Community Energy Challenge in Rothsay, Minn.

Editorial assignments with Minnesota Public Radio [yes, public radio!] remain among my favorites in 2010. Yet, the assignments are also often uniquely challenging. Here’s why:

Sometimes I’m asked to accompany a reporter – so we literally go together on an assignment. Photographers and reporters working in tandem or collaboration is a good thing in my book.

However, the trick with radio reporters is they are always, always, always collecting sound. The only sounds they don’t want – as far as I know – are my camera shutter and me chattering away. So, when I work with a radio reporter I try to be thoughtful about when I’m photographing, how often I’m making pictures and what I’m doing with my body, voice and gear. I photograph less aggressively and if there is a situation I know I should photograph I let the reporter know that in advance, if possible. I feel it’s a matter of respect.

So, everything I just wrote wasn’t true for my most recent MPR assignment. It was more like a traditional news assignment. I was on my own with a limited amount of time in Rothsay, Minn., a town of 510 people located 40 miles southeast of Moorhead. The story was about how the town takes on an energy conservation challenge. The assignment seemed easy enough.

Turns out that many of the improvements, audits, inspections and so forth were already complete. No photos there. Local students had previously gone door-to-door to ask residents to sign a pledge to use less energy. No photos there. A Tuesday evening class aimed at teaching residents to better understand utility bills might generate a couple of photos. [People and computers don’t typically make great photos, but sometimes you’ve got to work with the less than ideal.] So, with that activity in place I found myself roaming Rothsay in the dark. [Not really, but it kind of felt that way. It’s really dark in Rothsay after the sun goes down.]

What I decided to do was to try to come up with a couple of photographs at the class as well as some from the gym or school – where many improvements have already been made. I also made arrangements to visit resident Jeanette Geer who won a home makeover as part of the energy challenge project. I knew her granddaughter would be home and that family had received some new appliances. Whenever I have an opportunity to photograph in someone’s home I know there are photographs to be made. When I said good-bye to Jeanette it was great to hear that I was easy to be around and the experience had been a good one.

To learn more about the project or to see how much energy the community saves check out: http://www.energychallengeison.com/rothsay/.

Best, Ann

Community Energy Challenge in Rothsay, Minn.

Community Energy Challenge in Rothsay, Minn.

Community Energy Challenge in Rothsay, Minn.

Energy Challenge in Rothsay, Minn.

Community Energy Challenge in Rothsay, Minn.

Photographs from Winnipeg, Canada

Photographer friend Britta Trystad and I just returned from a quick trip from Fargo-Moorhead to Winnipeg, Manitoba. We spent about 31 hours in transit. The purpose of the photo-based outing was simply to seek out colors, lines, textures and anything else of visual interest.

The creative exercise served as a reminder to me of how important it is to step outside your routine and away from your regular stomping grounds. Watching [and photographing] the light shift early Saturday morning was pure pleasure. I’m feeling energized and excited about several upcoming projects.

Happy Sunday, Ann

Photographs from Winnipeg, Canada

Photographs from Winnipeg, Canada

Women's Way Calendar Project

Awards are nice. Unexpected awards are even nicer.

It turns out the Women’s Way calendar project recently received the National Public Health Information Coalition 2010 Gold Award for Excellence in Public Health Communication in the outsourced print/graphic specialty project category. The 18-month calendar, which features my photographs of North Dakota women, is being distributed by the state Department of Health as a tool to promote regular screening for breast and cervical cancer.

What’s great about this award is that I didn’t even know the folks in Bismarck had submitted the project for consideration. And, neither did our project manager Anita Hoffarth over at Reach Partners, a Fargo-based consulting firm that specializes in health communication.

That’s what I call a nice surprise.

Happy Wednesday, Ann

P.S. More photographs of the beautiful women of North Dakota and more details about the project are online in a previous journal entry. Feel free to take a look.

Women's Way Calendar Project

View of Newman Outdoor Field

On a warm summer night in late August, writer Sarah McCurdy and I spent an evening at Newman Outdoor Field in north Fargo. Our assignment was to create a human interest feature for the “On the Town” section of Fine Living Review, a magazine published six times a year by the Bismarck Tribune. We’d pitched the idea of a photo essay and story from the perspective of the second floor, which is home to 12 suites – each named after a major league stadium.

Sarah and I spent the bulk of the game in “Wrigley Field” with Gail McMartin, her family and various guests. It really was a glorious night for a ballgame. It didn’t hurt that the RedHawks shutout the visiting Lake County Fielders of Illinois 6-0.

Anyway, I submitted 17 images to the magazine for consideration. Obviously, the editor wouldn’t have space for that many images. However, I have a hard time editing my work. Give me another photographer’s images and I can whittle them down pretty quick. My own work is a different story.

The current issue of Fine Living Review was published earlier this month. My copy just arrived in the mail a few days ago. I thought it would be fun to share some of the unpublished images here.

Enjoy! Ann

View of Newman Outdoor Field

Inside a suite at Newman Outdoor Field

In the stands at Newman Outdoor Field

Catching up at Newman Outdoor Field

Take Me Out To The Ballgame at Newman Outdoor Field

Signs on 25th Street South

A recent editorial assignment for the Associated Press has lingered in my mind.

A little background. At the end of September AP reporter Patrick Condon and I headed to the farm of Walter and Donna Grotte. The couple lives a few miles outside of Hope, N.D, which is 70 or so miles northwest of Fargo. The purpose of our visit was two-fold: Mr. Condon intended to finish his interview with Mr. Grotte for an upcoming political story and I was to create images to accompany it.

The article’s premise was to examine why North Dakota’s lone congressman [Earl Pomeroy, a Democrat] and other incumbent politicians across the nation appear to be in such a tough reelection bids. The situation in North Dakota is of particular interest given the state’s booming oil boom, abundance of cash in state government coffers and the economic realities that have left residents here better off than many places. Mr. Grotte voted for Mr. Pomeroy in 2008 – and multiple elections before that – but says he’s angry with Mr. Pomeroy over the federal debt and will vote to support his challenger Rick Berg in November.

I photographed the Grottes at their farm. Mr. Grotte has a fabulous face for photographs and was naturally expressive. However, there was nothing visual that directly related to the political component of the story. I was secretly hoping to find an old Pomeroy sign on one of the outbuildings, but no such luck. Mr. Condon and I drove around Hope in hopes of locating political signs or other indicators that related to the story. The best I came up with there were American flags framing the town’s lone water tower [photograph included below].

When I returned to Fargo that afternoon I looked for political signs in residential areas. I was hoping to find a situation where one neighbor would have a Berg sign and the next house would have a Pomeroy sign. The best I came up with after an hour of driving around was Berg/Berg/Hoeven/Pomeroy [pictured below]. So, that’s the photograph I made. I sent that photograph and several others to the picture desk and called it a day.

Here’s the thing. I’m still keeping an eye out for a pairing of political signs that would do a better job for this story than my original effort. I know it’s too late. That’s the reality of the news business. It’s also the reality of being me. The best I’ve done – so far – is the photograph above. In all fairness to Mr. Pomeroy, it would be better if he had a bigger sign or if his supporters had posted multiples of the little sign. Ah well, maybe next time.

Best, Ann

P.S. The story was published earlier this month under headlines like “On America’s Plains, times are good – but voters are still angry and incumbents are in danger” and “Despite prosperous times, a discontented mood in the Dakotas“. It’s an interesting read. All of the photographs below are Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.

Yard signs in North Fargo

North Dakota farmer Walter Grott

Hope, N.D., and North Dakota farmer Walter Grott

North Dakota farmer Walter Grotte

North Dakota farmer Walter Grotte

North Dakota farmer Walter Grotte

North Dakota farmer Walter Grotte