Glaciers, mountains, forests and Arctic tundra all contribute to an Alaskan wilderness that's only habitable in pockets, with just 20% accessible by road. Travelling over this wild terrain and supporting the state's far-flung communities is a network of light aircraft pilots, known as bush pilots.
The 2021 Canon Female Photojournalist Grant winner, Acacia Johnson, was raised in a family of bush pilots in Anchorage, Alaska. It's the city with the largest private seaplane base in the world. Yet Acacia found that many media representations about Alaskan pilots conflicted with her own experiences.
With the €8,000 grant, she will spend this winter finding and photographing the faces that challenge stereotypes of who and what an Alaskan bush pilot is, focusing on creating a new narrative of diversity and safety in aviation. "Less than 6% of pilots are women," she says. "I think, to a certain degree, that has to do with the effects of long-term stereotypes." Also important to Acacia is documenting the vital role the bush pilots fill, transporting food, medicine and emergency access to people in the state's remotest parts.
Acacia spent most of her twenties working as a photography guide on ships in the Arctic and Antarctic. "I think that the distance from home made me realise just what I love so much about being in Alaska, and what I would like to document," says the 31-year-old writer, artist and photographer.