'Living the dream' CoverArtist: After Amy Wurdock meandered into Minneapolis, she rekindled her childhood passion for photography
The photo on the cover was taken by Amy Wurdock at a wedding reception at the Wabasha Street Caves in St. Paul.
"There was a photo booth, it's a great idea, I love them. Those girls were having so much fun together. They spent all night at the photo booth and went through every single prop in the prop basket. They were so absorbed with having fun and posing that I don't think they even noticed when I poked my camera in and took this picture of all of the fun they were having." - Amy Wurdock
by Norma Smith Olson
Amy Wurdock's first photographic assignments came from her mother. "Official trip's photographer" was her title for the twosome's "epic" camping trips. "My mom had this point of view that when someone said 'mountain,' I should actually know what that was." When Wurdock was a kid growing up in Michigan, the two traveled together across the United States and up and down both the East and West coasts.
"I remember having so much fun taking all of those pictures - of course, this was back in the film days," Wurdock said. "I just loved it. It was my favorite thing to do." Growing up with stacks of National Geographics in their home, she said her greatest dream was to become a photographer for the magazine.
After all of the childhood travels, Wurdock admits to having a bit of wanderlust. At age 16, she was an exchange student to Chile. "When I came back, I felt like I never stopped moving," she said. Besides Michigan, she's lived in California, Texas, Oregon ... "all over the place."
But all that moving stopped in 1996.
"I tell people that I'm just on the world's slowest journey out west," Wurdock said. She was on her way from Michigan to Portland, Ore., when she stopped to visit friends in Minneapolis. "Minnesota stuck," she said. "I found it difficult to leave." In 1999 she bought a house very near Powderhorn Park. "It's really a great place to have a family."
She had gravitated away from photography, but when digital cameras arrived on the scene, she rediscovered her earlier passion.
Wurdock was a former community organizer with nonprofits and a stay-at-home mom with two kids when her idea for a neighborhood photographic project was born in 2009.
"For me, 'Powderhorn 365' is where it all began. It took me from being someone who had always wanted to be a photographer, someone who liked taking pictures, and it gave me a direction to go," she said.
The project - which in 2012 became a project of the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association - combined her love of photography and her love for her neighborhood.
"I get so depressed when the media can't say anything about Powderhorn except to talk about thugs or drugs or crime or gangs," she said.
When Wurdock looks at her neighborhood, she sees a vibrant place, filled with neighbors and art.
"I was thinking that this [project] would be one way to show that there are 365 amazing things about this neighborhood, to combat the ones you always hear about in the news," she said.
A "365" is a challenge for photographers, to push themselves to take a picture each day for a year. According to Wurdock, any art project having constraints makes one more creative.
But with young children at home, Wurdock felt she could only commit to one photo a week, not one photo a day. So she found six people willing to take on the project with her for that first year, each assigned one day of the week.
Photos were posted on a website and displayed at community events, such as the Powderhorn Art Fair and at the Empty Bowls Project.
Now, five years into the project, there's a book published of each year's photographs. Each year, there have been seven key, new photographers and many, many guest photographers sharing their images of the neighborhood.
Marriage equality photographer
Aside from being a promoter of her adopted community, Wurdock specializes in kids and wedding photography, family and individual portraits. She has a studio near the Midtown Global Market.
The passage of the marriage equality legislation in 2013 was a momentous time for Wurdock.
"Just knowing that I am straddling this moment in time and what an honor it is. My first two wedding [photography assignments] were gay weddings in 2009 in Iowa. It was such a dream that it would be legalized in Minnesota. To be where we are now - I'm taking pictures of people signing marriage certificates [in Minnesota] - I'm so amazed, happy, shocked and surprised."
From childhood travels with a camera and wanderlust to putting down roots in a Midwest city neighborhood with a supportive family and a network of friends, Wurdock thinks she is lucky: "I'm living the dream that I had when I was a kid."