On the corner of the building at Third and Black, there is an office with no sign above the door. On a quick scan you would be forgiven if you thought the office was abandoned.
In fact, this is the office of Mark Prins, who owns and operates Inanda Images, a local photography company that also specializes in those wide-angle panorama photos you see around town.
As you might suspect, Prins is a man who likes being left alone to do the work he wants to do. As you also might expect, he is a little bit suspicious of me.
As I interview him, he doesn’t take his eyes off the computer screen. He is playing with an image that he has photographed — rotating it, flipping it back and forth, adjusting its size.
“You can keep talking,” he tells me. “Don’t worry, I can multi-task. I give up on the idea of getting his complete attention.
When he talks about his photographs that line the office walls he says, “My landscapes don’t include humans.”
He’s talking about photography, but he’s also talking about something else.
Prins resents societal expectations. He has often been told that he would make more money if he left the territory. His response: “I do what I want to do, money isn’t important.”
Doing what he wants to do has also included getting an engineering degree from The University of Alaska in Fairbanks. He does not seem the least bit distressed that his degree has very little to do with his current profession.
I ask him if he likes his privacy and I get the answer I am expecting, but then he adds a caveat. And this is the interesting part: he says, “There’s a dichotomy. I like my privacy, but I wear a big hat and I get in the middle of things and take photos.”
Prins inhabits a few of these paradoxes. He likes to keep to himself, but he is certainly not shy.
He chooses his friends – or family, as he calls them – carefully, but he knows his way around a party.
He doesn’t seek publicity, but he isn’t afraid to express his opinion in a public setting, when he deems it appropriate. These opinions often come out in reviews he writes for the Whitehorse Star.
Also, He enjoys spinning his own yarns, but he has an enormous reverence for the oral history of the territory. “I’ve been lucky to sit with the Old Timers and have them share themselves and their stories,” he says.
It’s these types of contradictions that make Prins so difficult to label or classify. And that, after all, is probably the point.
When he is describing the mystique of the Yukon he paraphrases local author, Ivan Coyote, saying, “The long shadows can never be paved.”
The implication is that the Yukon will never be fully tamed. There will always be aspects of our territory that are essentially unknowable.
Prins has a few things in common with the land he calls home.