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Katarina Rothhorn
Katarina Rothhorn
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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion — Its okay to outgrow your college friends
Opinion — It's okay to outgrow your college friends
Megan PoeApril 12, 2024

Local exhibit illuminates communities of U.P.

For all its beauty, the Upper Peninsula has a history with some scars.

The economic expansion from the copper mining boom in the mid-1800s and its subsequent decline in the early 1900s has left a number of once-thriving boomtowns seemingly desolate.

These places are the focus of senior photography major Andrew Jensen’s work in the “For Better or Worse” exhibit currently on display at the Oasis Gallery for Contemporary Art in downtown Marquette.

Jensen’s path to towns like Calumet, a Keweenaw mining town, and Sawyer, which saw a similar rise and fall around the construction and closing of an air force base, began as an interest in man’s manipulation of the environment.

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“I began photographing landscapes that were under constant manipulation because of man, places where dirt and trees had been moved and removed to create an entirely new place,” Jensen said. “I was fascinated by these landscapes because of their story and how different they must have looked in the past, and what they might be used for or become in the future.”

Jensen visited Sawyer for the first time last spring and felt a similar interest in the community that he found there. The natural beauty surrounding the town and its history became increasingly consuming, Jensen said.

“I learned that K.I. was considered one of the most attractive air force bases to be stationed at,” Jensen said. “It’s got some of the best blueberry patches in the state, hunting, great fishing and really just endless outdoor recreation possibilities.”

Over the next several months, the residents of Sawyer, their resilience and their attachments to their homes became the focal point of Jensen’s photography.

“The community was a very close niche,” Jensen said. “They have come a long way from it’s days after closing, and that struggle to remain a community is also something I am very interested in.”

Jensen began photographing places where residents of these towns interact with each other, such as homes, churches and playgrounds. The focus of his work became less about their pasts and more about the hope that existed within the community, Jensen said.

“I want to emphasize that these towns still exist as communities and I look at them with a sense of hope,” Jensen said. “Each town has had its rise and demise, and the fact that they are still communities is a powerful thing.”

Jensen’s work in these communities has occasionally sparked the interest of their residents. While most are just curious about what he’s up to, some have showed some skepticism.

“A woman in Gwinn drove up to me while I was photographing the Baptist church in town and asked, ‘Can I help you?’” Jensen said. “I told her I was taking photographs for a project at school, but she asked, ‘Why are you taking a picture of our very bland, white church?’ I told her that I liked the way it looked, and she just rolled her eyes and drove away.”

For senior art and design major Collin Gaudard, who attended the opening reception of “For Better or Worse” on Friday, Nov. 9, the photos were an eye-opening perspective into the history of the communities.

“I haven’t been to Sawyer, except sort of driven through it,” Gaudard said. “But the history of a town like that has always been fascinating to me, and some of [Jensen’s] photos show an interesting side of those places. They’re beautiful in a lot of ways.”

The exhibit runs through Saturday, Dec. 1. The Oasis Gallery, located at 130 W. Washington St., is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Friday. For more information, call Oasis Gallery at (906) 225-1377.

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