Perimeter: home

Bradford Beach, start and finish © kjm


Perimeter: around

Loreen, Amy and Mary © kjm

Earlier on my trip, I had the pleasure of meeting Loreen Niewenhuis, who hiked the perimeter of Lake Michigan and wrote the book, A 1000-Mile Walk on the Beach.  Not content with just Lake Michigan, Loreen is working on trekking all the Great Lakes, and is currently striding along Lake Huron.

When photographing her, she told me about best friends Amy Lukas and Mary Catterlin, who were paddling a homemade dugout canoe (it took Mary 4 years to build) around the perimeter of the lake. I caught up with them on Friday near the Lily Bay boat launch near Sturgeon Bay.

Jenn Gibbons is also on a trek around the lake, which began by rowing solo to raise awareness for her organization Recovery On Water, which promotes healthy exercise for survivors of breast cancer. Sadly, Jenn was assaulted while on her boat in the Michigan UP last week. But amazingly, she is continuing her trip, currently on a bike (and with fellow travelers) until she can once again board her boat in a more populated area. Jenn and I had exchanged emails about being photographed for the project, and I still hope to make her picture when she's back in Chicago.

And I can't forget the women of the Mother Earth Water Walk, who made their way around the lake in 2004 and 2008.  I'm back home now, but am inspired by all these women, and will continue to follow their travels. They make my little drive around the lake look like a jaunt to the grocery store.

Perimeter: home stretch

Dave, Davis and Chuck © kjm

My day started out with one of the nicest little stretches of lake roads thus far. County highway U from Sturgeon Bay to Algoma and the smaller Lower LaSalle Road were understated, but had all the elements I was now seeking after 12 days of driving: A quiet, unlined road near the lake, with both old school small cottages and a few newer, but tasteful houses; no signs warning about private drives, and a county park that was spotlessly clean and offered both a dramatic view and access to the water. In my trip, some of my favorite viewpoints were county parks. Along U, there was a littlle bit of woods, family farms, runners, and both serious roadbikers and a family on bikes.

Farms with sweeping views of the lake were now appearing, and I pulled into the gravel drive at Dave Seidl's place (left), and was greeted warmly by his three labs. Dave's grandfather started the farm in Kewaunee, which was once a dairy operation, but is now beef and pork. 

In Manitowoc, I met Chuck Sontag (right), who local journalists Matt Apgar and Ben Wideman had told me about. Chuck lives across the road from the lake and has been collecting stats about local birds for over 40 years, venturing out to the lighthouse two or three times a day.

And nearly at the end of my day, I found a diverse set of families enjoying General King Park in Sheboygan, which included 3 year-old Davis Chang (center).


Perimeter: on water

Kaela and Al © kjm

This morning I spotted a slew of sailboats in the waters of Green Bay  and stopped to investigate. I learned that they were students (like Kaela Steele, left) in a summer sailing program at the Ephraim Yacht Club. This summer, 260 kids learned sailing skills at the club, led by Alex, an energetic math teacher from Chicago. I headed north from Ephraim and eventually ended up on the ferry to Washington Island. Al Stelter, a resident of the island, guided my car on board and later posed for a picture during the 30-minute trip. (He also acted as a photo assistant by holding my background in the wind while I photographed others!)

Perimeter: yesterday and today

Arthur Bay, MI and near Namur, WI  © kjm

Some storms passed through yesterday and today and I had a few other things slow me down, including a flat tire. So it wasn't the most productive stretch of the trip, but I really did see the landscape and the water looked beautiful, from Escanaba south into Wisconsin. Today ended with a wonderful section of small roads between Green Bay and Sturgeon Bay. I'm really tired of seeing Private Road signs on this trip, and this section of the lake seemed a bit more open, with small county roads that simply ending in water.


Perimeter: preservation

Todd and Naomi © kjm

Yesterday I made the dramatic crossing over the Mackinac Bridge - a five mile drive on the 3rd longest suspension bridge in the world and the border of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.  This morning, my first stop was to photograph people like Todd Mayer who maintain the bridge, which sees about 5 million vehicles per year. Later in the day, I made the right choice to travel down a small road to see the Seui Choix Point lighthouse, where I met Naomi Sanders and her son as they were giving a tour. Naomi, 81, has volunteered at the lighthouse since it was renovated 17 years ago.


Perimeter: day eight

Marilyn, Kay and LeeAnn © kjm

I began the morning in Harbor Springs, photographing Kay Piper (center), along with her daughters and granddaughter. She's a St. Louisan whose great grandmother bought the family cottage in 1907. Kay told me about traveling up from St. Louis on the train when she as young, and how she's only missed one summer in her 87 years. A bit later at the beach, I photographed Marilyn Early (left), a world-ranked Masters swimmer who has her hand in all things aquatic in Harbor Springs. After an amazing drive from Harbor Springs to Mackinaw City, I ended the day by shooting actors like LeeAnn Ewer (right), who work in period costumes at Colonial Michilimackinac, a re-creation of the 18th century fort which once stood on the banks of the lake.


Perimeter: axis

© kjm

This is where I've been so far.

I'm half way through the trip, and will likely hit the 1000 mile mark while crossing the Mackinac Bridge tomorrow morning.


Perimeter: keepers

Tammy Coleman and John Nelson © kjm

Today I continued driving north from Leland to Northport, Michigan. I've been to most of the small coastal towns in this northwestern part of the state, but never as far up as Northport. It's much less crowded up there, and off the beaten path I found Peterson Park, a beautiful, breezy spot for lunch, with a dramatic view of the lake.  In Suttons Bay, I set up to photograph Tom Kelly, the director of the Inland Seas Education Association, and while there was able to photograph others helping to preserve the environment of the lake. Among others, they included Tammy Coleman, a biology teacher and seasonal park ranger at Sleeping Bear Dunes, and John Nelson, who has the unique role of Grand Traverse Baykeeper.


Perimeter: crossing

Lola, Peggy, Captain Curtis, Russell & Drake © kjm

I had an early start this morning, setting up in wait for the arrival of the SS Badger, the ferry which travels between Manitowoc, Wisconsin and Ludington, Michigan. I've been a passenger on the ferry a fair amount of times and have always enjoyed the experience. But I've never taken the overnight trip, as did 6 year-old Lola and her mom, Peggy, who carried with them their own pillows. Captain Jeffery Curtis had piloted the boat into the harbor, and he came down afterwards to be photographed. Waiting to board for the trip back to Wisconsin was Russell, who rides a Harley complete with a customized trailer for this golden retriever, Drake. The two had just been to Maine and were returning to their home in Neenah, Wisconsin.


Perimeter: water

dashboard in Muskegon © kjm

Rain today, all day and wet. What a welcome surprise after the past few weeks. But it meant I couldn't set up my studio outside, due to lack of both cover and people outside. Instead, I worked harder at following the coastline and it took me all day to get from New Buffalo to Ludington. When I'm traveling for a magazine assignment, I'm often heading for a particular destination, which allows for little time to seriously wander. On this trip, any small stretch of lane next to Lake Michigan is fair game, found with my trusty gazetteer and even trustier iPhone.

Just before departing Milwaukee I gathered a jar (which previously held family friend Ruthie's blueberry-ruhbarb jam) of Lake Michigan water from Bradford Beach to bring with me. Inspired by the custom of the water walk that I've recently become aware of, mine is a much smaller and less arduous gesture. But I'm happy to have it along, and when I get back to Milwaukee, I think I'll put it back in it's rightful place.


Perimeter: New Buffalo to Holland

Birder Chuck Nelson and artist Amanda Wong © kjm

Stops today included the Sarett Nature Center in Benton Harbor,  where I photographed Chuck Nelson, a long-time birder and naturalist who leads trips to Lake Michigan for local students. And later Ox-Bow, the terrific summer art school and artist residency in Saugatuck, where I set up my studio and made portraits of artists spending time this summer on campus.


Perimeter: Chicago to New Buffalo

Earl and Charlese at Whiting Beach, Michele at the union hall © kjm

Perimeter: Milwaukee to Chicago

(At Montrose Beach, Chicago) © kjm

I started my Perimeter trip yesterday by standing on Bradford Beach in Milwaukee. If all goes well, I'll be back in the same spot in two weeks. Besides making the portraits, I'm photographing Lake Michigan from many vantage points throughout the trip, creating a visual timeline of my journey. So part of my goal is to to find and follow the lake as much as possible by car, avoiding the interstate and sticking to the small roads. I like the idea of physically considering what access to the water is like in different places. I made a lot of left turns yesterday.

After working my way slowly down the Wisconsin and northern Illinois coastline, I ended the day at Montrose Beach in Chicago. It was still sweltering at 6pm, so there were plenty of people at the beach and in the park. The day ended with great conversation and cold beer with photographer Greg Ruffing and his partner Jennie, who were kind to offer me their couch.



(Photographing Andy at Big Bay Beach) © kjm

I've started to work on a new project, commissioned by the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University.  Perimeter is a contemporary examination of Lake Michigan, focusing on the people who access and connect with it in their daily lives. The lake holds importance to a large population in the states of Wisconsin (my home state), Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. That connection comes in a variety of ways, whether it involves play or work, land or spirituality. Photographs and a video (involving the lake water) from the project will be on exhibit at the museum in January 2013, but is also intended to work into the museum's educational curriculum.

Starting on Monday, I'll be making a 2-week drive around the perimeter of the lake, seeking out every access point I can find - rural and urban, crowded and abandoned, in large cities and small towns. The people I meet will be my subjects, and I've created a small, portable studio to take on the road.

I plan to make updates from the trip, so please stay tuned.


within reach: pits

cherry remains © kjm


as seen: star

steamboat lounge picture © kjm


as seen: through


riverfront © kjm


as seen: across

mooring line © kjm


as seen: up

storage box © kjm