A Year in the Menomonee Valley - Through a Camera Lens

Jan 16, 2015

Fine art photographer Eddee Daniel spent 2014 as the Menomonee Valley's inaugural artist in residence.

If you know his work and passion for the environment, you also know the Menomonee Valley is not a new subject for the photographer. Daniel started tramping around its then unkempt terrain in the late 1990s.

"Back then it was urban wilderness with an emphasis on wilderness, because a lot of the industries had moved out and nothing had replaced them yet, expect wildlife," Daniel says. "There was all of this vegetation growing where there was industry before; there was wild grasses and flowers growing up in the middle of the fields."

Daniel was given space to create within a restored red brick building in the heart of the Menomonee Valley. Now the high-ceilinged, sun-filled structure is home to Zimmerman Architectural Studios, but its first life was spent as a coal gasification operation, which brought Milwaukee’s turn of the last century street lamps to life.

Daniel says his official mission was to “activate the potential of the Menomonee Valley as a symbol of urban revitalization.” An intern assisted Daniel in organizing the massive results. And, a website was created to showcase blog posts and various galleries.

Irina and Craig Johnson own Professional Placement Services.
Credit Eddee Daniel

Over the year Daniel profiled people working in the valley – leading to some unexpected encounters.

He visited Craig Johnson's business - Professional Placement Services, a collection agency.

"I photographed his business, I interviewed him and I a wrote a profile about what he does," Daniel says. "I never, ever would have thought that I was going to interview a collection agency.  It not the kind of business I would normally think about.  He was such an interesting person to talk to, because he was so enthusiastic about the work he was doing."

Nick Ginster created Fyxation with his brother Ben.
Credit Eddee Daniel

Nick Ginster builds super delux bicycles and was the first person Daniel interviewed in the valley.

The operation, Fyxation, is located on Pierce Street.

"It's a tiny little business. The reason it's not well known to the general public is they have no retail presence. They're manufacturers. People who are aficionados of these kind of custom-made bikes know about it, but you wouldn't know it's here," Daniel says.

When WUWM's Susan Bence met up with Daniel at Three Bridges Park snow hadn’t fallen yet, but temperatures had. Daniel describes the park – as it appears right now – barren but beautiful.

Daniel’s lens in drawn from the spectacular to the every day - from industrial to natural - the lush lavender of a blooming spiderwort, a black-crowned night heron, Cargill demolishing its warehouse and cattle ramp and a coal barge chugging its way way up to the power plant.

His work, Daniel sums up simply, is about our place in the world.

He has no doubt that he and his camera will continue to be drawn to the Menomonee Valley.

Thunderhead looms beyond Three Bridges Park
Credit Eddee Daniel