My name is Dan Lessen, I was born and raised on a farm 5 miles outside of Emden, Illinois - 62635. A town of 500 people with 17 in my graduating class, it was a pretty tight community. A little tighter than I was comfortable with at the time, to be honest. On the family farm we raised corn, soybeans, a few commercial cattle, hogs when I was young and sheep as I got older. I picked up a point and shoot camera in the late 1990's on a trip to Iceland with the Illinois Army National Guard and picked up my first SLR in 2001. Fast forward through college and my daughter Grace was born in 2002 and my son Sam came along in 2005.
As a means to support my young family, I travelled, building portrait studios during the week, learning technical photographic portrait techniques and then shooting weddings on the weekends from 2002 to 2005. From there, I got off the road and had a successful portrait studio, Jackson Street Photography in Macomb, IL from 2005 - 2008. We photographed EVERYTHING, from international destination weddings, kids, families and commercial advertising. But, to be honest, with the schedule I ran from '02-'08, burn out was inevitable, 75-100 weddings a year is tough. You can't keep that kind of schedule up for long. And when it hit, that was it. I got divorced, quit shooting and sold out, including my 1.6 million file image catalog; all in the space of a year. It got a little western there for a minute. I think I bought back 56 GB after it was all over. And that was my personal pictures of my kids. But, I minimized my debt and moved to North Dakota, following a buddy on a whim just to find a job that paid a living wage. I literally had $157 to my name and in my pocket when I got off of a train in Minot, North Dakota on April 26, 2010. I was dead broke and desperate if I'm being really honest..
I went to work in the oilfield and took a 9 year break. (Quite a paradigm shift, I will admit!) To me, it wasn't about the time or having any sort of schedule as to if or when I would start shooting again. When the music stopped, I honestly didn't think I would ever do it again. But, life often has other plans. You see, I didn't plan on ever getting married again, but I found a beautiful North Dakota girl that I couldn't do without on what was supposed to be my last rotation to North Dakota. (Well played, dear.) We were married in 2011 and things started to change slowly. To be honest, she is responsible for all of this. She knew it was what I loved to do deep down and wanted to see me happy. Upon her prodding, I bought a Canon 7d, some mid quality glass and a few memory cards in 2012 and made exactly 56 images with it from 2012 to 2015. My heart just wasn't in it yet. June 16, 2015 we were blessed with twin boys, Landon and Lochlan and a few frames would find their way onto the shutter counter of my camera. My two older children, Grace and Sam came out for the summer and it continued little by little.
I was on a trip to Casper Wyoming early in the Spring of 2017 renewing my well control certificate and started taking a few pictures of their incredible sunsets and the flood gates reopened. Life, camera, action. All of the sudden, I felt like me again, only starting over from scratch. The images came like rain. I came home, upgraded all of my equipment and started banging the shutter and here we are, version 2.0 is very much alive and well but on a far smaller scale.
Thank you for taking the journey with me. Im looking forward to seeing where we go.