'North Dakota Unforgettable' turns lens on state's landscape

2014-08-03T00:00:00Z 2014-10-17T14:49:09Z 'North Dakota Unforgettable' turns lens on state's landscapeBy Bernard Quetchenbach For The Gazette The Billings Gazette
August 03, 2014 12:00 am  • 

“North Dakota Unforgettable”

By Chuck Haney

Chuck Haney’s color photographs provide a memorable portrait of an often-neglected landscape in “North Dakota Unforgettable,” a finalist in this year’s High Plains Book Awards’ art and photography category.

Haney is well-established in the coffee table and calendar nature photography genre, with volumes dedicated to Montana, Glacier National Park and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park badlands in North Dakota, the location of many images in the current volume. Haney is particularly fond of, and good at, wildlife photography and the animal and bird images in “North Dakota Unforgettable” are, well, unforgettable. Other favorite subjects include river fogbanks, sunrises and sunsets and, in a nod to North Dakota’s agricultural heritage, grain elevators. Haney also acknowledges such state idiosyncrasies as a revered albino bison, the Medora Musical, and the tendency to scatter whimsically monumental large animal sculptures along highways. His image of giant roadside pheasants is especially effective, the family of avian behemoths framed by their “natural habitat”: a lonely prairie highway with a single car approaching.

At times, the book’s production seems a bit rushed. As with many similar collections, the high-gloss paper tends to eliminate subtleties of color visible in the same or similar images on the photographer’s web site. The photographs are presented rather randomly, with no attempt to integrate them into an overall context; there’s little in the way of a narrative journey through the state’s regions. Captions are sometimes substituted for actual images, either because the photographer would rather not dwell on subjects like the Bakken oil boom, represented here by a brief mention beside a pastoral winter scene near Williston, or simply because the photographer didn’t take the time to photograph them; a caption notes the indoor Ferris wheel in Fargo as a city landmark, but it does not appear in the general street scene the caption describes. Similarly the book tells about, but does not show, the monument near Rugby signifying the continent’s geographic center.

Despite its flaws and limitations, “North Dakota Unforgettable” turns the eye and lens of a talented and skilled photographer toward well-chosen subjects. North Dakota residents will welcome it as a tribute to the state’s badlands, towns and grain fields. For those less familiar with the state, the book presents an attractive collection of intimate wildlife portraits and unusual cultural landmarks placed alongside wide-open Great Plains landscapes. Often, as Haney says in his foreword, North Dakota may be neglected by motorists crossing its flat expanses on the interstate. Perhaps after taking in Haney’s images, such preoccupied drivers will stop next time to appreciate a vast field of sunflowers or a herd of bison crossing the Little Missouri.

Bernard Quetchenbach teaches literature and writing at MSU Billings.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More from the Gazette

Bookmobile

January 25, 2015 12:00 amLoading…
New novel explores Van Gogh's silent period

New novel explores Van Gogh's silent period

January 25, 2015 12:00 amLoading…

Bookmobile

January 18, 2015 12:00 amLoading…

Bookmobile

January 11, 2015 12:00 amLoading…

Local literature: A few exciting reads by Helena authors

January 04, 2015 12:00 amLoading…

Bookmobile

January 04, 2015 12:00 amLoading…
Try these exciting reads by Helena authors

Try these exciting reads by Helena authors

January 04, 2015 12:00 am Photos

Photos

Loading…

Bookmobile

December 28, 2014 12:00 amLoading…
Review: 'Five' by Ursula Archer is intriguing

Review: 'Five' by Ursula Archer is intriguing

December 28, 2014 12:00 amLoading…

Bookmobile

December 21, 2014 12:00 amLoading…
'Killer Heels' looks at the history of high heels

'Killer Heels' looks at the history of high heels

December 21, 2014 12:00 amLoading…

Bookmobile

December 14, 2014 12:00 amLoading…
Jerry Lee Lewis: Sustained by brief blaze of glory

Jerry Lee Lewis: Sustained by brief blaze of glory

December 14, 2014 12:00 amLoading…
First Alice Munro collection since Nobel Prize

First Alice Munro collection since Nobel Prize

December 08, 2014 8:41 amLoading…

Bookmobile

December 07, 2014 12:00 amLoading…
'Midnight in Siberia' looks at Russia today

'Midnight in Siberia' looks at Russia today

December 07, 2014 12:00 amLoading…

Writers Roundup returns to Shrine on Saturday

December 02, 2014 10:15 amLoading…
Baldacci's new novel thrills — and tugs at heart

Baldacci's new novel thrills — and tugs at heart

November 30, 2014 12:00 amLoading…

Bookmobile

November 30, 2014 12:00 amLoading…

Follow Enjoy

Get weekly ads via e-mail

Deals & Offers

Featured Businesses