Local photographer travels Great Lakes by tall ship to capture images for ArtPrize

When classic tall sailing ships gathered in Bay City, Mich. for the annual Tall Ships Celebration in mid-July, photographer Stacy Niedzwiecki of Rockford jumped at the opportunity to travel through the Great Lakes via an historic form of transportation. This trip of a lifetime was the inspiration for her 2010 ArtPrize entry, “Great Lakes – Great Ships – Great Concerns,” at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids. Niedzwiecki’s photography pieces combine a strong message of freshwater conservation and protection—the same message carried by the tall ships as they traveled from port to port through the Lakes this summer.

Niedzwiecki served as a photo journalist throughout the summer, covering a variety of sailing events, starting with the Tall Ship Celebration in Bay City. Following the celebration, she boarded the sailing vessel S/V Denis Sullivan, an educational schooner based out of Milwaukee, Wis. The Denis Sullivan served as the flagship for the Great Lakes United Tall Ships Challenge 2010, and became Niedzwiecki’s floating residence over the next two weeks through Lakes Huron and Superior.

Niedzwiecki traveled alongside a group of 11 high school students from three states who were participating in a summer youth program through Michigan Technological University. Niedzwiecki captured scenes of the students’ sailing adventures, along with the day-to-day life of the Sullivan’s professional crew and sail-training volunteers. Carefully skirting a large storm system across Lake Superior, the ship arrived in Duluth, Minn. on July 29, 2010. Niedzwiecki also photographed the arrival of the tall ships Europa and Roald Amundsen to Muskegon Lake. She concluded her photo project in Chicago aboard the Privateer Lynx during the glorious Parade of Sail around Navy Pier on Lake Michigan.

“Upon my return, naturally I had folks asking me how my summer cruise was,” laughed Niedzwiecki. “This wasn’t your typical pleasure cruise featuring umbrella-style drinks. The sailing crew worked arduous hours, and it was the responsibility of the rest of us on board to support in the sailing operations. Often, this meant working on very little sleep, in hot, humid conditions without showers.”

Niedzwiecki, who had no prior sailing experience, assisted with classroom materials, memorized various lines and sails, attempted knot-tying, charted the ship’s position and performed ship inspections.

“Of course, there was plenty of dish washing in the ship’s galley. One of the toughest crew positions on the ship is that of cook, who spent hours provisioning and preparing the delicious meals. I felt the least I could do was pitch in and help clean the galley.”

“Once I was granted permission go aboard, there was much planning and organizing within a three-week time period,” Niedzwiecki continued. “As a digital photographer, there was much consideration as to battery supplies, computer file storage and backup, and the protection and storage of heavy camera gear. A ship can’t pull into the local dock so you can replace a camera battery! As for my voyage, I find it hard to adequately describe in words. Capturing memories in photographic form is my strongest suit. Therefore, I will allow the images to serve as a witness to my time spent on our Great Lakes.”

Niedzwiecki’s ArtPrize exhibit will be displayed from September 22 to October 9 at Immanuel Lutheran Church, located at the corner of Michigan and Division, next to VanAndel Institute, in Grand Rapids.

Niedzwiecki is a visual communications specialist and owner of Niedzwiecki Creative Solutions. In addition to traditional graphic design projects, she sells her photography work online, in local gift shops and at various art shows. For her current schedule, visit  www.stacyn.com/wordpress/schedule.

The public is encouraged to support the exhibit and vote for the local artist, who aims to highlight Michigan’s natural beauty to the multitude of visitors pouring into Grand Rapids during the 18-day event. This is the second year the artist is competing in ArtPrize her 2009 “Michigan Moments” series was well-received at SanChez Bistro & Café. Venue hours (at minimum) are Monday through Tursday from 5 to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from noon to 10 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

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