Richard Colburn Photographer

These photographs are about the power of place. This place, the Upper Midwest, is where I see life's stories being told. It is a real place bristling with it's own physical character and populated by people whose individual stories are universal. The photographs are made in small to mid-sized rural communities with agriculture, ranching, iron mining and logging as their economic base. Over many years, this region has become familiar, indeed a home.

The advice often given to authors is to write what you know. Reading Jim Harrison, for example, you cannot separate the stories from the place.
I have taken that to heart as a photographer.

This is a place where I can explore the circular nature of photography. A thoughtful engagement with a photograph simultaneously affirms its identity as art and brings us back to the world where it originated.


When I saw the first reconstruction of Constantin Brancusi’s studio at the Centre Pompidou I was surprised to see power tools given what I knew about how greatly he valued the physicality of his sculptures. I read that Brancusi spent months hand polishing some pieces and wept at their purchase.

Did it make a difference that he used a power tool rather than a hand tool? In the end, it did not. For a viewer the sculptures are still magical. But, for a maker the role of tools and processes are different.

My work is the product of slow photography. Slow photography allows the time for me to have a conversation with myself. With the exception of the square format images from the Iron Range, all of the images here were made using a view camera. In many cases the images are in accord with the deliberation necessary when using a camera that is bulky, requires a tripod, and time spent under a dark cloth. The photographs of landscapes and closed schools are well suited to being made this way. The subjects don’t move so composition, focus, and other photographic decisions can be considered. Photographs of community life in the Iron Range and the Iowa Caucuses of necessity speed up the conversation.