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  Field Notes From
ZipUSA: 58102

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ZipUSA: 58102 On AssignmentArrows

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From Photographer

Nina Berman

ZipUSA: 58102 On Assignment

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From Author

David Beers

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Nina Berman (top) and James Labounty


ZipUSA: 58102

Field Notes From Photographer
Nina Berman

Best Worst Quirkiest
    Trying to figure out a way to photograph the cold is tough, so I had to come up with something interesting. I went to photograph at a sauna because I thought relaxing in 140ºF (60ºC) temperatures in that super-cold weather was an interesting concept. Yet, the most interesting part was that there was no shower in the sauna, so people cooled off by walking out on the fire escape! It was a contrast to see these steaming human bodies in the cold. They'd do it several times, going back in for a couple of minutes and then walking out again. The guys walked out and said they knew it was time to go back in when their bathing suits had frozen!
    Of course, I had to try it out for myself. I'd never been in a sauna that hot—with sub-zero weather outside—so it was a fantastic temperature difference. Visually, it was spectacular photographing the steaming people. There was a nice light on the fire escape, kind of a glowing yellow light that looked very surreal.

    On my very first morning I walked outside at about 6 a.m., way before the sun had come up. I was thinking, Okay, I'm going to be able to bear this -18ºF (-27ºC) temperature. Then, within half an hour, my Leica's shutter froze. I never expected this, although I fully expected the electronic components of my Nikon—or at least the batteries—to freeze. It was a somewhat frightening preview of the challenge of photographing in this weather. It would have to be done in little fits and starts, coming back inside often not so much to warm myself up, but to warm up the gear.
    That first morning ended up being the coldest one during my assignment

    Fargo has these things called white-outs. Basically, when the snow blows, it creates blizzard conditions without actually snowing. It would happen only in certain parts of town where there were no buildings around. But a couple of miles away, everything might be fine. I wanted to photograph a white-out, and the best way to do it was from the car. It was quite weird driving, seeing nothing, and taking pictures at the same time. I had almost no visibility. It didn't last long, but while it did, I was kind of white-blinded. It was a little unsettling because I wanted to look through my camera and drive at the same time, but I couldn't see anything. Definitely not something to try in an urban area!

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