Living life through a camera lens

Daryl Hawk Photography
International photographer Daryl Hawk is on a mission. That mission will be on display in his Distant Journeys Photography Exhibition that opens Friday evening, Sept. 7, with a reception from 6 to 7:30, at Wilton Library. The show documents Hawk’s 30-year career taking photos in countries on all seven continents.

Mining a “never-ending sense of curiosity,” Hawk told The Bulletin “my ultimate goal is to produce a body of work people will look at and see what places look like and felt like in a given point in time.”

For the show, Hawk chose 50 of his favorite images from around the world, each of which tells a story. “Each was a great adventure, maybe getting there or leaving was an adventure,” he said. “There are incredible experiences in all those photos … they may be my best work.”

Reflecting on his three-decade-long career, one of Hawk’s most memorable trips was an early one — the one that resulted in his first true documentary — a trip to Alaska with his wife Heidi in the mid-80s. “It was quite an amazing journey,” he said, as he related an incident that involved hiring a bush pilot to drop them in the wilderness. There were no cell phones then and he did not have a satellite phone.

“We had no weapons and not a lot of food. He dropped us off for a week,” Hawk said. Their intention was to camp in their tent and fish in a lake from their kayak. Not all went according to plan.

“We were in a tent with bears clawing at it on the first night,” he said. “We made a dash for the kayak.” They rethought where they would keep their food.

“We went the entire week without catching a single fish,” he said. “We were on tight rations for a week, the bears were all around us. We were down to half a sandwich each, some M&Ms, dried cereal and not a lot else.”

Nevertheless, he said, “we never felt so relaxed in our lives. We spent the week reading, sitting in the sun and waiting for the pilot” all while dreaming about a pizzeria.

A few years later, before their sons were born, the Hawks took off again together, this time in a Volkswagen Vanagon with their golden retriever Chelsea. They drove back roads from Nebraska to the Dakotas, and Montana to British Columbia, crossing into Alaska, the Yukon, and across the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories of Canada.

“Our goal was to drive to the end of the northernmost road, to Inuvik,” he said. The trip took six weeks, allowing them only two weeks to get home. All the while he ran his photography studio business from pay phones along the way.

Not much has changed in the way Hawk travels. Yes, he has switched from shooting film to digital thus lightening his load considerably and speeding his time spent on airport security lines. But he still travels without a cell phone or a laptop and he immerses himself totally in the landscapes and local populations of the places he visits.

He needs “a break from technology,” he said, and getting away for three weeks like that “is a blessing. … it’s good for the soul.”

Just because Hawk has not changed his habits much does not mean the rest of the world hasn’t and that’s one of the biggest changes he’s seen. Cell phones are ubiquitous, he said, even in the most remote places like the Amazon.

“I was with a tribe in Ecuador and the guide was dressed like it was the early 1900s, but he had access to a cell phone,” Hawk said. “You are not really cut off from the world. When you are in a really remote area and you see someone on a cell phone, it’s not really that isolated. That’s a huge change.”

One thing Hawk is hesitant to do is revisit a place he’s already been. “My fear is places have changed and I’m setting myself up for a letdown,” he said. Besides, there are too many places yet to visit including Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, Africa, and many places in Europe.

Visitors to Hawk’s show will be able to view images — mostly landscapes although some portraits as well — from North, Central and South America, Cuba, Patagonia, the Arctic, Antarctica, India, Ladakh, Bhutan, and New Zealand. All will be for sale, as well as copies of his book Distant Journeys.

The Bulletin is the media sponsor for the show, which will be on display through Oct. 5. The reception is free and open to the community. Information: or 203-762-3950.