Harvey ND, USA




Lewis Ableidinger (b. 1983) grew up in the small town of Kensal, ND. His interest with photography began in high school documenting what remained of small towns in North Dakota. Lewis received a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Communication from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2006 and completed a Bachelor of Music in Performance the following year. Lewis currently lives in Harvey, ND, where he works as an engineer for Canadian Pacific Railway.

Artist Statement:

Flyover Country, the moniker given to the middle part of America that so many people view as boring that it is simply flown over while going from one coast to the other, to places where much more interesting things happen. From above it appears as a monotonous quilt of sectioned off square miles stretching from horizon to horizon, Jefferson’s grid system being perfectly suited for the relatively flat landscape of the Midwest. What can’t be seen from a plane however is the details and the people that make Flyover Country much more interesting than it first seems.

Flyover Country is perhaps one of the most misunderstood parts of America. Some have a negative view, seeing it as home to over-zealous religious types, gun racks, Wal-Marts, and nothing really to see (other than Mt. Rushmore); alternatively some have a romanticized version of Flyover Country, one of quaint and prosperous small towns, friendly farmers on antique tractors, and the American cowboy riding a horse into the sunset. The truth is far more complex than a few ugly stereotypes or a Terry Redlin painting.

This project explores the complex people and places of Flyover Country. There are quaint small towns, but there are also towns where every building is boarded up; there is no one archetype that represents the people living in Flyover Country, the personalities are as diverse as any large city; there is a subtle beauty to the landscape, if you can learn to appreciate how it’s different from mountains and forests; and there are indeed Wal-Marts.

Practice Statement: How does photographing on film (or using your material photographic process of predilection) inform your artistic practice?

I began photographing on film, 35mm color slides, and later in college moving primarily to black and white that I developed and printed myself. After college I used digital almost exclusively and after years of using digital I noticed that my photography started to become sloppy, it was too easy to take photographs and too easy to take too many photographs without ever putting much thought into the work. Two years ago I decided to dust off my 4×5 camera and begin using it again. The nature of the format has forced me to slow down my process and take more consideration into what I’m photographing, and why. Rather than firing off a 100 shots of a scene and editing them later I now take the time to consider the best approach and composition to a subject and expose only one or two sheets. This slower approach I think is necessary for the Midwestern subjects I photograph, you have to slow down to appreciate the topography of the plains states and you also have to slow down to photograph them. In addition, the detail and tonal range that can be achieved with large format surpasses what I was able to achieve with digital.

IG @l.ableidinger