Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist sets up photo spots during week in Houston County

Jordan Gerard

Around Houston County last week, a mobile photo studio made its way through towns, using photography to tell stories.

The booth was part of the third session for the Crystal Creek Canyon Lodge Citizen-Artist Residency program in Houston and managed by Duluth-based photographer and documentarian Nik Nerburn.

“I like going out with a camera,” he said. “It’s a great way to meet people and meet new friends.”

He spent last week in Houston County (with a little time in Choice, Minnesota) photographing residents for free. It was also a chance for Nerburn to hear a few stories they told. 

In Choice, he said the people there “were some of funniest and most interesting people I’ve met.

“There’s nothing to do, no place to stop, but it was one of the most welcoming towns ever,” Nerburn said.

He spent time in Houston and Caledonia before coming to Spring Grove on Friday night and setting up shop outside of RockFilter Distillery.

Curious visitors to the distillery talked to Nerburn about his project and allowed him to take a portrait of them.

Those who had photographs taken were able to take the print home with them right away, as Nerburn had a printer set up in the mobile photo studio that could instantly print photos. 

He also had a Fuji Film View Camera 4x5, which produced an image on photo paper right away (similar to a Polaroid camera).

Nerburn also spent time exploring the regional history through archives at the Houston County Historical Society. He also looked at genealogy and local history at Giants of the Earth Heritage Center.

During his residency, Nerburn’s goal was to be a “conscious observer,” and use his process of non-fiction media to get an intimate understanding of a place through collaboration, conversation and deep listening with its residents.

“As a committed regionalist, senser of place and deep-listener, I want to spend time with these people and places,” he said in a press release. “The landscape is a library, and I’m a browser.”

A capstone event for this year’s four citizen-artist residents will be held in the future. 

For more information about the citizen-artist residency program, visit or visit their Facebook page at Crystal Creek Canyon Lodge Citizen-Artist Residency.