An Artist in the Arctic

New Horizon Book 3 (Heisei 24) pg. 84-89

One photograph changed Hoshino Michio's life. He was a university student, and one day he was looking at a book about Alaska. A photograph in the book caught his attention. It was a photograph of a small village surrounded by wilderness. Michio wanted to visit and experience that place for himself. He wrote a letter to the mayor of the village. It took six months, but the mayor wrote back. He invited Michio to Alaska, and Michio's dream came true.

For one summer, Michio lived among the Inuit people in that Alaskan village. He learned about Inuit food, family life, and culture. He also learned skills for living without city conveniences. For the Inuit, life depends on understanding nature. They have to hunt for meat and gather blueberries for food. Michio saw how humans and animals shared the land. That summer, he became a part of the Alaskan wilderness, too.

After Michio finished university in Japan, he returned to Alaska. For 19 years, he traveled around Alaska as a photographer. He often camped in severe weather to photograph animals in the wild. Michio really used the survival skills the Inuit taught him. Once he wrote about flying to the tundra to photograph caribou. He stayed there alone for one month. As the plane left him, Michio felt lonely in a vast wilderness. But even more, he felt incredibly free.

Michio tried to show this feeling of freedom and wonder in his photographs. He took playful photographs of polar bears and majestic photographs of Arctic mountains.
In 1996, he was killed by a bear as he camped alone in Kamchatka. "We only have one life to live," wrote Michio. Though his life was cut short, Michio seemed truly happy as a photographer. He loved his work and he loved Alaska.

In Michio's photographs, the beauty of Alaska will stay with us forever. That is the magic of photographs. However, the Alaskan wilderness is changing because of global warming. The Arctic glaciers are melting. The polar bears and seals photographed by Michio cannot hunt and catch food. The habitat of the caribou is growing smaller. Even the Inuit are losing their traditional way of life.

The Alaskan wilderness was special to Michio. He used his photographs to share it with us, and to show us the importance of life on the Earth. Michio's own life was changed because of one photograph. Perhaps his photographs will also change someone's life. Maybe Michio's Alaskan photographs will encourage us to think about the beautiful Earth we share.

Official translation

Taken from the New Horizon's teachers manual.







See also