Landmark Presents exists to amplify artists whose work encourages inclusivity and stewardship of our public lands.
Max Romey is a filmmaker and watercolor painter who returned to his Alaska home at the start of the pandemic.
Rather than kick back and wait for things to go back to normal, Max hit the ground running (literally) to do something he had long wanted to do--tell the stories of the Alaskan landscape and people through his art.
Where are you from?
It's hard for me to say exactly where I am from. I grew up all over the country as my Dad, who's a biologist, worked at many different colleges. Because of this, I spent my childhood chasing lizards in Utah, enjoying Maine's rocky beaches, exploring the Adirondacks, and finally landing in Anchorage, Alaska, where I live now. My Dad taught me to follow my curiosity as we roamed outside. We saw the wonder in a mountain range, or the bugs under a small rock, and it really helped me appreciate the world around me.
Is art a side hustle or hobby for you, or is it your day job? How has your career evolved?
Creativity is my life. I make films so I can earn enough to buy paints, and I make paintings to help fund my films. I am dyslexic, and growing up I really struggled with reading and writing. Art helped me find my voice and I love using my sketches, photos and films to help unlock some of the wonders all around me.
I became a filmmaker by accident when I started to make the films I wanted to see. I was obsessed with trail running when I first moved to Alaska and wanted to see, hear, and feel everything there was about the Chugach, but I could not find videos about the amazing trail and community that was taking me in. At first I was worried they would not be good enough or that people would laugh, but I forgot about all of that when I started filming and having fun. Since then I have found a ton of support in the trail community and let my work follow where curiosity leads. I used to be a film maker who liked to paint with watercolors, but (like watercolors) these mediums are bleeding into each other.
What's something you want our readers to know about you?
Growing up dyslexic I thought there was something wrong with me. Struggling with words felt like a huge setback, but it really helped me see the world in a different creative light by focusing on the artistic side. Often I get overwhelmed and depressed thinking about the scale of the problems my generation may be faced with in the future. But I have hope in the idea that art will play a role in creatively helping us move forward. The big picture has plenty of room for artists, and I am so excited to find out how I can help.
What's something you've done that you're really proud of?
I have been lucky enough to travel all over the globe and work with some incredible athletes , but the times I feel most proud of are when I am able to pay it forward. Inspiring someone to get into art or just encouraging them along their way can seem like such a small thing, but it makes a world of difference. There is no way I would be where I am (or where I hope to go) without the support of my friends, family, teachers and community. Knowing that, I have never felt prouder than the moments where I could see my work inspired someone to start sharing their voice through art.
Trailbound alaska: film project
How would you describe your project Trailbound Alaska in a nutshell? What inspired you to start it?
What happens if you just head out your back door with a sketchbook and a camera and follow the trail until you can't anymore? Trailbound Alaska is a year long project I started when the pandemic grounded me in Alaska for 2020. With the races, events, and trail community on pause I wanted to explore a bit more of my backyard to see what I was missing and what these places looked like without the community that gives them life. Starting in Seward, I chose to follow an uncompleted trail from 1910 called the Southern Trek, which was like a partially completed Pacific Crest Trail but with more bears. Over 1,000 miles later, I am still trying to catch my breath and figure out how I am going to tell the story of the amazing people, communities, and landscape that changed the way I think about trails over the last year.
The Forest Service is super instrumental in the creation of the Southern Trek of the Historic Iditarod Trail, and they have been really helpful with interviews and questions. Ultimately their goal is to have a continuous trail that people can travel between Seward to Anchorage and beyond, but they are a few years away from that happening. The first half of my project is mostly trying to answer the simple question "what happens if you try to travel the trail now?" which led to quite the adventure.
What are you hoping to accomplish with Trailbound Alaska?
Imagine a combination of Reading Rainbow, Red Bull TV, and a Ken Burns Documentary. My goal is to create a film that combines watercolor, in-person filming, and history into a story that shows the complex connection between trails, community and the environment.
When will you complete your project, and what do our readers have to look forward to?
Sometimes the best trails are the ones you accidentally stumble upon, not knowing exactly where it will end, and the Trailbound Alaska story is certainly one of those. At this point, I think there are two stories in the works, although you could easily make a story about each mile of this trail.
- The Southern Trek (coming this June) that follows the trail from Seward to Anchorage. This would focus mostly on this trip and the trail and visually tell the story of how the communities and environment come together on these living, breathing paths.
- Seward to Nome (coming next spring). This story would dig into history, Carol's Story, and the big picture of trails in Alaska. This would be a longer film, and I'd be sharing some of the uncomfortable parts of Alaska's past and the amazing people who are moving history forward, like Carol. This story is still expanding and will be important to get right, so I am taking my time.
What’s your all time favorite outdoor space and why?
Picking a favorite outdoor space would be a bit like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. They might have one, but there is no way they would say that out loud! With spring arriving here in Alaska, I am looking forward to traveling further back into the valleys behind where we live in Anchorage. The glacier-carved Chugach mountains make you feel like you are walking back in time and I can't get enough of those rocky slopes and blue kettle lakes!
Are you involved in any form of advocacy or giveback?
I often try to use my platform and art as a way to give back. In the last year I have been able to auction off paintings to raise money for the Food Bank of Alaska, sold sketches to donate to Challenge Alaska, and collaborated with GoPro on a shirt that helped support the nonprofit Protect Our Winters (POW). But I think the most powerful way my work has made a difference is in raising awareness about environmental issues and encouraging people to vote. Artwork does an amazing job of visually highlighting an issue and can connect people from all walks of life in a highly polarized world. We have so much in common, and I hope to be able to use my art and platform to help illustrate that overlap.
"Artwork does an amazing job of visually highlighting an issue and can connect people from all walks of life in a highly polarized world."
Thanks so much, Max, for sharing your work and about your awe-inspiring project! We're really looking forward to the final product!
Be sure to follow along on Max's journey!