Minneapolis Star Tribune
Currents: David Bowman,
professional photographer and 'itinerant artist'
What outdoors people are reading, following, listening to, and more.
By Bob Timmons Star Tribune February 1, 2019 — 8:51am
Today: David Bowman, a Minneapolis-based photographer. Among his eclectic portfolio is work reflecting his strong attachment to the outdoors — particularly Minnesota’s North Shore. Bowman’s work has been featured across major publications. He also recently completed a project documenting a bike messenger in bustling Chicago — Mike, 50, one of Bowman’s childhood friends.
Used books are my favorite form of recycling. I enjoy finding clues in the margins, and I wonder who read them before me. My wife is an associate librarian, and she runs a Little Free Library on our busy corner in south Minneapolis. I built the Cape Cod-inspired structure from scratch with my dad. Itʼs dedicated to my father-in-law. He was a journalism professor at MCTC Minneapolis Community Technical College for more than 20 years. I recently found a crisp, signed edition of “The Seven States of Minnesota” by John Toren. In it, he divides our state into seven outdoor regions: Bluff Country, Southern Plains, Heartland Lakes and Forest, Arrowhead, Boglands, Iron Range, and Red River Valley. I find that the various geographic zones match my own experience as an itinerant artist, traveling across a changing landscape as I explore the state. I moved here 25 years ago and havenʼt run out of people or places to photograph yet.
Iʼm obsessed with the Great Lakes. My dadʼs grandparents met on the North Shore in the late 1800s. He was a lumberjack, and she was a nurse. My parents lived on the Mesabi Iron Range, and my dad worked in a mine. Eventually they moved down to Chicagoland, where I grew up along the western shores of Lake Michigan.
I understand why many Minnesotans are worried about sulfide mining near the Boundary Waters. But to me, the more immediate threat from PolyMetʼs copper-nickel mine is to the Great Lakes, whose watershed begins within hiking distance of the mine. Seven Beaver Lake is the headwaters of the St. Louis River, the largest tributary to Lake Superior on the American side. Sediment washes down this river toward Duluth, and into the Great Lakes beyond. Iʼm concerned that this mine will create permanent, toxic pollution in the headwaters of Lake Superior.
Iʼm a big fan of the Coen brothers, and their insider-as-outsider perspective on the Minnesota psyche. Recently I watched “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” on Netflix, which blew me away. I thought it was horrible at first, and then slowly became addicted — always a good sign. I also enjoyed “Fargo,” both the FX series and the movie. Because of the title, not many people realize that most of the movie was shot in the Twin Cities. To commemorate the filmʼs 20th anniversary, Mpls.St.Paul magazine commissioned me to rephotograph the remaining set locations in the metro area, exploring the passage of time through still photography.
Nothing beats listening to a good story while printing in the darkroom, or driving home late at night across the frozen tundra. My favorite audio books are by Cormac McCarthy. I love the language he uses to describe landscape, and our human connection to it.
I left Chicago more than 30 years ago, after I graduated from high school. Since then, everyoneʼs moved away. You could say the place I grew up is gone. But some things remain, including my best friend, Mike, who works downtown as a 50-year-old bike messenger. I caught up with him last fall, two cameras around my neck, and tailed him on a bicycle as he crisscrossed the Loop, delivering takeout meals across the city. Read the story and watch the movie here.