3 Replies to “Sweet Crude Man Camp”

  1. So thrilled and moved to see this video component to the article in the New York Times. I’ve been through the Williston area a number of times riding freight trains and Amtrak and have been deeply intrigued by the Western North Dakota landscape and the way it has been redefined. I’m originally from Northfield, MN (I spent my teenage years in Moorhead, MN) and the prairie landscape has always been a source of dread and inspiration, fear and awe. I think this feeling was accurately captured by the film and the photos that accompanied the story in the Times. Thank you (Alec and Isaac) for covering this subject with so much grace and attention to the land.

    Alec, on a side-note, I have been following your work since I first came across it in 2006. A few of my friends are/were photographers in the Minneapolis area (Jocelyn Chase, John Haynes) and they suggested I check out Sleeping By the Mississippi, which was instantly my favorite photography series by any photographer, ever. Since then I’ve continued to follow your work, seeing it a few times at the Walker, and more recently at the De Young Museum in SF, where it was part of the Real to Real exhibition. What has always amazed me is the way in which you are able to capture a lyrical, humanizing, personal quality in your subjects (even in the landscape shots) that allows the subjects a rare degree of dignity. You see this in Picasso, in Raymond Carver, Robert Altman, Chris Marker, James Wright, Bob Dylan, etc., but it’s not so often you see it in an artist from Minnesota who is covering the culture you know so well (Eel Pout Festival, Itasca, Leech Lack Indian Reservation, Minneapolis, etc.). This sense of tone, or timber, or pitch, is something I’ve been attempting to capture in my poetry for the last ten years. I don’t know if it’s a shared sense of feeling, of longing, or something related to the land, but I am deeply moved by the work you do, and I think you are getting it right.

    I’m currently finishing my first book of poetry (with help from a fellowship called the Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University) and am working on associative signs, or themes, to align and connect through the book. It’s a little bit like what Robert Bly did with Silence in the Snowy Fields, but with a more transient, metaphysical understanding of place. Plus there is train riding and hobo camps and skaters, etc., but I didn’t start this email to talk about myself, I just notice you occasionally post poetry on your blog and it’s usually the kind of poets I like. Have you ever read the poet Jack Gilbert? He has a book called The Great Fires that is really amazing.

    Again, I really appreciate the work that you’re doing, most specifically in terms of aesthetics, but also for the landscape and culture of ole Minnesota. You have captured something essential about it, something profound, and I wanted to give you some props.

    Sincerely,

    Kai Carlson-Wee

  2. Dear Kai, Thanks so much for you kind note. I know Jack Gilbert’s poetry, but don’t own any of his books. Thanks for your recommendation of The Great Fires. I also look forward to seeing your book when it is published.

  3. Hi Alec,

    Appreciated the strength of the characters and the atmosphere conveyed in this film. Although I am a long way away here in England, I guess it reminds me of the lives of our own oil workers on the North Sea rigs. And the impact on the community that already lived in North Dakota was interesting to hear – how it played out in the local WalMart.
    The story adds to the trips you have been taking with Brad Zellar. I have the Michigan one here, having been to Flint myself a few years back.

    Brian

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