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Ivy Vainio, an employee and graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, is among the select group of photographers whose work will be featured in the new "Capture Minnesota" book being produced by Twin Cities Public Television.
"I am overjoyed, excited, ecstatic. I'm in disbelief," Vainio said. "When I submitted and knew all these photos were being submitted, I always kind of knew one of my photos would make the cut."
Twin Cities Public Television, or TPT, said the goal of its Capture Minnesota project is "to find the best Minnesota photos ever." More than 95,000 photos were submitted and 200 were chosen by website viewers and editors to appear in the 144-page hard-cover book. Other photos are being displayed on the TPT website.
Vainio was notified in mid-March that one of the photos she submitted was chosen for the book. Although she hasn't been told which photo was selected, she believes it's an image of a pow wow dancer that she titled "War Cry." That image received the most viewer votes of any she submitted. She'll find out for sure at the book release party April 21 in Edina, Minn.
For the past 15 years Vainio has worked in UW-Superior's Office of Multicultural Affairs, where she is a senior multicultural student services specialist. She presently is completing a master's degree in communicating arts at the university.
Although she takes photos of student activities for her job, Vainio said she's become serious about her personal photography only in the past three to four years. She mainly photographs Native American cultural events - pow wow dances are a favorite -- and close-ups of nature, such as birch curls or bees on flowers.
The TPT project isn't the first time her photography has gained attention. In recent years her photos of community cultural events have appeared in the Duluth News Tribune, Duluth Budgeteer, Cloquet Pine Journal, the Fond du Lac tribal newspaper, and The Circle newspaper in Minneapolis. Her photos also have been published in Indian Country Today, a newspaper with nationwide circulation.
In addition, a magazine in Hungary used her photos to illustrate an article about Native Americans. "They published a couple of my pow wow photos and they used one of my photos of Jim Northrup making a birch bark basket," she said.
"I'm an amateur. I don't know what an f-stop is or an aperture. I just like to take photos," Vainio said. "I take a lot of photos for my job; I've been doing that for years. But doing it outside of work feels different."
Even before notifying Vainio that it planned to use of her photos in its book, TPT invited her to its Twin Cities studio to be interviewed for a television special about the Capture Minnesota project. The program will be broadcast later this year.
Vainio said she's particularly pleased with the possibility that one of her pow wow photos will appear in the Capture Minnesota book.
"I feel fortunate to be able to represent the Ojibwe nation by documenting life on the pow wow trail," she said. "I feel a special connection because I'm part of that community and I have an advantage over someone who's not Ojibwe who's photographing the same things because a lot of times they won't know the do's and don'ts of taking photos at a pow wow. I feel really good to be able to represent the Ojibwe and Native American communities in this way."
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