Storm Lake is the first of several college towns that will be documented with photos taken by students in the non-profit Midwest Documentary Project headed by Kendra Mack, photography and publishing business owner from Minneapolis.
Mack was selected as an adjunct faculty member for the interim at Buena Vista University. Ironically, she spent several summers in Storm Lake visiting her grandparents, Edgar and Lois Mack. She is the daughter of Warren Mack and has felt quite comfortable in her temporary surroundings.
Fifteen BVU students - from a variety of majors - signed up for the photography class. The idea is to "get the students involved in the community and get them out talking with people."
One of the first orders of business was to check in with the SL business owners to see if they would want to participate in the project. Some 40 businesses agreed.
In small groups, the students went back to the stores to photograph owners, managers, employees and/or even customers. Only two photos were taken of each business so they had to make their efforts count - with guidance from Mack.
Another part of the project has included getting the students to get out and walk up and down Main Street and take photos of the architecture, landscape and people.
"There's no sniping," the instructor said. "There's a different view seen walking down the street rather than driving down the street. They need to get out and talk to people and ask them if they can take their picture. This is about engaging with the world."
The students have been using their own cameras - some expensive, some not so expensive. Mack has brought some equipment, including a box camera which requires the use of slide film.
The students' digital pictures will be developed at the university while those taken with the box camera will be developed at an Omaha studio.
"This is my first experience doing anything artistic with my camera," said BVU student Krista Kent, a first-year student.
Kelli Selk, a senior at BVU majoring in psychology, said she has enjoyed getting out and talking to people. While explaining the project, she said, people have been quite interested.
Taking part in the class, she said, has also given her some pointers on how to take better pictures.
Erin Meier said the class is "a nice change of pace from my science major. I've always liked photography."
The exciting part of this project is that there will be a display of the photos next month at Buena Vista Stationary for everyone to enjoy.
"We are taking the photos and giving them back to the community," Mack said, adding that she hopes people will enjoy looking at the community through the photographer's eyes.
She would like to compile a book of photos for each community that she and the college students she works with document. Funds raised from the sale of the books will then go back into the non-profit project through the addition of equipment for the students to use.
The Pilot Tribune will share additional information on the community show when arrangements have been made.