Photographer captures facets of Cordova life

Solo photography exhibition by photographer Chelsea Tracy opens tonight at the Cordova Historical Museum – reception from 5-6:30 p.m.

Photographer Chelsea Tracy and her 2-year-old son, Isaac, spent an afternoon in the sunshine together while Tracy photographed boats in the Cordova harbor.Photo by Darien Sorenson/For The Cordova Times

A solo photography exhibition, “Cordova: Tides and Seasons,” by Chelsea Tracy, opens Friday, August 5, at the Cordova Historical Museum. The opening reception is from 5-6:30 p.m., and is open to the public.

All 20 pieces in the exhibition feature Cordova, as captured through Tracy’s eyes.
“There was no option as to having the pieces be from somewhere else,” Tracy said. “There’s no end of inspiration here – the variations in weather, topography, flora and fauna. There is always a new way to see what surrounds us. We’ve loved being in remote Alaska, living in an area and among people whose lives and livelihoods are very tied to the land and water. It seemed only right that the exhibit is about Cordova.”

Tracy wanted to find a way to portray all facets of the area, from the mountains and oceans, to fishing and marine vessels, to wildlife, she said.

“I tried to portray something from the different aspects of Cordova life,” she said. “For example, dependence upon the ocean for lives and livelihood, the different seasons which we experience and the beauty that is found therein, wildlife from small to large, and the spirit of the hiking and beauty in the mountains which is all around us.”

Photographer Chelsea Tracy says she has quite a few new surprises in store for folks coming to see her work at the exhibition. The exhibition runs August 5-27 at the Cordova Historical Museum. Photo by Chelsea Tracy Photography/For The Times
Photographer Chelsea Tracy says she has quite a few new surprises in store for folks coming to see her work at the exhibition. The exhibition runs August 5-27 at the Cordova Historical Museum.
Photo by Chelsea Tracy Photography/For The Times

Tracy was a hobbyist photographer for as long as she can remember, she said, but she began to seriously pursue an education in photography in 2012, when she and her husband, Jay Tracy, were stationed in Kodiak with the U.S. Coast Guard. It was then that Tracy began studying with notable photographers in-person and online.

The family transferred to Cordova two years ago, and Tracy has spent the majority of their time in Cordova pursuing her photography passion, accompanied by her 2-year-old son, Isaac. When Isaac was younger, he was often found strapped to his mom’s chest or in a backpack, going on every shoot with his shutterbug mother. To this day, he’s still Tracy’s favorite assistant, she said.

“During our time in Cordova,” Tracy said, “I have averaged about 10 hours a week in live, online workshops, and training with some of the best photographers in the world, such as Thomas Mangelsen, Pye Jirsa, Lindsay Adler and Art Wolfe.”

Tracy’s concept in her photography is honesty. She believes it is important to convey each subject’s story through her work with integrity.

“How we see the world is a mirror of how we see ourselves,” Tracy said. “I choose to see truth and beauty. As a result, in my photography, I desire to portray the truth in a beautiful way. I want my photography to be accurate to life regarding what was actually there, but at the same time show the spirit of the place as I saw it while creating the image.”

Tracy said she has quite a few new photographic surprises in store for folks coming to see the exhibition.

“I’ve been holding on to many images in order to have their first public showing in the museum for this exhibit,” Tracy said. “There are a variety of harbor shots I’ve held onto and that I’m excited about.”

Tracy said she’s excited to debut her aurora borealis work and it has been somewhat difficult to hold these images back. She had planned the shots for more than a year and the conditions needed to be nearly perfect.

“The (shots) required very specific parameters,” Tracy said. “They required perfect, warm weather, dark enough for the lights to be visible, but light enough to provide ambient light, and a midnight hike with all of my gear. With how incredibly rainy this winter was, I despaired of it happening as I had envisioned.  However, the last aurora show of the season was exactly what I needed. I’m thrilled to finally show them in this environment.”

In addition to various Alaska locations, Tracy has shot in Utah, Iceland, Mexico and the Caribbean coast, Prince Edward Island, Canada, and all over France, she said.

“I absolutely love to travel both domestically and internationally,” she said. “Traveling is another great passion of mine. I love being able to truly portray the beauty of this earth.”
Tracy and her family will leave Cordova next year, as they transfer to a new duty station with the Coast Guard.

“We’re still working out all the details of what will happen,” she said. “I will pursue my photography education in all forms of photography. I also plan on pursuing equine photography when I am back in a location where there are horses. Although the details are up in the air, life will involve horses, photography and travel – with my 2-year-old sidekick, Isaac, of course.”

If you go

WHAT: “Cordova: Tides and Seasons,” photography exhibit opening by Chelsea Tracy
WHEN: 5-6:30 p.m., Friday, August. 5
WHERE: Cordova Historical Museum
The exhibit continues through
August 27

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Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson is a staff writer and photographer for The Cordova Times. She has been writing in one form or another for 30-plus years and has had a longstanding relationship with The Cordova Times starting in 1989. She's been an Alaskan since 1976 and first moved to Cordova in 1978. She's lived in various West Texas towns; in Denver, Colorado; in McGrath, Cordova, Galena, Kodiak, Wasilla, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska and in Bangalore, India. She has two children and three grandchildren. She can be reached at cgibbens-stimson@thecordovatimes.com or follow her on Instagram @alaskatoindia.