WASILLA — Jeff Schultz has been the Iditarod’s official photographer for 40 years and last year, he figured out how to mix things up while engaging people of all walks of life on the trail in a whole new way, the Faces of the Iditarod photo project.

“The beauty of this project is that the faces of the Iditarod are so wide and vast and varied and all over the place,” Schultz said.

It’s been a full year since he started this new endeavor. He’s had a lot of fun and said there’s been plenty of positive feedback.

“A lot of people loved it, and wanted to be a part of it,” Schultz said. “I think they like the fact they’re seeing just a variety of people that are out there… There’s thousand of volunteers and now they really get to see exactly what that’s like.

The project aims to capture the various stories found along the trail, talking to all walks of life from the mushers and volunteers, to the villagers and veterinarians. Sled dogs are even featured in this project.

“That’s what’s really interesting, is not only getting to meet someone new but to hear their story. I really love the story about who and when and how they got involved with the Iditarod,” Schultz said.

Each subject has the same background and format. Each person that Schultz photographs and interviews will have their own page with a bio and audio snippet.

Schultz interviewed 256 last year. His appetite for stories only grew from there. He said that he’s going to try and double that number this year.

He laid out a scenario that illustrates why this project means so much to him an example of the countless unsung heroes across the state, “There’s a lot of times where there’s a person out in a village that’s minding his own business, not necessarily part of the Iditarod, but then somebody says, ‘hey can you run to the airport with these people? They gotta’ catch a plane.’ He drops what he’s doing and he runs to the airport. He unintentionally becomes a volunteer even though he’ll never be recognized for it. It’s people like that make it a joy…”

Schultz recently acquired a grant from the Rasmuson Foundation and Exxonmobil is sponsoring the project. Both entities have been promoting his efforts on their end as well.

“That’s going to help me do a lot more,” Schultz said.

Two of Schultz’s main motivators for this new project is the sheer fun and novelty of it and most importantly, the people. He’s always meeting new people on the trail but this project pushed that into overdrive.

For more information and to view the 2020 interviews, visit iditarod.com/faces-of-the-iditarod

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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