“It was very much a wandering project,” Brautigam says. “I would put all my stuff in my car and head out with no particular destination. If I saw someone or something that looked interesting, I’d stop. It was like hunting without knowing what you’re hunting for.”
He found plentiful subjects across the state – an ice fisherman huddled on a frozen lake, an abandoned house with an inexplicable suitcoat hung up on the wall, a small, rural home lit up warmly in twilight.
He had misgivings about approaching subjects unprompted and asking to take their portrait with his large camera (which typically required about 30 minutes of their time), but in five years of photographing, only one person outright denied him.
Wandering through the woods on one trip, he stumbled on deer hunters who offered to take him to their camp and let him join them among their tents and rifles. A few minutes later, after a shot rang out in the distance, the hunters brought him their fresh kill and posed on a nearby dirt road for what would become one of his favorite portraits of the whole project.
“You don’t have to be entertained by constant sheer mountains and oceans,” he says. “You can find a quieter beauty in Wisconsin.”