ENDURING GIFT PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT
On November 16, 2014 Craig Blacklock’s hands and face were badly burned in a sauna fire. Realizing that the cold water of his normal subject, Lake Superior, might be painful to his still-tender hands, Blacklock’s friend, Mark Kozlak told Craig, “The St. Croix River needs a Blacklock book”. The summer after his accident, Craig, his wife Honey, and their daughter Charis made an exploratory photography/paddling trip on the upper St.Croix River. The water was so low they had to walk their canoe and kayak much of the time, but Craig felt the subject worthy of a full-scale book project.
He soon connected with the folks at the St. Croix River Association (SCRA) and learned that 2018 would be the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, co-sponsored by Wisconsin’s Senator Gaylord Nelson and Minnesota’s Senator Walter F. Mondale. That act gave federal protection to the Namekagon and much of the St. Croix, and created the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, a national park.
SCRA adopted Blacklock’s book as one of their signature initiatives to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act and the creation of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. Blacklock will donate all images made for the book to the SCRA and the National Park Service. Additionally, a portion of the proceeds from book sales will be donated to the SCRA.
During 2016, Craig paddled every mile of both the Namekagon and St. Croix Rivers, returning to many areas throughout the seasons with his friend and colleague, Jon Smithers to photograph the rivers from Jon’s drone. Craig continued to make photographs for the project through the fall of 2017. The book will be on press in January, for an April, 2018 release.
The SCRA adopted Craig’s sub-title from the book, The Enduring Gift, as the theme for the entire 50th anniversary celebrations. A listing of these events will be found at the SCRA web site.
Vice President Walter F. Mondale wrote the opening essay for the book. Many staffers and volunteers at the SCRA and at Xcel Energy (formerly Northern States Power, which donated much of the now protected land) helped contribute research towards the project. Stillwater’s Peter Mayer has written and performed original music for a video made up of hundreds of Craig’s still images from the project, and performs live at some of Craig’s programs .
Besides the books, a photography exhibition of selected images toured throughout the region in 2018 and 2019. This project and tour was partially funded through grants from the ARAC: This activity is made possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, thanks to appropriations from The McKnight Foundation and the Minnesota State Legislature’s general and arts and cultural heritage funds.
Craig’s photographs are also extensively used in John Kaul’s video, Saving the St. Croix, which will air on Minnesota and Wisconsin public television stations.
Photographs from the project are available for purchase from Blacklock Photography Galleries in Moose Lake, MN. 218-485-0478