Thursday, October 13, 2011

Jorn Olsen - Across a Wide Horizon

Hastings Nebraska photographer Jorn Olsen stopped by the Nature Center today to sign a few copies of his book for the gift shop. His book, "Across a Wide Horizon: Discovering the Uncommon Beauty of Nebraska’s Plains" is really a treat to look at. The book review posted below is by George Tuck, who is a professor emeritus, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he taught photojournalism in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications.

The book is very high quality, and printed in the U.S.A. which is saying something in this era of everything being outsourced to other countries. I hope you stop by and pick up a copy for yourself or to give as a gift.

Book Review
Across a Wide Horizon: Discovering the Uncommon Beauty of Nebraska’s Plains
Photography by Jorn C. Olsen
With Foreword by Christopher Amundson

WOW! Outstanding images, beautiful printing, clever titles, dramatic scenery, spectacular wildlife, electrifying weather, peaceful landscapes and, well, you get the idea.

Hit the jump to read on...

For many of us Jorn Olsen is an unknown. After this, his first book, he will join the ranks of Nebraskans whose photos about the state are legendary: Joel Sartore, Michael Forsberg, Bill Ganzel, Margaret MacKichan, Fr. Don Doll, Georg Joutras, and others.
From the spectacular dust jacket of “Sandhills Rising” to the last photo of “Autumn on the River,” the book is a visual treat and a testament to the diversity of scenery and wildlife that exists in Nebraska, should one take the time to “see” it.
Unfortunately there still exist in Nebraska those who refuse to venture off I-80 and discover the visual richness of the Sandhills. If Olsen’s book doesn’t make one hit Nebraska Hwy. 2 to see a cross-section of the state, including its famous frozen dunes in all their expansive color palette, then that just gives more viewing space for the rest of us.
The opening image is “Quiet Satisfaction” in Logan County, a very narrow double-truck landscape of rolling hills and a windmill at twilight. The serenity of the scene is so peaceful and beautiful it makes one want to sit and enjoy it for hours.
Four gate-folds (three-page spreads) further add to the drama of Olsen’s wide-view landscapes. These are particularly effective.
No book about Nebraska is complete without images of our diverse wildlife, so Olsen includes several very nice shots of Sandhill Cranes, as well as various ducks, eagles, deer and a huge flock of turkeys walking away.
For those who relate better to humans than wildlife, Olsen includes cowboys, a bronc rider, a farmer with draft horses and an elderly couple on a bench with a list of county fair sponsors behind them. But the book is largely about the gorgeous landscapes that await us over the next hill, in the next county or around that bend in the road over yonder.
Some of my favorites include “Round Barn Moon,” a cool moon balanced by warm light from a barn window; “Stable Conditions,” looking down the inside of a stable; “Feigning Interest,” two mules in a corral, “Romancing the Sky,” a gloriously subtle twilight double-truck of the Sandhills in Logan County; “Spinning Dreams,” variations of triple livestock watering tanks and a windmill, are on the dust cover and two inside spreads and I like them all.
One can practically hear the gentle swish of ice donuts rotating into each other in “Walk-In Cooler,” a 2006 winter sunset shot in Harlan County.
“Push Comes to Shove” gives the observer the sense of very different sounds coming from a farmer and a double pair of draft horses and mules working a hay field in Lincoln County.
Olsen not only does the reader a great service by giving the county and date where each photo was produced, but he also includes a Nebraska map showing all the counties. While placing a large red dot or other indicator showing which counties were photographed would be beneficial, it’s not a necessity. (An aside: I’ve lived in Nebraska for 41 years, have traveled over much of the state and I still don’t know all the counties or where each is located. As a result, maps are a great help to me.)
Included in the book are several black and white photos, which appear somewhat jarring after following pages of color. The black and whites are individually strong and indicate that an entire book could be quite successful sans color. A token color shot of the Nebraska State Capitol appearing quite red at twilight could easily be eliminated since no other representative of city life is included.
Also incongruous is “Head of the Class,” a 2007 photo in Box Butte County, of a field of sunflowers against a stark black background, including a black horizon. Such a manipulated photo seems out of place among an otherwise rather straightforward book of images.
Olsen, whose day job is directing a computer department for a large manufacturing firm, drove 34,000 miles over four years while creating the images in his book. He hints that another, or more, photo books might be in the offing. Now that is something for us to anticipate.
If he stopped with this book, heaven forbid, he still would leave us with a treasure-trove of memorable scenes. Since he spends about as much time on photography as he does on his day job, I think we’ll be safe in our anticipation.
One final observation: Across a Wide Horizon was printed in Omaha by Regal Press. Those who think great photo reproduction requires press work in Italy, Japan or Singapore need to take notice of Regal.
This is a highly recommended book that is worthy of anyone’s collection and would be a magnificent gift as well.

Across a Wide Horizon: Discovering the Uncommon Beauty of Nebraska’s Plains
Photography by Jorn C. Olsen
Foreword by Christopher Amundson, publisher & editor, “Nebraska Life” magazine
Dublduc Publishing, Ltd. © 2011
168 ppg., 12.25” x 9.75” $59.95
ISBN ¬ 13-9780983289506 and 10-0983289506
Printed in Nebraska by Regal Printing Co.
Jorn Olsen’s images are available for viewing or purchase at or at his gallery at 726 W. 2nd, Hastings, NE 68901. 402-262-2811.

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