Joe Cronan (Artist-in-Residence, 1997)

A photograph shows a large leaf and red berry
"Thimbleberries", 14” x 9 ¼” photograph, print made with vegetable dye inks, 1997

NPS/Joe Cronan

Isle Royale Reflection

"Looking at the progression of work from the summer leading to the Isle Royale artist’s residency to now, I see the rough edges of a personal compositional question being raised, tripped over, and smoothed. The question is: How do I engage the photograph? I did not know the question while photographing at Isle Royale. Only after looking at the body of work as it related to how I photographed before and after did I begin to see the question and how Isle Royale laid the cornerstone of the answer. I have a quieter, less dramatic approach to the landscape and photography now. Perhaps an excerpt from my journal will help explain.

Sept. 3, 1997

The sun is setting, reflecting off of a lone strung-out cloud over the ridge to the west. A loon is wolf-calling with an occasional answer floating back up the harbor. I am on the bench on the promontory behind the cabin. At the foot of the bluff at my feet Lake Superior becomes Tobin Harbor. In the distance to my right, the northeast, the Passage Island Lighthouse is blinking its warning. On my knee—a mosquito.

This is the first night since we have been here that the evening wind isn’t howling. I was going to take a night photograph with colored light, but just couldn’t do it. It may be that I’m tired from the day’s activity or maybe I don’t have anything else to say that way. Maybe I’ll start platinum printing.

I slept late today. Lori got up to see the sun rise and make some biscuits. The lake was choppy but started quieting down. We decided to paddle to the end of Tobin Harbor. We paddled into a stiff head wind for four hours and didn’t make it. It took us two and a half to make it back with a long stop at the Rock Harbor Visitor Center. We are pretty tired with sore shoulders.

Today was also the day I resigned myself to this part of the island. I will seek inspiration in a short space.

The loons have begun their crazy as a loon call and it is dark.

PS. After a nice cup of hot chocolate we sat out on the bench and watched a meteor shower fall into the aurora borealis.

PPS. The loons are wolf-calling again."

- Joe Cronan*


About the Artist*

Joe M. Cronan was an Isle Royale Artist-in-Residence from August 26th to September 13th, 1997. He claims his photography career began while working for a concessionaire at Yellowstone National Park, when he began to photograph the land, animals and people around him with an instamatic camera. Two years later, again working in Yellowstone National Park, seeing the results his friends were getting with their 35mm cameras, he soon had an inexpensive 35mm camera and a passion for photography.

His formal education took place at the University of Georgia where he earned a BA in Journalism and an MFA in Fine Arts. “I became a professional photographer/videographer, photographing the bowels of industrial plants and the smiling executive face. I realized after some introspection that it was the experience of being in the landscape that held the most magic for me.”

He currently lives in Dahlonega, Georgia, where he works as an artist, photographer, graphic designer, and teacher.

*[Source for all Joe's page content: Root, Robert and Jill Burkland, editors. (2000). The Island Within Us. Houghton, MI: Isle Royale Natural History Association. p 104. Print.]

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Last updated: December 27, 2019

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