When you first meet Anchorage-based photographer Kerry Tasker its hard to reconcile his calm, collected demeanor with the vibrant, quirky images he creates. Never spotted without a hat and a flannel shirt, Tasker is a skilled photographic assassin who has a knack for capturing candid moments of jubilation. As it turns out, he’s also skilled at navigating some tricky situations.
“I graduated from the Pacific Northwest College of Art with a BFA in 2007 but it was literally the worst time to graduate. The economic bubble had just burst, and people weren’t interested in hiring green art majors,” recalls Tasker. “I ended up pretty broke, so I got a job working up on the slope in spill response for like 5 or 6 years.”
It wasn’t the high-flying editorial photographic career Tasker had envisioned but it did have one major perk—two weeks of vacation for every two weeks of work performed.
“I definitely used those breaks to do some freelance work, but I learned that I had absolutely no commercial sense,” laughs Tasker.
But as it turns out, Tasker had more business sense then he gave himself credit for. When he was offered a big shooting opportunity in Las Vegas, the savvy photographer convinced two friends to cover his shifts so he could take a full five weeks off from his work on the slope. OK, so he did eventually get caught and ended up losing his full-time lucrative job, but he also got the motivation to do what he was meant to do—be a full-time photographer.
“I just figured that if I was taking off work to do what I really loved to do then maybe it was time to switch jobs,” says Tasker.
Although Tasker is modest when he talks about his career transition, as any artist can attest, it takes a lot of guts to leave the safety of a guaranteed paycheck for the world of freelancing. In a feast-or-famine work environment littered with the remains of artists who couldn’t find a way to sustain themselves, taking the freelance leap is a bit like skydiving without knowing if your parachute will deploy.
But for Tasker, taking risks is just a part of what makes him unique.
“There’s this part of my brain that is always telling me to try something different, to try to do something more,” explains Tasker.
His latest work is just another example of him shunning the status quo.
“I’ve photographed people for a long time as part of the commercial work that I do because that’s where the money is. But I’ve always had an interest in creating strange ‘landscapey’ images. I just got really interested in glaciers and the bizarre forms that these things take,” Tasker says.
“Bizarre landscapes” only begins to vaguely describe the work in Tasker’s upcoming solo show, Cloud Chamber. Unidentified glaciers are given the celestial treatment with lighted drones, fireworks, flashlights and long exposures. The results are breathtaking images that are both familiar and fantastical.
“When people see the show, I don’t want them to focus on the location of the glaciers pictured. I want to pull away the geography—the location—of the object. I also don’t want people to focus on how the image was created but on the magic within the image,” explains Tasker. “These structures were created over thousands of years and are slowly melting away. There’s all these layers of information slowly being peeled back, and I feel like I’m trying to reveal a little part of something that hasn’t been seen before.”
Tasker would undoubtedly balk at the idea of being compared to an ever-changing glacier but as an artist who continues to evolve, it may be the most apt metaphor—just don’t tell him that.
“I could definitely go all art school in talking about my work, but I usually try and reign that in. I’m just glad this whole project worked out because originally, I was just trying stuff to see what worked,” says Tasker with a hearty laugh. “I’m just glad I had enough images to put together a show.”