In the Spotlight

News & Features
Chronicling the Lutheran Traditions
by Marisa Helms
December 29, 1999
Slide Show
Click for audio RealAudio 3.0

See samplesof Doug Ohman's work in these shots from the 2000 Lutheran Churches in Minnesota Calendar.
Someday, maybe decades from now, some calendars commemorating the new millennium might become collectors items, heirlooms even. For one Minnesota photographer, a 2000 calendar is the perfect medium to showcase his images of Lutheran churches around the state.

EVERY DECEMBER brings a new crop of calendars, showcasing the hottest stars, and the coolest images. Ricky Martin, Corvettes, unicorns and Buffy the Vampire Slayer all shine from the bookstore shelves next to the more timeless calendar images, pets, waterfalls and Elvis.

But calendars of Minnesota's Lutheran churches? Haven't seen many of those? That's because they didn't exist - until this year.
Ohman: I'm going to go ahead and set up and get a shot of the front.
Photographing churches around Minnesota is the singular passion of Doug Ohman. He's travelled more than 20,000 miles to shoot at least 1,000 Catholic and Lutheran churches. It's very different from his day job as production manager at Camp Snoopy at the Mall of America.

Hunched in the biting wind, Ohman sets up his camera for the perfect shot of Saint Patrick's Catholic Church near Duelm in central Minnesota.
Ohman: See the way the sun is hitting the side of the church? That's what I'm always looking for, the light. Light is so important to photography, especially on buildings. It can take a dull building and really make it come to life by giving it some sun and some highlights on it.
While shooting Saint Patrick's, Ohman talks about his interest photographing churches as being more than simple aesthetics.
Ohman: I like it because I love history.
St Patrick's story is a case in point. Back in the 1870s some Irish immigrants who settled in Duelm needed a place to worship. They couldn't afford to build a new church, but found a group of Germans over in Sauk Rapids were selling theirs. The Irish bought the building, but in order to get it the 12 miles to Duelm, they had to cut the church in half and move it in two sections.
Ohman: I enjoy the stories behind where the churches came to be where they're at. Some of the early stories of the congregations. the struggles they went through in the early days.
Now there's an added satisfaction in photographing these churches. Ohman's Lutheran churches calendar has been published by Minnesota's Lutheran Social Service.

LSS spokesman Bill Fredell says profits from the calendar will go toward support programs for farm families.
Fredell: A few churches have taken it on to raise money for the services that are being designed to help folks who are suffering from the downturn in commodity prices. A lot of people are suffering.
Lutheran Social Services' Bill Fredell says the calendar's images embody a spirituality and nostalgia of rural America. Fredell's favorite month in the calendar is August, with it's picture of the Vasa Lutheran Church near Red Wing.
Fredell: That is the church which began Lutheran Social Services in 1865. The pastor of that church took in four orphan children and the church provided for these kids because their mother and father had died. So this became what is now Lutheran Social Service, so the Vasa Lutheran Church near Red Wing is my favorite because of that, but I also like the one of Chisago Lakes Lutheran Church, the winter scene for February.
The last church to shoot this day is Saint John's in Popple Creek. There's snow on the ground; the setting sun's light is just right. Standing in a ditch across the street to get the right angle, and waiting for the cars to go by, photographer Doug Ohman says even after eight years, he's never tired of photographing churches.
Ohman: I hope to do this the rest of my life. And when I finish Minnesota, I'll go to Wisconsin, or Iowa or Dakotas, or wherever. I'll never get tired of this. If I haven't gotten tired by this time, I know it's in my blood for the rest of my life.
Long after the millennial hype has faded, Ohman hopes his Lutheran church calendar will be marking the days for those who share his passion for nostalgia, church architecture and Minnesota history.

The Lutheran church calendar is being sold by several churches around the state, and can also be purchased through the LSS Web site.