Happy Birthday, Dad! (The Steinauer Project)

My dad turned 69 today and I thought this day more than any other would be a good one to post this personal project I did nearly a year and a half ago!

With the hecticness of wedding season around me, I’ve definitely been neglecting my blog in order to edit and deliver to my clients in time. I have so many amazing posts coming up, but really wanted to put a personal project in here because it was such an incredible and meaningful day to me, and I know it was also to my dad.

My dad grew up on a farm in Steinauer, NE. There are only about 85 people that still live in Steinauer; most of it is abandoned and the only businesses still open are the bank, the church, the mechanic shop, and the tavern.

I brought along a Hasselblad as well as my DSLR for this shoot. This first image of my dad in front of the first house he lived in, was featured in a student gallery showing at Brooks, and was actually hanging up during my graduation! I want to have at least one incredible portrait of each important person in my life, and I definitely think this first one qualifies as just that.

I love that my dad didn’t shave for a week before the shoot and busted out the old wool sweater that my mom gave him nearly 30 years ago (that he still wears all the time, by the way.) He also wore an engineer hat that my mom had sewed “Jerry” onto the top.

I definitely felt the presence of my mom this entire day. When we were about to leave, I noticed there was this horse, so of course I went up to photograph it. While I was there, I looked into it’s eyes and felt that it was my mom. I don’t see any other reason why I would be thinking that unless it really was her spirit there. I just stood there and pet it for what felt like an eternity, just bawling my eyes out. It really was such an extraordinary day.

My dad patiently waited in the car for most of the shoot, and the temperature outside was around 20 degrees, so I was freezing my butt off taking photos, but man am I sure glad I did. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day with perfect light and incredible stories that my dad told.

I swear it’s always those sunrise shoots that I am so grumpy before and never want to follow through on because I’m exhausted that are the best. This one was no exception.

I really have to thank my dad for taking me here straight from the airport and being really patient with me when I was grumpy and freezing. It’s really him I owe for making this shoot happen, and if we wouldn’t of gone that first day, we probably wouldn’t of been able to any other day. January 1, 2011- definitely a day I’ll never forget. Happy Birthday, Dad. I love you.

  • Jenny - July 27, 2012 - 9:25 pm

    Gorgeous shoot, Karen! I lost my mom when I was 18, and I know the feeling very well of knowing that she is close. Such a comforting and beautiful warmth. Love this post :) ReplyCancel

  • Yee - July 28, 2012 - 11:00 am

    Entire post is fantastic, but the shots of the sweater got me. Love that the elbows are all worn out…and your dad is downright awesome.ReplyCancel

  • Ali M - July 29, 2012 - 9:06 am

    Karen, this is so great! I love the black and white and the soft tones of the photos. Thank you for sharing your story of this special day. The horse shots are so beautiful… I love the details. How awesome of your Dad- what great memories you have now : )ReplyCancel

  • Monica - April 8, 2013 - 8:23 pm

    Love this! I feel so inspired! I’ve always wanted to go get pictures of my grandma’s old house down there–I remember seeing it when I was little, it had a wraparound porch and was just lovely. I haven’t made it back there in years though. I think houses like that have just as much personality as people do, and deserve to have beautiful photographs taken of them! This was such a great post!

    –Your cousin

    PS: Your dad definitely has an Obrist look to him!ReplyCancel

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