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Ensrud is May feature in Neighborhood Artist Review

By Staff | May 1, 2010

Owen Ensrud prepares his art display at Emmet County State Bank. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

Owen Ensrud’s favorite subject is barns. Rectangular, round, octagonal, octagonal and rectangular combined, you name it – he’s photographed them all.

Ensrud, of Jackson, Minn., is the featured artist for the Neighborhood Artist Review for May at Emmet County State Bank in Estherville. The Neighborhood Artist Review is sponsored by the Excel! Estherville Arts and Culture Committee.

Ensrud’s foray into photography and his development with the genre is in a way synonymous to the many barns he has chronicled throughout the Midwest. Like most photographers who have been at it for any period of time at all, he started with traditional photographic techniques.

It was when he was in seventh grade that Ensrud first became interested in photography. Like a lot of boys at that time, he had been working a drayline and decided that wasn’t the sort of work he wanted to do for the rest of his life. So he found a photographic mentor – Kenneth Ness of Albert Lea, Minn.

“He was a master black-and-white photographer,” Ensrud recalls. Ensrud asked Ness if he could work as a janitor, and Ness gave him a job – at 35 cents an hour.

Owen Ensrud took this photo of a barn east of Northfield, Minn. It’s one of many barn photos in his exhibit through May at the Neighborhood Artist Review at Emmet County State Bank in Estherville. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

Those were the days of big, bulky view cameras – 8 X 10s, 4 X 5s, 2 1/4 X 3 1/4 press cameras and everything in between. And of course, there was the venerable 35 mm that continues as a favorite as some hardcore film aficionados to this day.

Ensrud and his wife taught in Paulina starting in 1961 then he obtained his master’s degree in choral music and taught in Jackson starting fall 1968.

His first passion of photography never left him, though, and Ensrud asked his superintendent if he could teach the course. The superintendent gave the okay and Ensrud started a photography program that lasted right up until a couple years ago.

His love of “barning”, as he is fond of calling it, came when he hooked up with Paul Esau, a Jackson professional photographer.

Then, six years ago, Esau went digital.

Ensrud said a big part of what he wants to do with his work is record the big barns before they’re gone. Indeed, many that he’s photographed already are.

And, just as some people choose to restore old barns, Ensrud sees a continued role for traditional black-and-white photographers, particularly for couples who want black-and-white wedding photos.

Ensrud’s work will be at Emmet County State Bank at 101 North Sixth St. in Estherville through May and at Little Swan Lake Winery north of Superior through June.