Portfolios > One Thing Leads to Another (in progress)

One Thing Leads to Another: The discovery of an album of family photographs taken by a North Dakota woman, Nina Weiste in 1917, and the subsequent twelve-year photography project that resulted, produced focus regarding my interest in vernacular photography. The project manifested in numerous photography exhibitions, presentations, and the publication of a book, "Family Album" (2017). Post publication of Family Album, I presumed the project was complete, and, consequently, my relationship with Nina was over. However, her spirit decided otherwise. And so, Nina’s influence on the course of my life persists in the form of this new project, "One Thing Leads to Another".

In 1880, Nina's father, Saul Weiste migrated from North Ostrobothnia, Finland to Ishpeming in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The following year he married Kaisa Maria Herne-Ahoe, who also migrated (separately) from Finland to Ishpeming in 1880. They operated a restaurant in Ishpeming for two-years and then traveled west to establish a homestead in Savo Township, South Dakota. In 1898, the Weiste family moved again, but only a few miles this time to Ludden, North Dakota to farm fertile soil along the James (Jim) River. In Ludden, Saul Weiste became a successful farmer who owned much land and property. Kaisa and Saul had ten children. The youngest child was Nina.

In 1917 when she was sixteen-years-old, Nina left home and traveled twenty-two miles to begin teacher’s training at the State Normal and Industrial School in Ellendale, North Dakota. In Ellendale she took the photographs I would later discover in Colorado, and subsequently publish in a book, one-hundred years after her photographs were taken.

One Thing Leads to Another, will connect three separate geographical locations and in the process expand my experience with community engagement. However, having personal connections to each of the project location is significant. Thus, due to the serendipitous discovery of Nina’s family photo album, I am connected with Savo Township, South Dakota. Ishpeming, Michigan holds meaning because that’s where Nina’s family migrated to from Finland in 1880. Ishpeming is also significant because it was the first place I lived in the United States. I spent three months based in Ishpeming working as a minerals prospector for a Canadian mining company in 1974. My relationship with the North Ostrobothnia region of Finland is developing as an extension of my association with the afore mentioned locations, and because Nina has directed me to go there.

The photographs in this album represent approximately one-week of project reconnaissance: two-days in North Ostrobothnia, Finland; two-days in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and three-days in South Dakota. I have since received a grant to commence the project. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, my activity is presently restricted to studying the history of Finland, in particular, late nineteenth century and early twentieth century Finnish migration to the United States.