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Jack Zaleski, Published November 09 2013

Zaleski: Beautiful new book of North Dakota pictures

A few years ago, I met David Paukert, a photographer based in Michigan, N.D. Like many shooters, Paukert was selling his work at street fairs and other summer festivals. But his was different. My wife and I came to love his work, in particular his studies of North Dakota’s old (and disappearing) barns. We ran into him at the Island Park festival in Fargo this summer, where he told me about a book of photographs he was preparing.

It’s done, and is among the most attractive and compelling volumes of North Dakota vistas I’ve ever seen. “Visions of the Prairie: My North Dakota Journey” brings together Paukert’s extraordinary pictures with descriptive and lyrical poetry by farmer/poet Terry Jacobson, who works the family farm in northeast North Dakota. The combination of images and verse can be magical.

The hard-cover book is impressive, not only for the photos and poems but also for its first-class production values. The 10-by-12 pages are high-quality paper that captures the color and contrasts of each scene. The volume is divided into sections by category – landscapes or barns, for example. Paukert traveled to nearly every county in the state to find at least one representative photograph – sometimes more.

The accompanying verses lend contextual ambience to the pictures. Jacobson’s poetry enhances the spirit and pathos of the prairies, woodlands, iconic buildings and sunlit vistas. Whether in snow and ice or washed in the glow of a sunflower field, “Visions” is a startling compilation of North Dakota’s marvelous places, some of them fading away or being trampled by development.

My wife and I are especially intrigued by Paukert’s barn photos. We have several of them on our walls, each defining a moment or a season or even a long-gone era. The book’s barn chapter is remarkable.

Paukert’s studio/store is just off Highway 2 in the Nelson County town of Michigan. People familiar with the area might remember the old Kite café on the west end of a low white building on that reach of the highway. The café is long closed; the photographer’s space is on the east end of the building. It’s worth a visit.

Meanwhile, the book costs about $40 and is well worth the price. Paukert is setting up shop this Christmas season at Pride of Dakota Holiday Showcases – in Grand Forks today; Minot Nov. 16-17; Fargo Nov. 22-24; Bismarck Dec. 6-8. Get to one (or more of them) and take a look at “Visions” and his other, free-standing work – cards and items that feature Paukert’s pictures. Nice stuff that really reflects the beauty of North Dakota’s places.


Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.