Lake Superior Watershed Project: About

This photography project which I am now calling Watershed started as a portrait project based out of the Duluth/Superior “Twin Ports” region of Minnesota and Wisconsin at the beginning of 2012. In the years since it has expanded into a much more grand endeavor of documenting the people, places and peopled places all throughout the Lake Superior Basin.


A lot of influence to my photographic process comes from vintage photographs. Who doesn’t love an old photo depicting a familiar place form a time before their own?

Chester Bowl, Duluth, MN c.1910
Chester Bowl, Duluth, MN c.1910

What I find interesting about many old photographs like this, is that most were probably really mundane and boring to the everyday person of the era it was taken in. Add on a few hundred years for the styles to change, and suddenly we all are wowed by them. Current trends in photography seem to want to hitch a instantly gratifying ride onto this thirst for nostalgia by manipulating scenes of contemporary society via digital filters to make photographs look like they were improperly stored for decades.

What I hope to achieve with these project is to create a volume of photographs from the region which are an honest look at the people and places that reside alongside the bountiful natural beauty of the shores of Lake Superior. No instant gratification by using techniques to artificially present them as if they were taken in decades past, but rather to actually to let the age at their own pace. It is safe to say that the bulk of my target audience for this project hasn’t even been born yet in 2015.


I had my own watershed moment in late 2011 when I was given access to an 8×10 field camera for the first time to experiment with. For the non-photographers reading this, think of the big old-timey cameras where there photographer keep sticking their head under a blanket.

Photographing at the Apostle Island Ice Caves in 2015

It is a cumbersome, slow, heavy and expensive way to do photography. But, from the moment I saw the first print made with this camera format, I knew it was the look I’ve been after my entire career. It wasn’t too long afterwards that I decided it was time to take on a multi-year, large photography adventure.

Oddly enough, it also happens to be the ancestor of the same cameras which were used to take much of the old photographs from the early 20th century that I’ve studied for composition and subject matter. Mine was build by Bruce Wehman around 2009 in Rockford, Illinois and is a modern design utilizing the latest manufacturing materials to make it very light weight. I use color films created by Kodak between 2008-2010 which are optimized for a film to digital work flow.