Capturing the subtle beauty: Photographer documents North Dakota prairie in book
With vivid photographs, insightful poetry and nostalgic anecdotes, photographer David Paukert, of Michigan, N.D., has documented the past 20 years of the North Dakota prairie.
The Grand Forks native collaborated with farmer and poet Terry Jacobson to publish a coffee table book titled “Visions of the Prairie: My North Dakota Journey.” The book includes Paukert’s landscape photographs taken throughout North Dakota over the past 20 years.
In the images, Paukert said he tries to capture the vastness and beauty of the prairie, which is often overlooked.
“I think, we as North Dakotans, sometimes, we sell ourselves short of the beauty that we have here,” he said. “The beauty of the prairie is very subtle; it doesn’t scream at you, so you have to take some quiet moments and look at it.”Over the past two decades, Paukert and his wife, Amy Jo, did just that. Taking many four-day trips into small towns throughout the prairie, Paukert photographed and documented the land and its structures with the help of Amy Jo, who he said is his critic. Sometimes, they’d make a second and third trip to a specific location to capture the scene in just the right light.“I wanted to celebrate the prairie’s structures — the barns, the churches, the schools, the elevators — that unfortunately, we’re losing,” he said, adding that the book is very nostalgic for many readers.“People will go, ‘Oh, that looks just like my church, but we had a little grove of trees over there,’ “ he said. “It’s not so much that it’s their church or their barn, but that it brings back memories. I think that’s what’s been rewarding.”To further connect with people who pick up his book, Paukert included Jacobson’s poetry and a little of his own writing alongside the powerful photographs.“(Jacobson) is just a really passionate North Dakota farmer,” he said. “He uses few words and says so much.”In Paukert’s own words, he shares many anecdotes about growing up and living on the prairie.“To put it all together … to use text and poetry, hopefully provides something that speaks to people,” Paukert said.He published the book as a way to further market his art and make it accessible to more people, but it also records the land’s past and documents his life’s work.“The book really capsulizes what I’ve been doing over the last 20 years,” he said. “It puts it all into one body of work. When you look at it … hopefully it’ll provide some interest and perspective of my work.”Paukert’s book, “Visions of the Prairie: My North Dakota Journey,” is available for $40 at Ferguson Books, the University of North Dakota Bookstore and all Barnes & Noble bookstores throughout North Dakota.