A newly-released photo book by a Penticton-based photographer aims to showcase the resilience of Okanagan people through times of crisis.
Throughout recent crisis, Mike Biden has seen many rally to help one other and overcome obstacles together, and this is what inspired him to publish the book.
“The Okanagan valley has been hit pretty hard in the past with floods, wildfires, and now with COVID-19 epidemic hitting the valley as well, it’s hurt a lot of people. But I am very impressed with how resilient Okanaganites are, in overcoming these massive obstacles,” said author Mike Biden.
Okanagan Strong, an 80-page photo book, showcases the bravery of many.
“I just wanted people to see all the different avenues, how COVID-19 has affected everyone and how we’ve overcome those obstacles.”
From first responders saluting frontline medical workers, to grocery store workers stocking shelves with masks and gloves on, dentists and veterinarians working in modified environments, medical and rescue personal training, and wildland firefighters battling a blaze, Okanagan Strong is a tribute to many.
|A newly-released photo book by a Penticton-based photographer, Okanagan Strong, aims to showcase the resilience of Okanagan people through times of crisis. (Phil McLachlan – Western News)|
The front third of the book is dedicated to the documentation of COVID-19. The middle is dedicated to documenting the impact of flooding, and the final section to wildfires. The book is also a tribute to those on the front lines.
“People that don’t think so much of themselves, but get out there and do stuff for others, that’s what impresses me. They go beyond the call of duty, and people like that I think should be recognized.
“Like the truck drivers that are bringing our groceries, like the healthcare workers, the nurses, the doctors, but there’s many other people that are the unsung heroes during this pandemic, that don’t get the recognition, but really should get some recognition.”
That, Biden explained, is what he wants people to think about; how these people have adapted, and are risking their lives trying to make the pandemic ‘dissolve’ itself.
A copy of this book has even been sent to Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s public health officer.
“I thought she would enjoy seeing the COVID-19 section of the book, with the doctors, the veterinarians, the fireman, the first responders, the parade in front of the hospital waving to the heathcare workers,” said Biden.
Okanagan Strong is Biden’s seventh photo book. His first was published in 1994, following the Garnet Fire. His photos of the Ironman races, from the perspective of the lake bottom, was also published. He published three books featuring photos of the South Okanagan, from air as a rescue pilot.
“We’ve been very blessed with the public purchasing the books and sending them all around the world as gifts,” said Biden, adding that his wife is the wind under his wings.
His multifaceted life has given him access to many groups of people.
Starting as a gym teacher, Biden then worked as a plumber, rescue pilot, technician, and scuba diver.
His work as a photographer has taken him to many places; to burning buildings, high angle rescues on the side of a cliff, thousands of feet off the ground in a military jets, to watery depths as a scuba diver.
In addition to being the frontline photographer for the Penticton Fire Department, Biden also flies with Canadian Helicopters as a rescue pilot, assists with search and rescue operations, and assisted with the Ironman races as a scuba diver.
“I really have learned a lot from the service of the fire department,” said Biden, adding he’s grateful to Fire Chief Larry Watkinson for allowing him to accompany their team.
Biden says his work as a photographer is far from over. He aims to continue pushing the envelope and trying new things.
He says the town of Penticton, and the people in it, inspire him on a daily basis.
“The city has been so gracious to so many people, and it’s like an outreach that I’m trying return back to the city for all the goodness that they’ve done for me,” he said.
In Penticton, Biden’s latest book is available at Rexall Pharmacy off Skaha Lake Rd., at Prestige Tailoring in the Cherry Lane Mall, and on Main Street at Penticton Lock and Key. The books are also available online at Iflyphoto.com. The books are $20, taxes included.