A Message to You Lucy

This post is my tribute to the next generation of photographers, hunkered down through endless winter, trying to make sense of this moment in time.

Don’t give up now! This whole mess is temporary. It takes years to build a career. Do something. Use this time to plan, learn and get ready for growth. It will happen. 

Portrait of female college student posing on Bluff overlooking the Mississippi River

My oldest daughter began college at a small liberal arts school, in search of the classic dorm experience. Halfway through freshman year, the pandemic hit and they closed the dorm. All she had to show for her original dream was a tuition bill and a bunch of online classes she never wanted.

This is a kid who was reaching for my camera before she could walk – or talk. She quit that school, and enrolled in a filmmaking program at a technical college.

Female college student shooting video homework for cinema course

On weekends, we cruise around Minnesota in a car full of cameras, looking for socially distant adventure. The photos you see here are from a recent drive we made down the Mississippi River, from Minneapolis to Lake Pepin.

I’m proud to be teaching (and learning from) this generation. Carry on.

View of the Mississippi River valley looking south from Alma, Wisconsin

Nat Geo Women

Stoked to find my portrait of the U.S. synchronized swim team in a new book of historic photographs from the National Geographic image collection.

Cover of National Geographic Women Book
Inside spread of National Geographic Women Book

My photo of the synchronized swim team is on the left. Across the page is a similar group portrait of women training to be lifeguards and swim instructors in North Carolina, photographed by J. Baylor Roberts in 1941.

89 feet up and teetering over the deep end, I shot this from the tip of an Indianapolis high-dive back in 2012 for TIME magazine. The olympic coach lay next to me, her head and shoulders dangling overboard, gesticulating instructions to the swim team below.

Original assignment photograph of Olympic team in TIME magazine
David Bowman for TIME

The Freelance Hustle, Pandemic-Style

I delivered a talk this weekend on the subject of landing jobs, negotiating contracts, and getting paid to a crowded house at the Northern Exposure photojournalism conference in Minneapolis, hosted by the University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism.

The conference was originally meant to be held live on the U of M campus. But like everything else academic, it was moved online for the sake of social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic. The audience was packed with photographers from around the world — and, thanks to Zoom — I now have a recording to share with you and my students.

Every Star on FIRST AVENUE

To make this photo, I shot the club early in the morning on a ‘snow emergency’ day in March of 2019, when no cars blocked the view. Then I stitched 60 individual photographs—from both 7th Street and First Avenue—into a single, flattened composition. There are more than 425 silver stars—and one gold one—on the building’s facade. Happy 50th birthday First Ave!

Left Section
Middle Section
Right Section
Video of original captures used to make final artwork
At the MN State Fair
Above the couch…

Camera on Fire

Apache Plaza, Minneapolis, 2001

I shot my first advertising job in the summer of 2001. I’d been working as a photo assistant prior to that, mostly freelance. That’s how I met my wife.

I was the 1st assistant on a BMW shoot, running the 8×10 camera. I’d been on the job for weeks, first in Detroit, and then St. Paul, sequestered in remote, cavernous spaces with a bunch of stinky photo dudes. No windows and long, endless winter days in dark studios for double-time pay.

On the final night, Hallie walked in. She’d been hired at the last minute to help load out the gear. She walked in and I was like: I know you… Angie’s roommate, right? We’d met briefly in 1993, about 6 years earlier during a visit to Minneapolis. I’d seen her around since, watched her band play live, always remembering that we’d met.

We both drove full-sized vans. Hers had belonged to the former pitcher of the Minnesota Twins. She came across it in the Autotrader, and drove out to Lakeville to take a look. Apparently he’d purchased the custom van after winning the World Series in 1987. Señor Smoke answered the door. He was going through a divorce and was ready to part with the championship van.

My rig had seen some miles. It had been the Gear Daddies’ touring van, a Minnesota band that played in bars for years. A car thief had broken the ignition, and it didn’t need a key. For $600, it was all mine. I doused it with house paint (better to cover the Service Master logo), glued old film along the outsides, and christened it: MISTER NEGATIVE.

Mister Negative

We got married in the late summer of 2000, and lived in a warehouse downtown St. Paul. Soon after, our first child was on the way, and I began to transition from photo assistant to full-time photographer. I started with little jobs for magazines, a local non-profit, and then some pro-bono work. By summertime, I’d landed my first full-tilt advertising job.

art director’s sketch

I hired a location scout, casting agent, stylist, hair + makeup artist, and assistants. I rented shopping carts. We had meetings. As parking lots go, Apache Plaza looked pretty good. And the agency really liked Lucille, a sweet older lady who had the look of “an elderly woman caught in a moment of youthfulness”. Hallie, pregnant and gorgeous, handled the production. We had catering for a crew of 15 in the middle of the empty parking lot, with an EZ-UP overhead, providing shade from the sun. There was a gas powered generator. I shot film.

At the end of summer, we had a baby. Everything was perfect. And then 9-11 happened. Overnight, there was no more work on the horizon as far as we could see.

Two artists with full-sized vans, no jobs, one brand-new baby, and a big hairy dog with separation anxiety, all living together in one room with concrete floors and a walk-in darkroom.

Sound familiar?

Filmed by Bike

I’m humbled that my movie ‘Riding with Mike’ is an Official Selection at the the 17th Annual Filmed by Bike, a film festival featuring the world’s best bike movies.

Filmmakers from around the globe will flock to Portland this May 17-19 for the bike rides, dance parties, Q+A sessions, workshops and awards ceremonies. This year’s festival features a mix of styles, hard-to-find independent films and stories that aren’t being given the attention they deserve. Proud to be a part of this global bike movement!

Read my story and watch the movie here.

Buddy Holly Crash Site

Clear Lake, Iowa. Shot for Texas Monthly.

Best part of this assignment was getting a phone call from Dion Dimucci, one of the musicians who survived the Winter Dance Party tour of 1959.

Dion was scheduled to be on the plane, but gave up his seat to Ritchie Valens at the last minute. He told me that when he saw my photo of the crash site, it was the first time he felt the scene had been captured with respect to the dead, and he asked if he could include my photograph in his upcoming submission to the Rocknroll Hall of Fame.

It Ends Here

I’m honored to have been commissioned by the University of Minnesota to photograph students for their campaign to end sexual harassment on campus. The U of M is a powerful, forward-thinking institution, and a leader in public policy. I’m proud to be part of such an important project that could help transform Minnesota into a better place for everyone. #itendshere

Deportation Court

The Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building is a brutalist structure rising up from the edge of an air force base one the edge of Minneapolis. The place is completely off-limits.

Immigration Court, Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building, Bloomington, Minnesota

The last time I pulled out a camera in that neighborhood, I was surrounded by armed soldiers responding to a 911 call from a passing motorist, reporting the suspicious behavior of a man with a camera.

Even though I was just doing my job, I had to be super careful to make this photo without being arrested, harassed, or worse.

Photo and news story published here and here.

Shadow Selfie

Surprised and excited to walk into the doctor’s office and finally see the 12-page hiking story that I shot last Fall… especially the full-page opener, which is my own shadow, impersonating the shape of a hiker.

It wasn’t easy hiding the camera — or shooting with my left hand, as the other hikers looked on in disbelief at my selfie-induced frenzy. Thanks MSP for the sweet assignment. Worth the wait!

Toxic Secrets

The Sydney Morning Herald sent me to St. Paul to shoot stills + video for a heartbreaking front page story about kids, chemicals and cancer.

Toxic Secrets: The town that 3M built – where kids are dying of cancer. Read the story, see the photos, and watch the interviews here:

The time I met PRINCE

Early morning at First Ave in Minneapolis, celebrating the life of Prince with an all night dance party on the night Prince died. On assignment for Rolling Stone.

I was running into West Photo to pick up supplies, something I’ve been doing almost daily since moving to Minneapolis 20 years ago. It was a warm summer afternoon, late in the workday, with rush hour traffic beginning to surge. I was downtown and needed to grab something and get back to Hallie and the girls in south Minneapolis. It was the kids’ last day of school for the year, and we were going to celebrate with ice cream.

I climbed out of my champagne minivan and walked toward the door. Distracted, I noticed a purple form out of the corner of my eye, hovering across the parking lot. I turned to look, and discovered a small person in a purple cloak, feet hidden by the cloth, gliding in a trajectory toward the same door.

Before my mind could even form the word PRINCE, he reached the door first, swung it open, smiled and said ‘Hi’ as I walked past.

‘Thanks’, I said, giggling a little as I went by, and returned the favor by opening the second door for him as he strode into the store.

Inside, everyone seemed to be panicking, and thinking the same thing: PRINCE IS HERE! Behind the counter, a salesman fumbled with a printer he was demonstrating for a beautiful young woman. Apparently she was a friend of Prince, who had come inside to pay the bill. As I waited my turn in line, Prince turned around and looked at me again, this time rolling his eyes.

I walked out excited, and wanted to share the experience. I wasn’t too interested in Facebook at the time, but figured this could be a prime opportunity to update my status. So I posted it from my car, and drove onto the freeway to meet the family. Later that day I checked my status and realized, sadly, that nobody ‘liked’ it. How stupid social media must be, I thought.

But now I’m thankful for the reminder, as I scroll to the very bottom of my Facebook page, diving back into the daily routine of June 8th, 2010: On my way to meet Hallie and the kids for ice cream on the last day of school before summer vacation, the pure joy of meeting Prince in the West Photo parking lot, him holding the door for me, and both of us saying hello.