Jessica Lange’s Remarkable Midwest Photographs
Long before her Hollywood debut, Jessica Lange bought a record by fellow Minnesotan Bob Dylan: Highway 61 revisited. Now she shares her own artistic take on an iconic highway that has always led her home.
Many know Jessica Lange as a two-time Oscar winner for roles in Tootsie and Blue Sky, or as the 1976 damsel in King Kong’s clutches. Last fall she starred in a new Netflix series, The Politician. But as a teenager, the northern Minnesota native from Cloquet enrolled at the University of Minnesota, where she took photography classes. In the decades since, she has honed her skills behind the camera while off-screen.
The actor-photographer released her fourth photography book in October. Highway 61 offers intimate glimpses of a storied north-south American byway that passes through Lange’s hometown.
Geographically, Highway 61 loosely follows the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the gulf waters of New Orleans. Spiritually, Lange calls it “a conduit between my past and my present.” The daughter of a traveling salesman set out for Europe and New York City before making her big-screen acting debut in 1976.
Lange’s black-and-white stills evade time. A naked window mannequin could be from 1965 or yesterday. Same for the lone cowboy smoking a pipe, and a carnival slide lighting the night sky. They are quiet but urgent—a dispatch from a fading age when you had to know the names of the roads to get where you were going.
Buy the Book
The quotes in this story can be found in Jessica Lange’s fourth photo collection, Highway 61 (powerHouse Books, $75). Printed on luxuriously thick stock, the oversize book shares 80-plus film images that Lange captured on trips between her cabin in northern Minnesota and her home in New Orleans.
Old Highway 61
Threaded along the Mississippi River, the original US-61 spanned 1,700 miles from New Orleans to Canada. Since 1991, it has officially ended in the town of Wyoming, Minnesota, just beyond the Twin Cities. But Minnesota’s State-61 still traces the North Shore of Lake Superior, from Duluth to the Canada border.