Lewis Ableidinger (b. 1983) is from the small town of Kensal (pop. 163), located in central North Dakota. Early on he developed an appreciation for the subtleties of a region most people dismiss as “boring.” In 1998 he picked up a camera for the purpose of photographing old elevators. This led to day trips to find ghost towns with old elevators and eventually he started pointing his camera at other subjects. Soon it became a passion to visit every corner and every town in the state, just to see what was there. This broadening view has led him to work on photographic projects with themes in the Midwest and rural America.
Lewis graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2007 with a BS in Graphic Communictaions and a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance. Though photography was never his primary focus of study at MSUM he continued shooting and was able to take a few classes that helped broaden his photographic horizons. Since 2008 Lewis has had a day job as a locomotive engineer but continues to pursue photographic subjects. Lewis currently resides in Harvey, ND.
Driving Through Flyover Country
Flyover Country, the moniker given to the middle part of America that so many people view as boring that it is simply flown over while going from one coast to the other, to places where much more interesting things happen. From above it appears as a monotonous quilt of sectioned off square miles stretching from horizon to horizon, Jefferson’s grid system being perfectly suited for the relatively flat landscape of the Midwest. What can’t be seen from a plane however is the details and the people that make Flyover Country much more interesting than it first seems.
Flyover Country is perhaps one of the most misunderstood parts of America. Some have a negative view, seeing it as home to religious fundamentalists, gun-loving rednecks, Wal-Marts, and nothing really to see (other than Mt. Rushmore); alternatively some have a romanticized version of Flyover Country, one of quaint and prosperous small towns, friendly farmers on antique tractors, and the American cowboy riding a horse into the sunset. The truth is far more complex than a few ugly stereotypes or a Terry Redlin painting.
This project explores the complex people and places of Flyover Country. There are quaint small towns, but there are also towns where every building is boarded up; there is no one archetype that represents the people living in Flyover Country, the personalities are as diverse as any large city; there is a subtle beauty to the landscape, if you can learn to appreciate how it’s different from mountains and forests; and there are indeed Wal-Marts. These are the details that can’t be seen from 40,000 feet, which is why I prefer to drive through Flyover Country.
To view more of Lewis’ work please visit his website.