Artifact of the Month
Artifact of the Month: September 2023

Paulu Saari, the Photographer

Paulu Saari first came to Alaska with the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1939. That fall, he enrolled at Washington State University in Pullman. When World War II broke out, he enlisted in the United States Coast Guard and was assigned to duty in Ketchikan. After the war, he returned to college in Pullman, then completed two years of study in photography at the University of Houston in Texas. This month's featured artifact comes from a binder of class assignments and photography notes from Paulu's time at the University of Houston, where he experimented with different subject matter and techniques. Diligent note taking was a practice Paulu continued throughout his entire career. These notes are just as valuable as the photographs themselves.

In 1950, Paulu returned to Ketchikan. Over the next five years he freelanced, photographing major construction projects such as the tunnel and the Ketchikan Pulp Mill; taking group photos for organizations, businesses, and sports teams; and documenting the fishing industry. In 1955, Paulu landed a job as staff photographer at the Ketchikan Daily News. He stayed with the newspaper until 1966, then worked at the Ketchikan Pulp Mill before retiring in 1982.

In 2003, Paulu donated his vast collection of photographs and negatives to Ketchikan Museums. Numbered in the thousands, his images document a half-century of Ketchikan's history and have been used in numerous exhibits, research projects, and displays throughout the community. A selection of his photography from the 1950s is available on through the virtual exhibits Boom Town and Back to the Fifties.

Object ID #: KM 2016.2.6.1
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Paulu's camera setting notes from University of Houston's photo programPaulu's camera setting notes from University of Houston's photo program
Paulu Saari's photography notes from 1993Paulu Saari's photography notes from 1993