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A PICTURE ISWORTH
ATHOUSANDWORDS
THE LANGUAGE OF PHOTOGRAPHY
JOHN KELLEN
This activity is funded in part by a grant fromThis activity is funded in part by a grant fromThis activity is funded in p...
ARTIST’S STATEMENT
My subject matter is predominantly
nature, whether it be landscapes,
wildlife, flowers, water or rocks....
OPENING
PHOTOGRAPH
On the wall versus on a screen.
Disappointing though it may initially
have been to not have a tradition...
VIRTUALTOUR
A PANDEMIC CANNOT KEEP THE SHOW FROM SEEINGTHE LIGHT
“GATEWAY TO THE WORLD”
LAKE SUPERIOR AT TETTEGOUCHE STATE PARK-
“PONDERING AN
EXTRAORDINARY
MIND”
CAMDEN STATE PARK-
A PLACEWHEREWE BOTH
LEARNEDTO SWIM AS KIDS
ONE GENERATION APART
It’s been said that language is but seven percent verbal and yet words are very
powerful. I’ve been mindful of that for ma...
“GOT ROCKS?”
LAKE SUPERIOR SHORE
WE BOTH LOVE ROCKS OF ALL KINDS...
“BAMBI”
”BAMBI”
Bambi is a name most famously known from a 1942 animated
drama film produced byWalt Disney which was based on the
...
“DETERMINATION’S REWARD”
JAY COOKE STATE PARK
Mutti never ceases to amaze
me. When I asked her if she
wanted to go look at...
“SPRING PAGEANTRY”
CANADIAN CRABAPPLE BLOSSOMS
“TWOTHINGSTO LOVE”
“TWOTHINGSTO LOVE”
Mom loves to fish. She could sit on a dock all afternoon and marvel at
the beauty of the shimmering wat...
“CHASINGTHE SUN”
“BACKYARD BANDIT”
Cute or Pesky? Or both? Mom obsesses over Squirrels
and feels compelled to shoo them away anytime she se...
A RIVER RUNSTHROUGH
Like water falling, Life ultimately cannot
defy gravity. Pondering my own mortality
through the lens o...
“RED ONE"
AKA "WILLMAR" CARDINAL
WHEN LANGUAGE DECLINES, CODE WORDS SUFFICE
“TWILIGHT’S SAFE
HARBOR”
GRAND MARAIS
End of a very full day- Six State Parks,
Approximately 400 miles and a 12-Hour
Day. ...
“RECONCILING LOSS”
MEMORIAL DAY 2020
FORT SNELLING
NATIONAL CEMETERY
Remembering a Great Man and Life Partner of 67Years.
...
“SACRED GROUND”
“SACRED GROUND”
SIOUX QUARTZITE AT PIPESTONE NATIONAL MONUMENT
The story of Plains Indian Life spans approximately 2000 ye...
“PREMONITION “
BUCKET LIST TRIP
“ENCHANTING TOUCHDOWN”
TOBIN HARBOR- ISLE ROYALE NATIONAL PARK
“ENCHANTEDTOUCHDOWN”
As a student pilot I love to fly any chance I can get. Mutti also enjoys
plane rides and spontaneity ...
“LOOKING FORWARD
OR INTO THE PAST?”
MT.TOM LOOKOUT-
SIBLEY STATE PARK
Sibley is a Magical Place and has influenced
our fam...
FAITH, LIGHT & LOVE
“TAKING FLIGHT”
SWANS IN THE POND
Trumpeter Swans have
made a comeback and we
see them regularly- Mom’s
rhetorical questio...
“RURAL ICON”
“RURAL ICON”
WITH A WHITE FENCE
Drives in the countryside have a way of calming the mind and tuning
out all the noise of o...
”YELLOW ONE”
• Aka Goldfinch
“DIFFUSER”
PHOTOGRAPHER’S ASSISTANT
Colleen loves to participate and help in anyway she can.
Oftentimes she’ll shinny up t...
“FLEETING BEAUTY”
Prairie Smoke
AWORLD OF GRATITUDE
• There are so many people who have helped make this show
possible and although I cannot list them all...
Picture is worth a thousand words - The language of Photography
Picture is worth a thousand words - The language of Photography
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Picture is worth a thousand words - The language of Photography

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John Kellen's pictorial and verbal record of his mother's journey through dementia and his own catalog of thoughts, feelings and memories from boyhood to the present.

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Picture is worth a thousand words - The language of Photography

  1. 1. A PICTURE ISWORTH ATHOUSANDWORDS THE LANGUAGE OF PHOTOGRAPHY JOHN KELLEN
  2. 2. This activity is funded in part by a grant fromThis activity is funded in part by a grant fromThis activity is funded in part by a grant fromThis activity is funded in part by a grant from the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council with fundsthe Southwest Minnesota Arts Council with fundsthe Southwest Minnesota Arts Council with fundsthe Southwest Minnesota Arts Council with funds provided by The McKnight Foundation.provided by The McKnight Foundation.provided by The McKnight Foundation.provided by The McKnight Foundation.
  3. 3. ARTIST’S STATEMENT My subject matter is predominantly nature, whether it be landscapes, wildlife, flowers, water or rocks. Bringing the outdoors inside and sharing my experiences with others brings a distinct joy to the world. I also love telling stories as seen through a lens which often takes on a photojournalistic tone or a historical examination of architectural shapes and sense of place. In times of uncertainty such as we’re experiencing there is comfort in the connections we have to our past while simultaneously eliciting a newness that lights me up inside. My goal is to inspire those who see my work to find their own joyfulness in the beauty that surrounds us all.
  4. 4. OPENING PHOTOGRAPH On the wall versus on a screen. Disappointing though it may initially have been to not have a traditional show, the silver lining is that more people will be able to share in our story. This exhibit not only showcases my photography, the images portray my mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s and our travels searching to create peak life experiences while we are still able. We hope you enjoy!
  5. 5. VIRTUALTOUR A PANDEMIC CANNOT KEEP THE SHOW FROM SEEINGTHE LIGHT
  6. 6. “GATEWAY TO THE WORLD” LAKE SUPERIOR AT TETTEGOUCHE STATE PARK-
  7. 7. “PONDERING AN EXTRAORDINARY MIND” CAMDEN STATE PARK- A PLACEWHEREWE BOTH LEARNEDTO SWIM AS KIDS ONE GENERATION APART
  8. 8. It’s been said that language is but seven percent verbal and yet words are very powerful. I’ve been mindful of that for many years in my own life and now that my mother is losing her ability to verbalize we are learning to communicate in other ways. A wink or a smile, pointing or touching. Sometimes it feels like a game of charades although the undertone is deadly serious. Fortunately through it all Colleen has been able to retain her signature sense of humor for which earned her the nickname of “Trixie.” And play tricks she does with a sly little grin. Every day is a gift when you stop to ponder mortality. Challenging as it may be at times, caregiving has heightened my sense of awareness and compassion. So many things we take for granted are now not guaranteed. Take words for example. Mom developed and extensive vocabulary over her lifetime and she could be so eloquent.To hear her resort to simple words or even grunting is sad to experience, yet at times she’ll come up with a description so poignant it takes my breath away. She still has in the essence of her being that which has always been there. Just that it’s hard for her to access information somewhat like a computer hard drive that has become fragmented. Our mutual admiration of nature has brought us together, in some ways closer than ever. The love shared between a mother and son is hard to fully describe in words, yet a photograph can capture so much emotion that words seem hardly necessary. One of the things I love about photography at this juncture is that in addition to being a conduit for mom’s memory, capturing the beauty that surrounds us magnifies our sense of being alive. You can just see it in her eyes and facial expression. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this as it’s impossible to fully know or understand what’s going on in her mind yet knowing her like I do I can tell when she is experiencing Joy. Likewise, when she’s sad or scared or anxious I wish I could somehow calm her fears. For now I work on being present and know that when she says “Yellow One” that translates to Goldfinch and when she says “Red One” that is a “Willmar” Cardinal. Pondering An Extraordinary Mind
  9. 9. “GOT ROCKS?” LAKE SUPERIOR SHORE WE BOTH LOVE ROCKS OF ALL KINDS...
  10. 10. “BAMBI”
  11. 11. ”BAMBI” Bambi is a name most famously known from a 1942 animated drama film produced byWalt Disney which was based on the 1923 book “Bambi- A life in the woods” by Austrian author and hunter Felix Salten. How do I know?Wikipedia. Furthermore, Bambi means child and is of Italian origin. For Mutti “Bambi” means deer of any kind and looking for Bambi is one of her all-time favorite pastimes. She gets very excited about looking for Bambi along with other “Critters” and she’ll say “Bambi lives here” when we’re driving through wooded areas. I’ll suggest to her to keep her eyes peeled for Bambi when we are nearing sunset and she’ll immediately perk up and be on the lookout. Fortunately, we live in an area of the country with ample deer populations and we frequently see them when out on our many joyrides. When we spot deer and pull over to the side of the road to take pictures Mutti is just like a kid- very excited and animated. Her first inclination is to whistle at them as if to summon a pet dog. Try as I might to discourage her from whistling, she cannot help herself. This doesn’t exactly make it easy to photograph wildlife, but how can you be upset when all she wants is for Bambi to come closer for a better look. For me I like to whisper to the deer in a low calming voice asking their permission to take their picture and telling them all along how beautiful they are. I’ll then thank them for allowing me to capture their essence and quietly leave them in peace. I guess you could call us both a little crazy in our own ways, but that’s ok. We don’t mind
  12. 12. “DETERMINATION’S REWARD” JAY COOKE STATE PARK Mutti never ceases to amaze me. When I asked her if she wanted to go look at the Waterfalls, she said yup! Up the rugged trail and climbing rocks at 86 years old. Of course I was holding her arm securely. I found myself not only being in awe of the beauty, I was also in awe of her willpower.
  13. 13. “SPRING PAGEANTRY” CANADIAN CRABAPPLE BLOSSOMS
  14. 14. “TWOTHINGSTO LOVE”
  15. 15. “TWOTHINGSTO LOVE” Mom loves to fish. She could sit on a dock all afternoon and marvel at the beauty of the shimmering water. Even if she doesn’t catch anything, she’s happy as can be. Catching fish on the other hand is a bonus and usually elicits an excited hoot and holler. Funny thing is she does not like to eat fish. Go figure. At this stage in her life I’m committed to providing as good of a quality of life as possible for Mutti while she is still able to enjoy and experience those activities that light her up. Put a fishing pole in her hand and get a comfortable chair on the end of a dock on a lake and she’s content. Mom loves dogs.And dogs love her. In this photograph taken up at the home of my friend Jody Gobats on Fig Lake near Eveleth Minnesota mom caught a good-sized largemouth bass and her faithful sidekick Duke the Dawg is helping her out. Duke Kahanamoku or just plain “The Dawg” followed mom around everywhere she went. He even hopped up on the bed to sleep with her the first night and not being accustomed to having a 110 lb. canine in her bed was met with a resounding response- “The Dawg,The Dawg…” Poor thing. We were laughing so hard at this sight of Mutti in her nightie with eyes as big as saucers. Ultimately mom became accustomed to her furry friend sharing her bed so all’s well that ends well. Footnote- we couldn’t understand why mom was calling Duke, Duke Kahanamoku. Turns out from the recesses of her gray matter vault Duke Kahanamoku was a famous Hawaiian Olympic swimmer who popularized the sport of surfing. Some how he must have stuck in mom’s mind from a time long past. There was an instant bond between Duke and mom that I wish I could bottle up and take home with us. Part of me wanted to get mom a dog for a companion, then I thought otherwise as an added layer of responsibility at this point wouldn’t be prudent. For the time being we’ll gladly enjoy the company of other people’s dogs whenever we can.
  16. 16. “CHASINGTHE SUN”
  17. 17. “BACKYARD BANDIT” Cute or Pesky? Or both? Mom obsesses over Squirrels and feels compelled to shoo them away anytime she sees one in the backyard.
  18. 18. A RIVER RUNSTHROUGH Like water falling, Life ultimately cannot defy gravity. Pondering my own mortality through the lens of aging parents I've experienced a heightened awareness of just how precious and fragile Life is. Every day is a gift and there are no guarantees for tomorrow. Being present every day and showing gratitude for what we have rather than focusing on what is missing has brought comfort and driven us quite literally to experience joy everywhere.
  19. 19. “RED ONE" AKA "WILLMAR" CARDINAL WHEN LANGUAGE DECLINES, CODE WORDS SUFFICE
  20. 20. “TWILIGHT’S SAFE HARBOR” GRAND MARAIS End of a very full day- Six State Parks, Approximately 400 miles and a 12-Hour Day. When the receding light and focus appear to make a scene look like it came from a painter’s brush.
  21. 21. “RECONCILING LOSS” MEMORIAL DAY 2020 FORT SNELLING NATIONAL CEMETERY Remembering a Great Man and Life Partner of 67Years. In some ways there is perhaps a silver lining in memory loss. Fortunately, mom doesn't dwell on the sadness and grief of my father’s passing, yet periodically it comes back with a vengeance. I wish there was a way to take away her sadness...
  22. 22. “SACRED GROUND”
  23. 23. “SACRED GROUND” SIOUX QUARTZITE AT PIPESTONE NATIONAL MONUMENT The story of Plains Indian Life spans approximately 2000 years. As the Sioux account of the origin of Pipestone, the Great Spirit gathered all the tribes around him and fashioned a pipe out of the red rock which he said was made of their flesh. The story goes on to suggest that the red rock be used for nothing other than pipes and they smoke in homage to the Great Spirit. Further he said that the stone belonged alike to all of the tribes, the ground was Sacred and no weapons must be used or brought upon it- Sioux account of the origin of Pipestone as recorded by George Catlin 1836 The invertedT-Shaped Calumet is distinctly Plains Indian and although there are variations on style throughout the different tribes- Sioux, Crow, Blackfoot and Pawnee the reverence of the stories are testament to their significance. To stand on this sacred ground one cannot help but feel connected and it profoundly impacted me. For Mutti, even though I was excitedly recounting what I was learning, she just loved seeing the beautiful “Rocks” I guess that is in itself enough. Side note- she wanted to take a large rock home and put in our front yard. (On second thought she said she was worried that the neighbor kids would climb on her rock and fall off and get hurt. Always looking out for kids.)
  24. 24. “PREMONITION “ BUCKET LIST TRIP
  25. 25. “ENCHANTING TOUCHDOWN” TOBIN HARBOR- ISLE ROYALE NATIONAL PARK
  26. 26. “ENCHANTEDTOUCHDOWN” As a student pilot I love to fly any chance I can get. Mutti also enjoys plane rides and spontaneity which was the perfect combination for creating another peak life experience. While preparing for a big adventure to celebrate my 60th birthday last summer we had the map laid out listing all of the state parks up along the north shore of Lake Superior which we planned on visiting. When I noticed that Isle Royale National Park was only a short boat ride away from Grand Portage I asked mom if she was game for a boat ride? Without hesitation she said yes! What normally takes months or years of planning and making advanced reservations turned out perfectly on a spur of the moment. Lodge Reservations in the National Park. Check. But first make sure you can get on and off the island. There are only two options- by boat or by seaplane. I called the Ferry company- Sorry we’re fully booked. Plan B, I called the float plane company. Zero availability. Bummer. Oh well, it wasn’t to be. Well hang on, the owner and chief pilot has decided to fly to Grand Marais for routine maintenance on the plane. You’re in luck! Two seats available. Check! I had never been on a float plane before but always wanted to experience taking off and landing on the water. Mom and dad had such an experience up in Alaska and I remember dad telling me that it was a spur of the moment request that had them fly up around Denali National Park flying out of Anchorage. If you’ve never been to Isle Royale National Park I highly recommend it! It is rugged, remote and extraordinarily beautiful. Flying out over the Northwoods and on to Lake Superior at low altitude you realize how vast this body of water really is and notice the intersection of borders- Canada, United States, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan all come together in a point. I could write a whole chapter about this peak life experience and perhaps I will someday, but for now suffice it to say seeing the look on mom’s face as we enjoyed our morning coffee and lunch on our balcony overlooking Lake Superior- Priceless!
  27. 27. “LOOKING FORWARD OR INTO THE PAST?” MT.TOM LOOKOUT- SIBLEY STATE PARK Sibley is a Magical Place and has influenced our family ever since the first days we moved toWillmar. So many memories and peak life experiences are connected to time spent here- swimming, camping, fishing, hiking, cross country skiing and more recently joyrides and hikes photographing the beauty after an absence of three decades. I love the look of contemplation on Mutti's face and the knowing this place makes her happy.
  28. 28. FAITH, LIGHT & LOVE
  29. 29. “TAKING FLIGHT” SWANS IN THE POND Trumpeter Swans have made a comeback and we see them regularly- Mom’s rhetorical question is “Swans in the Pond?” or Ducks in the Pond?”
  30. 30. “RURAL ICON”
  31. 31. “RURAL ICON” WITH A WHITE FENCE Drives in the countryside have a way of calming the mind and tuning out all the noise of our hyperactive society. There is something about a Sunday afternoon drive that perhaps jogs my mother’s memories. For our parent’s generation driving the backroads was a regular occurrence. For me being back in a rural community after living in large cities has taken on an air of nostalgia. My dad grew up on a farm and my uncle Kenny operated the family farm when I was growing up. I have many fond memories of visiting the farm and the adventures my brother and I would have. For a photographer barns and farmsteads make great subject matter. Seeing so many barns in disrepair is disconcerting on multiple levels and although I can imagine the amount of work and expense of keeping these structures in good repair is great, it seems like something grand is being lost from our landscape. Not to mention the countless underlying stories of family farms disappearing. My dad would lament about how small communities that were once thriving places were now all but drying up. When we see a red barn (or any color for that matter) in good condition we marvel at how well the owners care for it and although we don’t know them personally, we have a deep appreciation of their hard work and pride of ownership. For my mother something about a white fence immediately grabs her attention. I’m not sure what it is for her and even if she cannot articulate in words, I suspect she has some fond childhood memory of a home with a white fence. There is a dark side of this story and one I’ll not elaborate on here, but given the current state of national consciousness and social unrest in our country pertaining to race relations and inequality, I’m compelled to acknowledge our history and the Peoples who were here long before European “settlers” or pioneers staked claim to this land we now call home. For the indigenous peoples they must have a much different understanding of what this place once was and is now. Ownership was a foreign concept to them and the idea of a nice white fence to keep livestock in could in an alternative view be seen as a mechanism to keep other people out. Food for thought.
  32. 32. ”YELLOW ONE” • Aka Goldfinch
  33. 33. “DIFFUSER” PHOTOGRAPHER’S ASSISTANT Colleen loves to participate and help in anyway she can. Oftentimes she’ll shinny up the side of a hill to help alleviate shadows on the flowers while I’m on my hands and knees or even on my back as the shot of Prairie Smoke blossoms portrays. Something about being useful and being needed in spite of personal challenges is still very strong in her and I strive to include her in as much activity as I can. The urge to do everything myself is often overridden by the knowing that even the little things become so important to her.
  34. 34. “FLEETING BEAUTY” Prairie Smoke
  35. 35. AWORLD OF GRATITUDE • There are so many people who have helped make this show possible and although I cannot list them all here, a special thanks goes out to the following individuals for their support: • My extraordinary parents Don and Colleen Kellen without whom I wouldn’t exist and who’s continuous support my entire life has shaped the person I’ve become. The opportunity to pursue photography as an artform is in part due to their love, inspiration and generosity. • I’ve also been influenced and inspired by my artistic siblings Tom, Joan and Jill who over the years have created beautiful works of art. Now is my time to create and communicate. • Willmar Area Arts Council and theWEAC- Janet Olney and DougWilkowski • Little Crow Photography Club Members • The Southwest Minnesota Arts Council’s generous grant in part was funded by the McKnight Foundation. In particular Caroline Koska for introducing me to the grant writing process and for her guidance in writing my first ever grant proposal. • MilanVillage Arts School- Ron Porep,AnnThompson and BrianWolf for teaching me the fine art of matting and framing and who’s framing studio allowed me to produce the work shown in this exhibit. • JeffWeitzel who’s many talents and tools helped transform the prime poplar lumber into molding which ultimately became picture frames. • Marybeth Block for help editing my grant proposal and Gregory and Maggie Harp for insights into grant writing process. • Friends and Acquaintances who have encouraged me.

John Kellen's pictorial and verbal record of his mother's journey through dementia and his own catalog of thoughts, feelings and memories from boyhood to the present.

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