In Search of Lake Wobegon

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“I had spent over a decade as a newspaper photographer for the Minneapolis StarTribune. Much of my energy was spent looking for daily images the paper could run. That’s what I loved, driving around looking for images, finding something to take back and often seeing them on the front page the next morning.  So years later, when I had moved to Washington, D.C.  as a photo editor at National Geographic Magazine, I got the assignment with Garrison Keillor to try and validate his mythical town of Lake Wobegon. Well, it was like coming home for me after years of far-flung assignments.  This Wobegon story involved  a number of months working the area just northwest of St. Cloud, Minnesota, the region that gave inspiration to Keillor’s mythical town.  I lived in a small motel and spent my days photographing in the rural communities.  The result was a rare National Geographic magazine article shot in black and white and was followed with a book by Garrison and I.

Most of the images were shot on a 4 x 5” view camera were only an exposure of two were made of each situation.  I had a limited number of film holders and each night was spent unloading and loading film in a cramped darkened bathroom. I chose black and white which is my favorite for documentary work. Why? Well that is a much longer discussion. Here is small sampling of the work from In Search of Lake Wobegon.”  Richard Olsenius

Photography by Richard Olsenius

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