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!
Watching the ice move, Lake Superior
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.
I never thought much about shooting in the Boundary Waters, a wilderness canoe area in northern Minnesota. Frankly, it always seemed like the OPPOSITE of the kind of place I’d like to explore.
There’s no roads in the Boundary Waters; you have to travel by boat, and you need to camp out every night. Meaning you have to bring more than just camera gear. A lot more! Everything has to be carried on your back for miles between lakes, and protected from water, in case of a canoe tip (likely) — or sudden downpour (very likely). There’s no buildings, roads, motors, plumbing, electricity, or cell service.
And there’s plenty of bugs.
Any and all human-made structures that existed prior to the formation of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness were demolished and sunk to the bottom of the lakes. Executive Order 10092, signed by President Harry Truman in 1949, prohibits aircraft from flying below 4,000 feet over the area.
Photographically speaking, what do the Boundary Waters have that other places don’t?
Skies so dark that you can see the Milky Way.
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
My brother and I shared a bedroom in Chicagoland until he turned 18. I listened to his records, accidentally broke his stuff, and watched him climb out our 3rd floor window late at night, listening to his stories when he returned. After he left for college, my high school teachers still called me by his name, thinking we were the same. During his first semester, I rode the train up to Milwaukee for a visit. We saw the Romantics in concert. Afterwards we hit the bars. I can still smell his dorm room: Speed Stick meets submarine sandwich.
By the time I was 17, he’d moved into a crusty apartment downtown Milwaukee, right behind the Ham N Egger. I parked my motorcycle in the alley, and slipped through the window that he kept unlocked for visitors. We ate white bread sandwiches for dinner and I climbed up to the rooftop for a smoke under the Newport billboard.
He joined the Peace Corps and left for Nepal. I started school in Madison. When he came to visit, we made a gallon of chili, drank Old Style, and got tattoos on our big toes. That Sunday night, I was the 10th caller on a radio show and won front row tickets for us to see Tom Waits in Chicago, on Halloween night. It was the perfect ending to a glorious weekend.
But we were heading different directions. I went to study in Ireland for a year, and he got engaged. Pretty soon he was married, running his own manufacturing business, and raising three boys. Meanwhile I’d become obsessed with photography and returned to Ireland to live on a bicycle. From there I moved to Chicago, rode a motorcycle to San Francisco, and joined a camel trek across the Australian Outback.
By the time I settled down in Minneapolis, my four brothers and sisters had birthed about 15 kids between them. My brother and I saw each other whenever we could. But we never really got to hang out again. At least not like we used to, with gallons of chili, cans of Old Style, and the occasional toe tattoo.
Until now that is.
I’m happy to report that we just rendezvou’d by the Canadian border, and disappeared into the wilderness for 10 days. We’re still eating chili, but the Old Style’s been replaced with lake water. And the tattoos… those things last forever.
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.
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.
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:
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.