Photography by Spencer James
My name is Spencer James and I’m a third year medical student here at Geisel. I was born in Juneau, Alaska, and grew up in the small town of Port Angeles in the northwest corner of Washington. My love for photography was first sparked by my experiences traveling as an undergraduate at the University of Washington. At that time, photography for me was a means to document and share my experiences traveling and adventuring with my friends and family back home. While this is still at the core of many of my photos, I have grown to appreciate how photography also allows me to become more mindful and appreciative of my surroundings. It may sound paradoxical, but I find that looking through the aperture of a camera helps me tune into subtle patterns, colors, changes in light, shadows, and people and their expressions. More recently, I have started to explore the role of photography in humanitarian and global health work, which is one of my professional aspirations as a medical student. Prior to starting medical school, I also completed a masters thesis on statistical techniques applied to medical diagnoses. As a photographer, medical student, and researcher, I have frequently considered how these different worlds can each play a meaningful role in advancing human health.
Much of my inspiration in photography comes from those journalists and photographers who focus their work on humanitarian and environmental issues. It has been an incredible experience at Dartmouth to meet Steve McCurry and James Nachtwey and see their work firsthand since they have photographed some of the most pivotal and pressing wars, disasters, social, and humanitarian issues of the 20th-21st centuries. Reading about the work of W Eugene Smith on Minamata disease has similarly inspired me by showing how photography can play a powerful role in bringing awareness and action to medical and humanitarian crises. While I will continue to love photography just for the sake of photography, I hope that one day my passion for taking photos can also help to positively impact the people and populations that I will be serving as a future doctor.
My photography exhibit here is focused on exploring the Pacific Northwest. Similar to the Upper Valley, it is a beautiful area of the world that inspires adventure and rewards exploration. Often when I say I am from Seattle, people ask me about Starbucks, the rainy weather, Kurt Cobain, or more recently Twilight. My Pacific Northwest, though, has always been more defined by the rugged, inhospitable beauty of the towering coastal rainforests, glaciated peaks, and incredible wildlife. Growing up on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, I felt very lucky to have rivers, mountains, and oceans in my backyard, and these areas ultimately became my playground for exploration, adventure, and photography. I love sharing these areas with others, so for this exhibit, I chose a collection of photos from the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, and Alaska that I made over the past few years. The exhibit includes places such as Mount Olympus and Mount Rainier, dolphins in the Pacific Ocean, the Pika Glacier in the Alaska Range, and century-old mortuary poles in a deserted Haida village in Haida Gwaii (previously known as the Queen Charlotte Islands). As a nod to the environmental challenges that also define much of Pacific Northwest history, I also include photographs of a freighter loaded with recently-logged timber in a winter snowstorm and a tugboat dragging freight through the Inside Passage. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about any of the photos or the Pacific Northwest, and I hope that you will enjoy what I have shared here.