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Helen D. Gunderson

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I am an independent videographer, photographer, historian, and seminary graduate with a passion to interpret my rural heritage. I have had a "tug-and-pull" relationship with my background, living in other states but yearning to be closer to the farm land of my youth where I was a fourth-generation Iowan growing between Rolfe and Pocahontas. Throughout my adult years, I have photographed small town events and farm scenes. In 1980, I produced a slide/sound show for the all-class school reunion in my hometown of Rolfe. Then in 1988, I produced two shows for the 125th anniversary of the town. After that, I intended to go "cold turkey" and stop photographing Iowa in order to get on with life in Northern California. 

However, in 1989, I began coming back to Iowa on photo forays and sowed the seeds for a project called The Road I Grew Up On. It's a work-in-process and consists of video, photography, and oral histories as well as a lot of research. I am discovering more about the history, recognizing myth systems, reflecting on what I observe and creating images. I have deep, albeit mixed feelings for the area and want to share them via my work. Regardless of format, whether a video, exhibit, or essay, I want to move people and have them explore the truth of their lives. The process can have a spiritual element and be healing.

The road project has received grants from the State Historical Society, Iowa Humanities Board, and Iowa Arts Council, and is housed at the Iowa State University Archives. I am producing a documentary video about the road; however it is on hold while I work on exhibits and further organizing my collection at the archives.

Currently, I am producing a set of photographs for a rural sociologist to publish in a book on the Practical Farmers of Iowa. I have also been following PFI members with my camcorder for a video on local food systems produced by the Field to Family Project headquartered in Ames.


Click on photo for my web site.
It has a showroom for my color photo notecards.

Other projects I have worked on include a video about the Britt Draft Horse Show, a video for the Pocahontas Public Library about the town's Main Street, a video for the Iowa Master Farm Homemaker Guild, and a video on Doing Local History with Video sent to all public libraries in Iowa. In 1995, I worked with Iowa State's Media Production Unit, leading workshops around the state on Doing Local History with Video, supported in part by the Iowa Sesquicentennial Commission.

The Upper Midwest was home until 1981 when I enrolled in a Presbyterian seminary near San Francisco and earned a Master of Divinity. As part of that program, I served as parish intern in St. Helena. After graduation, I returned to that town and began Gunder-friend Productions, then in 1993, I moved back to Iowa. I also have a Master's Degree in Instructional Media from the University of Wisconsin-Stout and a degree in physical education from Iowa State. I have taught in Duluth and Eagle Grove, worked in sports information at North Dakota State University, and directed the YMCA of NDSU.

You can contact me through my web site if you would like to host an exhibit, have me as a consultant or panelist, obtain other help, or purchase videotapes, photographs or notecards.

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