Life in Alaska

The Last Frontier

Story and Media by
Brice Portolano
Media by
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Written by
Brice Portolano

While a consumerism race drives the lives of millions of Americans, some choose to stay away from a life they consider absurd and meaningless. Disturbed by the values and the hyper-stimulating modern world, they choose to live their life differently, away from the city and closer to nature. Today, more than 750,000 people in the USA have made the choice to live off-the-grid, in self-sufficiency.

Jerry is one of them. A former real-estate agent from Michigan, he now lives with his wife in Alaska, the least densely populated state in the U.S. (1.6 people/square mile). Burned out and feeling a great need to reconnect with nature, he left the Great Lakes region to settle on the remote Island of Prince of Wales, and live in a float-house with no running water ­or electricity. Pristine and fertile, the wilderness surrounds him. Jerry often hears the wolves howling at night, and during the day he can see whales breaching out of the water and bears coming out of the woods.

At age 58, he makes a living from the oysters he farms and he works hard whatever the weather. Following the tides, Jerry’s work consists of lifting nets filled with oysters, sort­ing them with care and putting some back into the water so they can grow from the nu­trients of the ocean. Mobile phones are useless on Prince of Wales as there is no signal, and news from the outside world gets here online through a slow satellite connection. The lifestyle is very basic and after three years of complete isolation, Jerry finally received authorization from the government to install a satellite dish to get television.

Ketchikan, the nearest town (population 8050) is an hour and a half away by floatplane. Jerry gets there a few times a year to buy food and enjoy modern comforts, take a real shower and go to a buffet, but he doesn’t stay long: too much noise, too many people.

Jerry’s philosophy brought him to make choices that, today, he doesn’t regret for anything in the world: “I left a life of absurdity to be free, work for myself and live in the wilderness. People think I’m lucky, but anyone could come to live here; you just have to be ready to do the work it takes to stay.”

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The Last Frontier

Life in Alaska

Author

Brice Portolano

Brice Portolano is a French photographer based in Paris, France. His work focuses on the relationship between man and nature through documentary photography and adventures in the wilderness. He studied photography at Les Gobelins in Paris.


In 2015 he started a long-term documentary project named “No Signal” that focuses on people who have moved from a classic urban life to a simpler life, closer to nature. A book on this project will be published in November 2020.

While a consumerism race drives the lives of millions of Americans, some choose to stay away from a life they consider absurd and meaningless. Disturbed by the values and the hyper-stimulating modern world, they choose to live their life differently, away from the city and closer to nature. Today, more than 750,000 people in the USA have made the choice to live off-the-grid, in self-sufficiency.

Jerry is one of them. A former real-estate agent from Michigan, he now lives with his wife in Alaska, the least densely populated state in the U.S. (1.6 people/square mile). Burned out and feeling a great need to reconnect with nature, he left the Great Lakes region to settle on the remote Island of Prince of Wales, and live in a float-house with no running water ­or electricity. Pristine and fertile, the wilderness surrounds him. Jerry often hears the wolves howling at night, and during the day he can see whales breaching out of the water and bears coming out of the woods.

At age 58, he makes a living from the oysters he farms and he works hard whatever the weather. Following the tides, Jerry’s work consists of lifting nets filled with oysters, sort­ing them with care and putting some back into the water so they can grow from the nu­trients of the ocean. Mobile phones are useless on Prince of Wales as there is no signal, and news from the outside world gets here online through a slow satellite connection. The lifestyle is very basic and after three years of complete isolation, Jerry finally received authorization from the government to install a satellite dish to get television.

Ketchikan, the nearest town (population 8050) is an hour and a half away by floatplane. Jerry gets there a few times a year to buy food and enjoy modern comforts, take a real shower and go to a buffet, but he doesn’t stay long: too much noise, too many people.

Jerry’s philosophy brought him to make choices that, today, he doesn’t regret for anything in the world: “I left a life of absurdity to be free, work for myself and live in the wilderness. People think I’m lucky, but anyone could come to live here; you just have to be ready to do the work it takes to stay.”

No items found.

Author

Brice Portolano

Author & Media

Brice Portolano

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