacket or the way their hands have weathered through daily use. I always find sparks of passion, a sense of humility and pride in folks who fall into the fold of ranchers, farmers, and artisans. I love that about people who know how to work hard.
Which specific story still sticks with you?
Lately I’ve been particularly struck by the families that are passing on their livelihood or craft to the next generation. I photographed a farmer here in Teton Valley whose family has been farming this land for over a century. He has recently changed from planting traditional crops, like potatoes and barley, to trendier crops, like quinoa. To take your heritage and be able to adapt it effectively to the modern social and physical landscape takes innovation and courage.
Do you find it difficult to maintain your authenticity when posting your work on Instagram?
Staying authentic doesn’t seem like much of a concern when I’m documenting the stories of other people or organic scenes I come across. While it is about the view through my personal lens, it’s also equally, if not more, about the genuine people and places in front of it. To me that feels as honest as it gets.
Are you involved in any specific cause or social initiative that you would like to tell us more about?
I strive to be a conscious consumer. I really believe in voting with your dollar. So, I spend a fair amount of time looking into where products are made, if they’re ethically sourced and what types of packaging are used. It’s a real challenge in today’s society in the United States. But, I have discovered so many neat companies making strong efforts and have found momentum for my own practices through their work.
Name 3 Instagram accounts that inspire you.
Forest is one of my favorite storytellers. His images often have undertones of urgency and importance, while still maintaining a balance with a lighter sense of humor in the work he shares.
These simple, candid iPhone shots of western gentleman makes me smile. You know the type.
Jenna shares an extremely honest view of her world as a mother of five on a farm in Canada. Her photos are full of emotions, from elation to sadness. Her work reminds me of a softer Sally Mann’s. I find her documentary work so inspiring.
Where to find Camrin Dengel: