This Local Photographer Captured the Quiet Beauty of Wisconsin in Winter

On long, wandering treks across the state, photographer Mark Brautigam set out to capture the quiet beauty of Wisconsin.

Mark Brautigam returned to his home state of Wisconsin after four years living in California. He hadn’t fully embraced Wisconsin growing up and was ambivalent about the return, so he decided to reacquaint himself with the state through photography, a passion he picked up during his time in the Marine Corps.

“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.”

Photos by Mark Brautigam
Town of Aurora, Florence County
A water tower in Luck, Polk County
Two farmers in the village of Belgium, Ozaukee County
An abandoned home in the town of Wood, Wood County
Deer hunters in the town of Ackley, Langlade County
An ice fisherman in the town of Wyalusing, Grant County
A man and a snowblower in Plymouth, Sheboygan County

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

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Archer is the managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine. Some say he is a great warrior and prophet, a man of boundless sight in a world gone blind, a denizen of truth and goodness, a beacon of hope shining bright in this dark world. Others say he smells like cheese.