Story last updated at 8:50 PM on Wednesday, November 8, 2006

‘For the Love of Land’ exhibit highlights land trust program



BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG
STAFF WRITER

Throughout the Kenai Peninsula, since 1989 Kachemak Heritage Land Trust has acquired conservation easements and land to protect habitat and open space. From about 3.5 acres in downtown Homer to 613 acres on Kilcher Road, and from Neptune Bay to Soldotna, families and others have donated easements.



  Photo by Tom Collopy and Mary Frische
The 260-acre Krishna Venta Conservation Area at the head of Kachemak Bay is one of the conservation easements photographed by Tom Collopy and Mary Frische and featured in their exhibit.  
“For the Love of Land,” a photographic exhibit with text, opens Friday at the Pratt Museum. A reception is from 6 to 9 p.m. and coincides with KHLT’s annual meeting.

“We’ve done this to honor the individual donors who have contributed so much,” said land trust director Barb Seaman. “Those are the people we’re featuring in the show.”

The exhibit began in September 2004 when photographers Mary Frische and Tom Collopy hiked the Grewingk Glacier trail with Seaman on a land-trust sponsored trip. Seaman asked Frische and Collopy if they could take a few photographs of some of the donors and their land.

“We figured it would take 20 rolls of film and a couple of hours at each place,” Frische said.

Two years and thousands of images later, not to mention a shift from film to digital photography, the husband-and-wife team of Wild North Photography finally finished the assignment — 100 images of people and the land in the exhibit, with narratives about each donation and donor.

Some photographs took days to shoot, like trying to photograph a winter sunrise on two conservation easements on the O’Meara-Brookman homesteads off the North Fork, Anchor River.

“We’d get down with our snowshoes, cameras in our packs,” Frische said. “We must have done it four or five times, but we never got our sunrise. We met moose and many animals along the way.”

And people. Nature photographers, doing portraits was new for them.

“We’ve met marvelous people,” Frische said. “Some of the people are just wonderful. Well, all of them are.”

Many of the donors gave conservation easements, such as Toby Tyler or Yule Kilcher. Under Alaska’s Uniform Conservation Easement Act, landowners can set aside small parcels for home sites for them or their families, with the rest of the land protected for conservation purposes. Other donors, like Thomas Boblick, have donated land itself, such as the 160-acre Krishna Venta Conservation Area lived on by the members of the Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith and Love Fountain of the World — commonly known as the Barefooters.

Frische said she was glad to have two years to do the exhibit. As wildlife photographers formerly of Minnesota, they started out taking pictures of animals, but with this project have made a transition into landscapes. “For the Love of the Land” includes a half-dozen panoramic photographs composed from a series of photographs stitched together using the Photoshop computer program. A panorama of Tyler’s property is made of seven images and is 23-inches-by-84-inches — and took over a gigabyte of computer memory to process, Collopy said.

“It’s been quite the education,” he said. “We’ve learned a lot.”

KHLT has conservation programs throughout the Kenai Peninsula, Seaman said, and is working on projects in Hope and Seward — and points in between. The Kilcher homestead conservation easement was the first to be held by a land trust, and the second easement — right after a conservation donation by the late Gov. Jay Hammond of his Lake Clark homestead — in Alaska. Some conservation easements have been done in collaboration with the state or municipalities, such as on the Homer Spit with the city of Homer.

“There’s all sorts of things we’ve done where we can’t point to one specific landowner. The range is much greater than the show,” Seaman said. “We’re just really happy to have a chance to highlight these very generous, selfless people.”

Frische and Collopy’s work also can be seen at Fireweed Gallery. “For the Love of the Land” is on exhibit through Dec. 30.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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