Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A new series: Minnesota faces January 2, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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DURING MORE THAN FIVE YEARS of blogging, I’ve photographed many a Minnesotan. Young and old. And in between.

From my cousin’s young daughter passing a tray of chocolates at a 50th anniversary party to a woman sitting under an old-fashioned hair dryer at a West Concord beauty salon to our newest immigrants celebrating their heritage at Faribault’s International Festival, I’ve photographed a wide range of subjects.

Some of the images are posed portraits, others snapshot style.

Each photo tells a story— through lines etched into a face, in the tilt of the head, the look in an eye or perhaps the way hands fold. Or a smile. Or not.

Light and setting add to the story. Sometimes the environment tells as much, if not more, than the face.

I’m not a professional portrait photographer. It’s just me and my Canon DSLR. No fancy lighting. No anything except the camera lens between me and my subject.

To photograph these individuals has been an honor. Truly. I delight in showcasing the people, places and events of rural Minnesota, where I’ve lived my entire life.

Beginning today, and every Friday until I run out of images, I will pull a portrait from my files and show you a face. The face of a Minnesotan.

And because I appreciate the timeless beauty of black-and-white photos, those portraits will be void of color.

Words will be sparse. Instead, I want you to focus on the image. The faces that tell the stories.


PORTRAIT #1: Dan, who claims Folgers is the best. 


Dan Tersteeg, Fourth Ave. Christmas dinner 2012



Dan Tersteeg tends the coffee at the annual Community Christmas Dinner at Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church in Faribault. I shot this portrait two years ago in the church basement. But I could have taken it this past December as Dan was in the same spot overseeing the coffee. Dan told me in 2012 that he always uses Folgers because it works best with Faribault’s water. I believe him. Who am I to question the guy in charge of the coffee?

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


22 Responses to “A new series: Minnesota faces”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    And I believe you may find a “Dan” at every church dinner/food event. I know because I’ve seen ‘him’! Photo love………………….

  2. Almost Iowa Says:

    Is Folgers the official Minnesota state coffee? If the ubiquitousness of the stuff is any indication, it is. You find Folgers in every break-room, every church basement and every warming house in the state. Maybe it’s because of those large, easy to tote around plastic jugs.

    That’s a fine photo, Audrey. I am looking forward to seeing more.

    • That’s a good question, Almost Iowa. I’ll need to start checking out the coffee containers at all those church dinners I attend. Perhaps I could apply for a grant to fund such a study.

      I promise lots more Minnesota portraits and an occasional Wisconsin one, too.

  3. Folgers in my cup!!! Great blog series idea. I am looking forward to your posts.

  4. I absolutely love this idea! And doing them in B&W is perfect. I look forward to this whole series. Nice way to start – with the coffee guy.

    • Thank you, Kathleen. This past summer I started sorting through my photo files, converting color portraits to black-and-white. The more I worked on the project, the more I appreciated the absence of color. There’s just something about b & w that is less distracting.

      I still have many files to peruse…

  5. Jackie Says:

    This man has some very large hands and a subtle smile… Great Idea with the portraits on Fridays I look forward to seeing what you have.

    • His hands are what I noticed right away, too, when I photographed Dan. It seems maybe he should have been carving turkey rather than tending the Coffee Corner. I think it is Dan’s hands that make this portrait especially interesting.

  6. Loving your new series – I enjoy learning, especially people and where they come from and what makes them tick 🙂 Happy New Year!!!

  7. Sara Kimm Says:

    I haven’t read your blog in a long time and today I do and the first thing I see is someone I know! Dan is my Aunt Melva’s special friend. I met him a few months ago at her 80th birthday party in Faribault. My aunt is a long-time member of the Methodist church. And probably a Folgers coffee drinker. 🙂

  8. Dan Traun Says:

    Great project idea; looking forward to more.

  9. Emily Says:

    This is such a great idea, Audrey. Though I doubt I’ll have the time to comment on each post, I will undoubtedly look forward to each part of this series. Happy New Year!

  10. hotlyspiced Says:

    This will be a great series, Audrey, as you take images that really do capture the heartbeat of your land. I haven’t heard of Folgers coffee before xx

  11. My Minnesota roots lie deep and I will look forward to these portraits, Audrey.

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