Wallace Stegner once wrote, “Expose a child to a particular environment at his susceptible time and he will perceive in shapes of that environment until he dies” (Wolf Willow, 1955). This statement resonates with me because all of my work revolves around North Dakota, where I was born and raised. My roots here run deep: both sides of my family emigrated from Norway and homesteaded in the state.
My two main projects present a cross-section of rural life in North Dakota and are a study in contrasts: from black and white to color, paternal vs. maternal heritage, and the fertile farmland of the east to the new industrialized oil landscape of the west.
Homeplace (2009-2012) examines the history and uncertain future of my family’s four-generation farm in the Red River Valley. Its original 160 acres were homesteaded in 1884 by my paternal great-great grandfather, a Norwegian immigrant. My parents are now the fourth, and last, consecutive generation to work our land, as my siblings and I have all moved away to pursue other careers. These circumstances provided me with the impetus to document our farm and its origins in Norway at this critical junction.
When the Landscape is Quiet Again: North Dakota’s Oil Boom (2012-Present) documents the transformation of western North Dakota’s quiet agrarian landscape into an industrial zone dotted with well sites, criss-crossed by pipelines, lit up by natural gas flares, contaminated by spills, and fracked beyond recognition. I investigate what remains on the land from previous booms, how the region is changing today, and my family’s involvement.