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Seeing the Inland Northwest in black and white: 20 years of photography through an artist’s eye

After more than 20 years of photographing the Pacific Northwest, Rajah Bose considers himself an “insider.”

“I think this area, the places I’ve lived in, Pullman, Tri-Cities, Spokane, all of Eastern Washington, maybe central Washington. The thing about them is everyone’s always telling a story about these places from outside here,” said Bose.

At the exhibition space on the Whitworth University campus, a small group of people used paint rollers coated in thick wheat paste as a glue to stick the long printed black and white photos on the wall.

“If you want to figure out who you are, just go back to when you were 12 or 13 years old,” said Bose.

“You forget about it, everything, over the next 10 years, and then you find it again.”

Whenever anyone asked Bose what he wanted to be growing up, he said he wanted to be an engineer, like his dad.

“It wasn’t until I really put this show up 20 years later, after that, that I’m looking at this one particular photograph in the show, and realizing that it wasn’t my dad’s path that I decided to follow, it was my mom’s path,” said Bose.

“And she stayed home with us, and she raised us, but she always kept this document of our entire lives. And it was dozens of photo albums that still exist at our house,” he said.

In the early days of the internet, before Facebook and Instagram were popular places to share images, Bose had a blog without any writing. It was a stream of scrollworthy images from his photography work in Tri-Cities.

Tyler Tjomsland, staff photographer for the Spokesman Review, followed Bose’s blog years before working with him.

“There’s this thing in newsrooms where it’s kind of like, photographers don’t know how to write. They’re just illiterate,” said Tjomsland. “So Raj had this blog called ‘I don’t write.’”

Tjomsland said blogs like this were a way for photographers to share photos that didn’t make the paper. As he followed the blog, he said he watched Bose’s photos get better and better.

Tjomsland said he’s thankful for Bose’s mentorship through his early years of his career. Rather than using words, he said he learned it’s important to channel the emotions of what you’re seeing through the camera, so the person who picks up the newspaper the next day feels something.

“If you’re going to have, like, a barometer of success as a photojournalist, it’s, you know, does the photo actually make you care about what’s in it?”

Bose titled his show “Middlelife,” an ode to the crossroad where he stands between the most recent 20 year career in photojournalism, and the next 20 years before him, yet to be decided.

“The work’s never not been exciting. And I guess the next chapter of my life now is trying to figure out what I’m looking at,” said Bose.

As for what the future holds, Bose said he wants to work on projects he’s been putting off, like getting into filmmaking.

Bose’s show runs through March 25th at the Visual Arts Bryan Oliver Gallery on the Whitworth campus in Spokane.

By the way, Raj has an Instagram account where he shares his latest photos. His handle is idontwrite.