The Stories Behind the Photographs, with Glenn Allenspach

I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with Glenn Allenspach, and view his gallery exhibit in the Jan Johansen Gallery at Rumriver Art Center. His stunning photos capture your attention and imagination. Learning the background stories adds even more interesting depth to his artwork. We invited you to catch the interview below, as Glenn highlights several photographs and their stories.

Glenn’s art journey began when he bought a camera from a classmate in 10th grade.

In his twenty’s he attended college at the University of Minnesota. Still following the photography track, Glenn signed up for a basic wheel throwing course. The fuse was lit, and he began concentrating on pottery, while continuing to pursue photography. On one hand, wheel throwing, hand building, clay and glaze formulation, and kiln construction. On the other, the fine black and white print, and alternative photo processes and methods. Both mixed in with a healthy dose of art history, especially ceramics of China, Korea and Japan.

His darkroom and kilns have been busy ever since, completing his impressive photographs and pots.

“I take a pretty simple approach to both photography and pottery. Photographs that speak most directly to me show a clear, straightforward look at the world. The land, the people and nature are my subjects. The beauty of light and shadow at certain times of the day and year, or the connection between people, animals, and their surroundings provide little windows of time and space to contemplate.”

This following two photos were taken in Grand Marias, where Glenn was standing on the breakwall, watching the sailboat named ‘Hjordis.’

“I find lighting very interesting. When you look towards the town you get this sort of postcard look in the morning, because the sun shines from the east. So you get the nice bright colors, and full sun.”

“But then the boat went past the breakwall, and the quality of the light changed instantly. These two photos were taken within two minutes of each other.”

Glenn captured this photo while driving through Lanesboro.

“The sun was shining behind the tractor which illuminates the dust.”

Many people are drawn in on by the colors on the ‘Eat My Words’ photo below. Glenn’s artwork was often shown at The Old Frank Stone gallery, which was nearby this ‘Eat My Words Bookstore.’ While walking by, Glenn was drawn in by the man looking over the books on the rack there.

“It kind of gives you that street photography vibe. The green doorframe captures a lot of people’s eyes. The doorframe is green from the traffic light. It’s kind of a lucky grab to shoot it right at the time when the green light was lit up.”

The next photo was taken the Monday after Prince passed away, near First Avenue in Minneapolis. You can see the news crew in the background.

“It was very quiet as people were gathering and bringing flowers, balloons and all kinds of things. This woman (in the photo), turned and the shadow fell across her face. Which to me, captured the melancholy feel.”

Much of Glenn’s photography is taken in State Parks, such as Bear Head State Park, MN, shown in this photo. I asked if he had a favorite State park or location for photography. His response made me laugh. “I guess the next one I visit.”

I suspect that’s a great quality for artists to have, the hope that there’s something even better just ahead.

Glenn has a few favorite photographers and artists, along with noting that he “draws from all over.”

Photographers: Elliott Erwitt, Ansel Adams, Jim Brandenberg

Painters: Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe

Ceramic artists: Shoji Hamada, Bernard Leach, Warren McKenzie. 

Glenn is drawn to overcast weather days. He quoted National Geographic photographer Sam Abel who likes to say, “Bad light makes for good pictures.”

While you’ll find Glenn out in all seasons, Spring and Fall are particular favorites for his photography.

Clearly, frigid winter weather doesn’t hold Glenn back. I noted his willingness to step onto these these icy rocks to capture this amazing photograph. He admitted almost needing to crawl out of that slippery scene.

Glenn did consider whether Minnesotans who visited the gallery were ready to view this piece, after enduring the harsh 2022-2023 winter.

Glenn’s advice to developing photographers: “Keep making pictures, shoot what you know.”

Photography and Pots remain in the Jan Johansen Gallery through April 30, 2023. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday 9:30-3 and select Saturdays. Check out for the most up to date information.

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