Nic debuts show of landscape photography by Casper's Chuck Kimmerle

2013-01-18T00:00:00Z 2013-01-18T08:08:07Z Nic debuts show of landscape photography by Casper's Chuck Kimmerle DAN CEPEDA | Star-Tribune

By BENJAMIN STORROW Star-Tribune feature writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

In the 1980s, Chuck Kimmerle was a young soldier stationed in Germany. He traveled Europe in what free time he had. Equipped with a Cannon G III camera given to him by his father as a high school graduation present, he snapped photos to send home to his family in Minnesota.

In Germany, he shot castles. In Holland, he shot tulips.

“I became really dissatisfied with the quality and purpose of the pictures. All they showed is this really pretty part of Europe,” Kimmerle said in an interview at his Casper home. “Everything just showed place. It all seemed pretty shallow to me … I was capturing what was there, but that was it. No feeling, no depth, nothing of interest other than pretty.”

Such are the dilemmas of artists. And it was in this way, agonizing over the pictures he took, that Chuck Kimmerle’s life as a photographer began.

Today, the Nicolaysen Art Museum debuts “A Formal View,” an exhibit featuring Kimmerle’s collection of black and white photographs of the northern plains, Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest.

Kimmerle’s minimalist style offers a stark contrast to the grandiose, panoramic views common in Western photography, said NIC curator Lisa Hatchadoorian.

There is his photo of the open prairie, a sole cloud hovering above one last patch of snow. The shot of a lone pronghorn standing along a deserted country road, looking questioningly at the camera. And the picture of a rainstorm, a great wall of gray fury, receding from the prairie.

“It’s the overlooked, the landscape that’s around us every day,” Hatchadoorian said. “It’s taking the aspects of the landscape that people don’t see and putting them out front.

“He makes me see the world in a completely different way.”

Now 52, Kimmerle has traveled a long way since his days in the Army. He spent 20 years as a photojournalist working at newspapers in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and North Dakota. He was one of four photographers working at the Grand Forks Herald in 1997 when the Red River overflowed its banks and devastated the city and surrounding region. The paper was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in spot news photography that year.

Kimmerle went on to spend 10 years as a staff photographer at the University of North Dakota before moving to Casper with his wife in 2010. Today, he is a freelance photographer. His work has been featured in the Worldwide Photography Awards Gala and Outdoor Photography magazine. He is featured in the January edition of Popular Photography and will have photographs appear in Black and White Photography magazine later this year.

Kimmerle’s photos tend toward what is known as a formal aesthetic. That is, the subjects are often well organized within the frame: a row of grain bins set against the prairie or a line of trees forming the shelter block of a field.

He finds such views aesthetically pleasing. At the same time, his view behind the camera has been shaped by his environment.

Eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota is an unforgiving landscape. The world there is flat, with few trees or other objects to break up the monotony of the horizon. Kimmerle initially had little love of the landscape.

“I started to see things that before I would totally dismiss out of hand as totally worthy subjects,” he said.

Sitting inside his home studio in Casper, he pointed to a photo on the wall. It shows a long row of shelter trees disappearing into the white of a North Dakota snowstorm.

“I just really responded to the way that these really stark trees faded into nothing in the background,” Kimmerle said.

Kimmerle doesn’t often know what prompts him to click the shutter. But common elements he looks for in a picture include shape, texture and a sense of mystery.

A shot of a small dingy moored in Lake Chelan in Washington epitomizes his work.

Kimmerle was riding his bike along the lake one day last spring when he noticed the boat. It sat alone amid the wide expanse of water, rocking gently in the wind. What, he wondered, was a small boat doing all by itself in a large lake?

Kimmerle threw down his bike. Working his way along the shore, he took one shot, then another. Mountains ringed the lake, the ridges along each shoreline falling away towards the far shore. It seemed to him as if the mountains were pointing towards the boat.

He finally got the picture he was looking for while standing on the deck of a lakeside cabin.

Kimmerle used a 30 second exposure. The picture shows the boat, framed by mountains, alone upon the lake. The boat’s stern exhibits a blurry quality, almost like a brush stroke from an impressionist painter that suggests the boat’s gentle movement.

Pictures like this are the reason that Kimmerle shoots in black and white. Color photography is inherently about the color, he said. By contrast, photographs in black and white are about the shape and texture of the image, he said.

There’s also this: “Black and white instantly is not real because you’ve taken the color out. It allows me to interpret the scene, as I saw it,” he said.

Kimmerle doesn’t necessarily want his viewers to feel what he felt when he took the photo. His pictures often have titles with straight forward names like, “Shelter Belt number 1” or “Dingy.” The goal is not to lead the viewer to one conclusion or another, Kimmerle said, but to prompt an emotional response to the image, whatever it may be.

And that in part explains why he focus on lesser-visited regions, places like the northern plains and the Red Desert of Wyoming. He prefers going to places to find images people haven’t necessarily seen and, hopefully, inspire a new emotional response.

“I need to go beyond pretty,” Kimmerle said.

Reach Benjamin Storrow at 307-266-0639 or Follow him on Twitter @bstorrow.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Untitled Document

Civil Dialogue

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters.

If your comment was not approved, perhaps...

  1. You called someone an idiot, a racist, a dope, a moron, etc. Please, no name-calling or profanity (or veiled profanity -- #$%^&*).

  2. You rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.

  3. YOU SHOUTED YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS. This is hard to read and annoys readers.

  4. You have issues with a business. Have a bad meal? Feel you were overcharged at the store? New car is a lemon? Contact the business directly with your customer service concerns.

  5. You believe the newspaper's coverage is unfair. It would be better to write the editor at, or call Editor Jason Adrians at 266-0545 or Content Director David Mayberry at 266-0633. This is a forum for community discussion, not for media criticism. We'd rather address your concerns directly.

  6. You included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.

  7. You accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.

  8. Your comment is in really poor taste.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Featured Businesses

Latest Offers