A Love Affair With Fargo

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About 8 or 9 months ago, I discovered a guy called AJ Leon who, along with his wife Melissa, were travelling around the world in 1080 days on a trip they called “The Pursuit of Everything“.

AJ wrote a manifesto on his Misfit life, his philosophy, and his idealogy for the future which is called “The Life and Times of a Remarkable Misfit” – and I have to tell you that I found it life-changing.

Since I discovered AJ and his work, I’ve been a keen follower. So keen, in fact, that when AJ and Melissa announced Misfit Conf, to be held in Fargo, North Dakota USA, I was researching flights within about 5 minutes of the email landing in my Inbox.

This post is a photo essay of my travels. People I met, places I visited, and stuff that amused me. It’s not a client project, it’s simply a chance to shoot stuff for me, for the simple pleasure of taking photographs and making a story from my journey.

The conference itself was held from May 30 to June 1, although my travel time meant that it started for me on May 29, and lasted until June 5. (I misplaced June 4th this year. It got lost somewhere over the Pacific Ocean as I crossed the dateline.)

Fargo is a disarmingly cool town, especially the Downtown area – where I spent the vast majority of my time. The rest of Fargo (on my brief venture outside Downtown) is just like Suburban USA™, filled with what you’d expect to see anywhere else – fast food, sprawling houses, massively wide streets, and shopping malls. Downtown Fargo has a disproportionate amount of art galleries and creative shops, and seems to be stuck somewhere in the 1950’s as far as styling and decor goes. But that’s what gives it such a great sense of COOL.

It’s a time in my life that I’ll always remember. I met so many new, fast friends, and had some of the most profound and life-changing conversations ever. (I even made it onto the local TV station!)

All of these images were taken with my Nikon D800 and my Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, shot in RAW + B&W JPEG, processed in Bridge as you see them here.

All of these images are available as art prints – email me for more information.

Enjoy the visual treats of my love affair with Fargo.

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Due to extreme fog in Sydney on the morning of my first flight, I was delayed at the airport for the entire day. We boarded, sat on the tarmac for a few hours, then de-planed again and went back through customs and went home. I looked at the interior of the gate lounge for a looooooong time.

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This lovely couple had been delayed an extra day, as their flight from Perth had been diverted to Canberra the previous morning. This was their third day sitting around in Sydney airport, desperately trying to get to LA to catch up with Patrick’s family. Stephanie and Patrick run a rockin little pizza joint in Perth, called Neighborhood Pizza. If I am ever in Perth again, I will SOO be going to this pizza place!

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Finally on the flight. Here’s the view from my window seat 34A. I never ever ever get tired of rich blue skies. They’re peaceful, deep, and calming to me.

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After something like a week of heavy rain, the plains around Fargo were more like lakes! Crazy scenes as we descended into Fargo airport.

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This is Mohamed. His whole family relocated to Fargo 17 years ago due to the war in Somalia. He was so friendly and helpful, and gave me the guided tour all the way from the airport to my funky hotel.

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Tina was a really really helpful reception-desk-person at the Scandia Hotel. Thanks to her, I found my way around much more easily, and enjoyed my time in Fargo even more than I would have normally.

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After the opening night drinks, we each were given our Golden Ticket to gain entry to Misfit Conf. Seriously, how freaking cool! I still have the ticket still, but the dark chocolate was the victim of a time-zone-related midnight snack. I’m so not apologising.

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Thanks to wacky time-zones and general excitement, I woke at 5:00am local time and couldn’t get back to sleep. So I did some yoga, then went exploring.

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Opening the conference. AJ & Melissa.

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Here are some fellow Misfits. I had the intention of photographing EVERYONE in the room in this way. But I soon realised that my time in Fargo was so limited, and I wanted to actually talk to everyone, not just take their pictures! So here is the start of an unfinished series of Misfit Portraits.

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Exploring again. This time on the last day. My camera literally didn’t appear after those Misfit Portraits, until after the official proceedings were over.

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Christon from Florida was commissioned to make a reactive artwork from the conference. He stood in the corner, and produced a gorgeous artwork across the two days, which later sold in silent auction for $750.

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A new, and dear friend – Lou from Cambridge, in her mild-mannered reporter guise.

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And, with AJ & Melissa, as her alter-ego Danger Lou! (If you have NO idea what Danger Lou is derived from, go here and it will hopefully make more sense.)

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Coffee and brekky at Atomic Cafe in Downtown. Trying, desperately, to make sense of how shattered my brain was after the whole conference.

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These two shots were taken by Jesse from J. Alan Paul photography in Fargo. Totally amazing guy. Generous, hilarious, and a brilliant shooter. I want to say they’re mine, but sadly not.

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These shots were all taken in the last few hours of the last night before we wandered back to our respective lives, changed forever. There was an amazing vibe in the room, and none of us wanted it to end, but all of us knew it had to. All things must pass, even Misfit Conf.

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Patrick is an artisan blacksmith from Ireland. With his wife Francis (next shot) they produced a set of 9 Irons, an old Irish Amulet. I bought a set as my permanent memento of the trip.

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Aly, telling stories of his amazing Butter Chicken e-book. (Not for sale anymore, sadly.) He and I shared a brilliant conversation about the value of Art vs Products – one of my defining moments of the whole trip.

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Greg from Fargo is one of the most well-connected dudes I’ve ever met, and at the same time unbelievably humble and approachable. He also has strong ties to Australia, but I like to think he put this shirt on in my honour…

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Brandon, one of my new buddies, is an incredible visual artist. He drew hand-sketches of everyone in the room of Misfit Conf, in something like 15 minutes each. As if that isn’t enough, he’s also a rad guitarist from a (sadly now defunct) band called Sleeping In Gethsemane. He painted this mural in Dempsey’s Irish Pub – the local music venue in Downtown, and a place he has played hundreds of shows, including the 500-strong final performance for SiG.

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This next collection of portraits happened in the 15 minutes or so from 1:45am until 2am close of Dempsey’s. There was Tequila involved.

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Melissa with Mark – the owner of Ecce Gallery in Downtown Fargo where Misfit Conf was held. The following shots were taken inside the gallery somewhere after 2am.

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All good things must come to an end. Sitting in (again) seat 34A as I leave LAX. Sad to be leaving, but thrilled that it happened, and ecstatic to see my family again.

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Sunrise as we descend into Sydney. God I love this place.

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Thankyou to AJ, Melissa, and all the Misfits. Thankyou to Fargo.

I am a changed man.

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