Local photographer enters dream job contest, needs on-line votes

photo/Joe Whittle

In this self portrait, photographer Joe Whittle stands with his daughter, Mia.

Joe Whittle, 34, a local photography, has a dream.

Whittle is pursuing that dream - a photography trip that would take him from Alaska to Argentina in a hydrogen-powered vehicle - in a contest titled "Name Your Dream Assignment," which offers a first prize of $50,000.

"I need local people's help," Whittle said. He explained that the assignment ideas that receive the top 20 on-line votes will then be considered by a panel of expert judges, who will decide the winner. "I don't have to get the most votes, I just have to be in the top 20 to have a chance," he said.

On-line voting on the (www.nameyourdreamassignment.com) started March 3 and will continue through April 3. The contest is sponsored by Microsoft and Lenovo.

Unfortunately, Whittle said he didn't realize when he wrote the title of his idea - "Journeys to the Ends of the Earth: Stories of the Conflict Between Colonial and Indigenous Cultures" would become part of the computer link that took voters directly to his entry.

Never mind. It's easy enough to vote without typing in the whole link (each word is lowercase with a hyphen between it), and as of Monday this week, Whittle's entry was ranked No. 23 out of about 1,400 assignment ideas, tantalizingly within reach of his top-20 goal, with 147 votes Monday evening with over four weeks to go.

Whittle, who graduated from Enterprise High School in 1994, combines portrait and commercial freelance photography work with such jobs as bartending and waiting tables in Wallowa County to make ends meet.

He graduated from Brooks Institute of Photography in California in 2000, then returned to Wallowa County, mainly to be close to his daughter, Mia, who is now 12.

Those who want to support Whittle's dream can just go on-line to the contest address above, click "The Ideas" and then "Most Popular" and look for Whittle's "Journey's to the Ends of the Earth" entry on about the third of the site's 143 idea pages.

He admits that the voting process is a little awkward, but said he'd sure appreciate the votes of Wallowa County supporters. A voter has to register first, complete with a password that is confirmed by being e-mailed back to them; only one vote is allowed per person. Then click "Pic" along side the entry to register the vote.

Whittle has been dreaming about and planning about a photographic trip to Argentina for two years, hoping to make it someday with the help of sponsors. He sees the contest as a way to make it into a reality much sooner.

While logistics have yet to be worked out, in his dream assignment Whittle would drive a hydrogen powered vehicle from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina, becoming the first single person to drive the length of the globe without fossil fuel.

"On this record-breaking 30,000-mile expedition ... I will document with stories and photos the effects that resource development policies and industries (namely the fossil fuels industry) have had on the indigenous cultures and ecosystems of the Americas," Whittle said in his assignment description.

The photographer is using contacts through Facebook and My Space, as well as local media, to attract contest votes.

"If I don't win the contest, I'm still going to do it. It just might take a little longer," Whittle said of his dream photograpy journey.

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