The Rhinelander Photography Club Is a Place for Photographers of All Skill Levels

Jul 26, 2019

In a region where towns are as small and scattered as the Northwoods, it can sometimes be hard to find people who share your same interests. The Rhinelander Photography Club though has been connecting local photographers since 2013. 

WXPR’s Hannah Reese continues our We Live Up Here series with the story. 

On a Saturday in mid-March, Nicolet College hosted their closing gala exhibit featuring the work of the Rhinelander Photography Club.  Many members and their families attended to celebrate the photos the club members chose for the exhibit. 

Denise Shahnakee is a member of the Rhinelander Photography Club and tells us the story behind one of her photos.

“This dahlia with the raindrops is not actually rain, it’s a sprinkler,” she says. “The man who grows these dahlias, I think everybody knows who he is. He has his house on Coon Street and they just surround the perimeter. They’re gorgeous, but I wanted a different perspective, so I happened to come by in the night and he had his sprinklers on. And no one can tell. It looks like rain.”

The Rhinelander Photography Club puts on a show once a year at Nicolet College. I was honored to share a conversation with local Packer fan, Julie Joswiak, and hear about her submissions.

“That particular photograph… we had been up in the Bayfield area and it’s called Echo Dells,” she says. “And it was really foggy there that day and so we just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

The Nicolet Art Gallery located in the first building on the right as you are driving into the campus.  It is open to the public Monday – Friday, 8:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. if you would like to take a quiet stroll through and be inspired by the latest show.

When I asked a young girl what her favorite photo was at the show, she pointed towards a black and white photo of a leaf hanging on the wall of the gallery.

“The black and white leaf,” she says. “It looked like it was from a fairy tale. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was really cool.”

The photo was taken by her mother, Nikki Smith.

“This picture here of my leaf… that was from the freeze storm we had this year,” says Smith. “It was too dangerous to be out on the roads that day but I wanted to capture something so all I did was walk around our backyard and I found this single oak leaf hanging by a thread through the ice and each one of the points of the leaf had a frozen water droplet on it.”

The Rhinelander Photography Club was started on Facebook by Jack Flint who moved to the Northwoods from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He had been in photography clubs there and noticed how diverse photographers can be with their craft. From bird photographers to flower photographers, everyone has a different method and approach. He decided to create a photography club here which serves to give all the individual approaches a common ground. His vision for Rhinelander Photography Club is to keep it as open as possible to all levels of purists and hobbyists. Flint says he is very pleased with the success of the group’s ability to remain true to these common goals.

Getting involved with club is quite easy. You can join their Facebook group, or show up to their monthly meetings.

“I got involved with the photography club because I posted a picture of some northern lights a couple years ago, and someone local saw it,” says Nikki Smith. “And so I got involved that way. This is my second year displaying pictures at the gallery and I’m pretty proud since it’s just a hobby.”

“I was out shooting one day and I ran into one of the members… and I went to one of the first meetings and I was hooked,” says Denise Shahnakee. “Great people and a wonderful environment to learn in and share. I think we all share the same love.”

If you are looking for a way to connect with a group of people who share your interest in photography, the Rhinelander Photography Club meets once a month for outings and to develop their passion into something more. One of the goals of the Rhinelander Photography Club is to help grow technical skills through group outings. The club has done night shoots, as well as a photo club outing to Mitchell Domes in Milwaukee.

“One of the latest ones we did which was in fall, October, was up at the Conserve School in Land O’Lakes,” says Shahnakee. “Jeff Rennicke is a very accomplished photographer and I just happened to connect with him at a lecture he did at Nicolet College… To learn from someone who is very experienced and well known and just to be in that beautiful environment was pretty cool.”

Angela Wolf has been a member of the club since 2015. She owns a photography company, but enjoys the club as an outlet for a hobby. She also remembers the Conserve School outing with National Geographic photographer Jeff Rennicke.

“We all just geek out over his photography, it’s so beautiful,” she says. “It was so nice to be given a presentation by him and then he walked us through the Conserve School grounds to different areas where there were things of photographic interest.”

It’s clear the members are passionate about photography and share a similar appreciation for what the club means to them. Every single club member wanted to share how there is a space in the club for everyone at every level. 

“One of things that is really good about the group is that there are people at all levels,” says Wolff. “There are people in the group that only have a cell phone camera, and it’s super cool that no one dogs anyone else out for their equipment or level of skill. There’s Dan Dumas taking photos from his drone, and professional photographers, but we are all on the same level when we are in the group. No one is more or less than anyone else. It’s really a peer feeling.”

If you are a fan of photography and are looking to get involved, the Rhinelander Photography Club meets at 6:00 p.m. on the second Wednesday of every month at Hodag Lanes. They also have a fun, photography filled Facebook page to see where the nice spots to take photos are and stay connected to the group. They say all are welcome. 

Here are some more quotes from Rhinelander Photography Club members:

Dan Dumas: “RPC offers a wonderful way for professionals, enthusiasts, and anyone that has a shutter passion to interact, share and provide a safe learning environment. Friendly reminder: photography Is subjective. There are important fundamentals to be learned, but there is no right or wrong way to capture a moment and create art. I believe we like to share that philosophy and inspire everyone to create.”

Kevin M Janz: "The club means different things to everyone, some join to learn, others join to share or even as a way to meet friends with like interest. No matter the reason it's likely you will find ways to become engaged in something that you enjoy. For me it has changed. When I first joined it was mainly to observe and learn. Now that I feel confident enough in my ability, I take more pleasure in sharing what I have discovered since I started.”

Casey Rustan: "It’s a great group to learn, teach, gain experience, go on adventures, and make friends. There is no judgement on what equipment you shoot, your experience, or your style. Everybody is welcome to join with open arms."

Angela Wolf:  Part of why the club is so important to me is it lets me share my weird view of the world with others AND even more importantly it helps me view my view of the world differently. I also like seeing everyone else's perspectives as well. There are things that surprise me because I saw nothing in a certain spot but then someone else sees something cool and intriguing. I also love that we don't have to be anyone special or famous to end up with our art on a wall having it talked about and dissected and appreciated.”

Lars Solo: “Remember when you were a little kid and you went to your uncle’s house? And he set up his slide projector to show everyone photos from the last vacation or family reunion and everyone went “ugh...”? Well how about a club where everyone says “yeah! Let’s see ‘em, we want to see through your eyes and see what you saw!” Well that’s our club. We love photographs on any subject at any level. We learn from each other developing our skills and ability to “see” what others may not. If you’re of a similar mindset, we’re your club, come join us!”

This story was written by Hannah Reese and produced for radio by Mackenzie Martin. Music for this story came from Blue Dot Sessions: Curio by Blue Dot Sessions (www.sessions.blue).

Program support for stories like this on WXPR are funded in part by the Northern Arts Council and the Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin.