Hey Bill Lemke, What’s Your Favorite Work?

We wanted to know what he considers his personal best.

Waukesha native Bill Lemke has taken thousands of photographs in his lifetime. Some have been featured in major museum exhibits. One – a diptych from his “Deadheads in America Then & Now” series – is currently hanging at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.

But as far as Lemke is concerned, his best photograph isn’t his best-known or best-selling. It’s an image he captured in 1986, while visiting a remote village in Yugoslavia (now Croatia). “It was shot on a long, curving road that rose above the village,” he says. “I knew as soon as I took it that it was going to turn out well. You can see so far into the distance.”

Lemke, who prefers to work with real film that he develops into black and white prints using traditional gelatin silver, says that he loves the image’s clarity and texture so much that he recently had it reprinted at a larger size. “I’m still fascinated by it after all those years,” he says. “Every time I stop to study it, I see something in it that I hadn’t noticed before.” 

Planning a trip to D.C. in the next few months? You can see Lemke’s Glenn & Jerusha on view at the National Portrait Gallery through August of 2020.

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s February issue. 

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Lindsey Anderson covers culture for Milwaukee Magazine. Before joining the MilMag team she worked as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and wrote freelance articles for ArtSlant and Eater.