Joe Lipka photography

Photographs for Exhibition and Enjoyment


About "Sense of the Seasons"


Why and how things happen is usually just as interesting as what happens. The “what” happens was this photographic project. If you have made it to this point, there has certainly been some interest on your part to make this journey through a year. I thank you for taking the time.

The how and why this happened may take a little bit more explaining. Brooks Jensen and I photograph together for one week every year. Two of our annual photo safaris were spent photographing Divide County, North Dakota. We photographed eight hours a day for six days on each of the two trips.

When I returned home, I spent a lot of time looking, organizing, and thinking about the work. I was able to identify six or seven projects among my photographs. I completed one project, The Alkabo School. The next project was the Heckman Homestead.

The Heckman Homestead is the original house at the Heckman farm. It has been on the family farm for ninety eight years. The last people to use the Homestead were Aunt Dorothy and Grandma Stella. They would spend summers at the Homestead rather than spend them at the nursing home in Crosby. Grandma Stella stopped making her summer visits in 1984. Since then it has been unoccupied, but not unused. The rural ethos does not allow anything to be thrown away. Any item worth “going to town for” must be used up, re-used, recycled and put to at least one other purpose before it is stored somewhere on the farm. That’s because you never can tell when you might think up another purpose for whatever it was you bought and you can use it again and not have to spend the better part of a day going to and from town.

While editing the image that graces the cover of this project I noticed the wall hanging behind the stove. As I scrolled up the image, I could make out the phrase, “Winter is Pleasant with Memories.”

A ha! The project now had a name.

As I scrolled up the wall hanging, additional sentiments about the other three seasons appeared. In those few short moments, everything fell into place.

The projects were named. Spring would be the Alkabo School, symbolizing the youth and the beginning of life. The landscape photographs were warm summer days. Fall is a time of harvest and Pioneer Village is a harvest of cultural artifacts. Finally, the winter portfolio of the Heckman Homestead would bring the journey through the seasons to an end.

The wall hanging opened a window to allow me to look at a group of photographs in a new light. It was that wonderful moment when not only individual photographs made sense, but groups of photographs became related to each other to form a coherent narrative. This humble piece of drug store art led me to complete a large photographic project

As I completed the project, I knew I needed a close up photograph of the wall hanging. As chance would have it, Brooks was going back to North Dakota this (2008) summer. I asked him to make a photograph of the wall hanging. When he arrived at the farm, the only thing left in the building was the wall hanging. His photograph is on page three of this publication. He also did one thing better than make a good photograph. He gave me the wall hanging as a gift.

Imagine my surprise as I unrolled the wall hanging to see a 1984 calendar.

Somehow, I know that Grandma Stella would be proud I found another use for that wall hanging.


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Last updated: May 27, 2013