The short film Leaders of the Pack tells the story of both photographer and Alexia winner Katie Orlinsky and Kristin Knight Pace, a dog musher who participates in the 2016 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The film had its World Premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016, and was a 2017 Webby honoree and a recent Vimeo Staff Pick.
The film focuses on Orlinsky’s outlook on and path in photography. She talks about her first camera, and the unifying themes of her work. We learn about her photographic philosophy and what she hopes her work will accomplish.
“A great photograph can make someone change their mind. People don’t know what they don’t know. They have their preconceived ideas. They’ll form an opinion of something that they’ve never really encountered. And sometimes, if a picture is powerful enough, it can take them there. It can change their minds. You might get one in a lifetime, but it’s worth working your whole life to make that one picture,” says Orlinsky in the opening of the film.
We also learn how losing friends and covering conflict caused her to become cynical and disillusioned with photography. Traveling to Alaska helped renew her faith in the medium.
“I came to this realization that I can make important work, that still has a message, and inspires me and it doesn’t have to be sad,” says Orlinsky in the film.
Orlisnky herself has found that telling more lighthearted stories like that of the Iditarod, paired with more emotional ones allows her to achieve a balance.
“There’s so much going on in the world, but there’s also a lot of light and beauty and I don’t want everything that I photograph to be about one or the other.” Orlinsky says.
Orlinsky was the recipient of The Alexia 2012 First Place Student Grant for Innocence Assassinated: Living in Mexico’s Drug War. She is a frequent contributor to National Geographic. Prominently, her work was featured by National Geographic in a story entitled, Climate Change Is Rerouting World-Famous Sled Dog Race, and in The End of Ice an article written by Bill McKibben in The New Republic. Orlinsky received the the inaugural grant from The Howard G. Buffett Fund For Women Journalists in 2015 and a 2016 Getty Images Editorial Grant for her work on climate change in Alaska.