The set of images below were captured in northern Minnesota. I was invited to attend the Nibi “Water” Walk along the St. Louis River by Sharon Day. Sharon is an Ojibwe elder and a Midewin which mean her spiritual practice is to care for the water. Sharon also works for the Indigenous Peoples Task Force which is an awesome organization who sponsored my trip to Minnesota to document the walk.
The water walks are meant to not only spread awareness about issues relating to water but to honor and pray for the spirit of the water. The St. Louis River starts 13 miles east of Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota and flows into Lake Superior which is considered the largest freshwater lake in the world. In 1987 the St. Louis river was listed as an “Area of Concern” by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Public records state that advisories have been issued due to the presence of mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls that exceed the standards established in the agreement. Northern Minnesota has a long history of mining. If you take a moment to look at an aerial photo on google maps of Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota (and zoom out) you can see the vast open-pit iron ore mines. According to USGS approximately two thirds of the steel made in America originates as taconite from mines in Minnesota.
There is currently a proposal from PolyMet Mining Corporation to build a sulfide mine called the NorthMet Project. The mine would be located between Babbitt and Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota. The site is located on public land in the Superior National Forest and is near the Embarrass and Partridge Rivers, which subsequently flow into the St. Louis River…. and into Lake Superior which supplies millions of people with drinking water.
The proposal is to develop an open-pit mine to extract copper, nickel and other metals. Sulfide mining is different from the traditional mining that has taken place in northern Minnesota because sulfuric acid is produced when rain falls on sulfide ore waste. The sulfide waste will need to be managed and treated for hundreds of years. It is very hazardous to the environment and to public health. Acid mine drainage is currently a huge problem in places like Pennsylvania and my current home state of West Virginia due to the vast amount of mining that has taken place. Currently, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service, and Army Corps of Engineers are viewing public comments about the proposal.
The proposed mine is a very large environmental and public health topic throughout the state, and it was also a fundamental narrative of the St. Louis water walk. During the walk we passed numerous large mining sites. Several trains filled with taconite rolled by us and disappeared into the horizon. In the small mining town of Towers a large welcoming banner hung over head stating, “We Support Mining.” The same slogan could be seen around town on posters that hung outside stores and restaurants. I met a young native girl the first night I arrived in northern Minnesota who said she barely sees her father because he gets home late and leaves very early to go to work in the mines. The story is complicated and there are a lot of different lens to see it though. I am currently working on trying to go back to spend more time in northern Minnesota to capture more interviews and produce a larger film about the topic.
At the beginning of the journey we walked through Superior National Forest. It was an incredibly beautiful and peaceful experience. The tamarack trees were a bright yellow and the sky seemed so incredibly blue. The walk started on rural dirt roads that slowly grew into large paved streets and highways as we continued to get closer to Duluth. The road gradually became smaller again as we entered Jay Cooke state park and continued through the park to a boat dock. From there we took a boat onto Spirit Island. The sacred island was a stopping place in the migration of the Anishinaabe people from the northeastern part of the continent. It was here that the ceremony ended and the water was released back into the river.
A short film about the journey will be available online in the next few weeks.
The beginning of May I joined the Nibi “Water” Walk along the Ohio River. The walk is lead by Sharon Day “Singing Wolf.” Sharon is an Ojibwe native from Northern Minnesota. The walk began in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and continues 981 miles to Cairo, Illinois where the Ohio River empties into the Mississippi. The entire journey is a ceremony to heal and honor the water. I meet the group just a few miles north of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. While walking one person carries a vessel of water from the headwaters of the Ohio and an eagle feather.
Sharon Day has lead several long distance water walks throughout the USA. After walking the Mississippi in 2013 she learned a lot about the Ohio River and decided to organize a walk along the river for the following year. The Ohio river is the largest tributary of the Mississippi and the most polluted river in the United States, making it a large contributor to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
“As Ojibwe women we are responsible to care for the water, and to pray for it. All the water we have on this earth is all we will ever have and only a small amount of it is useable for human consumption. Our values need to shift so we can begin to understand that water is sacred.”
Here is a short film that I produced about the walk. https://vimeo.com/97288672
To learn more about the Nibi Walks visit www.nibiwalk.com
This year I made a pretty last minute decision to go to carnival in Jacmel. I fell in love with the coastal city when visiting in 2010. Jacmel is known as the art capital of Haiti and is one reason I was drawn to the city and continue to be completely inspired by the place.
People in Jacmel have always told me how incredible carnival is. I was told about the music, costumes and the paper mache masks that flood the streets but the extent of what is produced and exhibited at carnival is really quite unimaginable.
I think my friend Aaron Funk, an American now resident of Jacmel, describes the Jacmel carnival experience best, “Insane-yes. Unforgettable-yes. Beautiful-yes. A little dangerous-yes again. Life changing – guaranteed.” I would definitely recommend visiting this beautiful caribbean city and taking an extending trip in February for carnival to explore what can only be experienced in Jacmel. For a short preview of the event check out the images posted below…
I started the year off in Haiti doing a hike from Kenscoff to Peredo with my Charlie. I have always wanted to do the hike and heard a lot about it while living in Haiti in the past. The scenery was incredible beautiful. Here are a few images taken while making the trek.
I am working on a series of portraits of people in Shepherdstown, WV. Here are a few of the most recent portraits I have captured.
Garth Emmery Janssen from Lost Dog Coffee
Steve Dancing Hammers Odonnell
Neal Delano Martineau
Here are a selection of images from a shoot with Steve “Dancing Hammers” O’Donnell. These were taken as part of a project I am working on of portraits of individuals from Shepherdstown, WV. I will be updating and posting one image from each shoot here http://keelykernan.com/portrait-series-shepherdstown-wv/
Here are a selection of images from a photo shoot with a band called The Scarecrows. My good friend Ernie Garcia is one of the singer song writers from the band. We did the shoot shoot near the Potomac river in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
This image I took in our kitchen yesterday. I wanted to play around with my light modifiers in preparation for a shoot. I was trying to decide if I should use the Westcott Apollo orb or a medium size soft box. Decided to go with the orb.
Last week I did a photo shoot with Jules Kehr. Jules is a young singer-songer writer from Ohio. I met Jules at a performance in Shippensburg, PA and was immediately captivated by her authentic performance and sound. That same evening I was introduced to her and was equally impressed by her person. Jules is one of those unique souls that wonder the world. Once talking to her you realize she is on a mission to spread light and love. Her presence and perspective make you take a second look at what it means to love and its importance in the world. She is an incredibly wise and talented young lady with a lot of important things to say (and sing) about the world we live in and the way we treat each other.
Check out here music below and images of our shoot together.
I saw the Hackensaw Boys perform at the Opera House in Shepherdstown, WV. The band is a charlottesville-based bluegrass band. Their performance is fantastic. At the end of the evening the band was called back on stage for one final song but moved their performance off stage and into the crowd.