Shutterbug: New exhibit in Winona features never-before-seen photos of postwar Minnesota

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A Minnesota man's simple hobby of photography has now turned into a complex exhibit for generations to see. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS gives you an inside look at a never-before-seen slice of the past at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum of Winona

"It was perfect," said Jon Swanson, curator of collections and exhibitions at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.

Swanson was referring to hundreds of slides taken by David Tewes that he happened to find online. Those have now been turned into large photographs and are on display in Winona. 

The photographs were once private, but they're now on public display. And the photographer was just an amateur. But his photos are now in a professional public display.

"When he died in 1991 they were passed down to a family member, and then after that it was passed down to another family member, and the husband of one of the relatives posted these images online," Swanson said. "I was doing some research on some scanning and some slide duplication and happened upon this website and I looked at the content, and I was stunned that no one had really seen these images before, and they definitely had a quality to them."

Tewes, whose nickname was Shutterbug, died in 1991. He was a World War II veteran and a Hutchinson native. "Shutterbug" is the title of the exhibition.

"These old images, are still familiar to people who have been there, so people are really connecting," said Dave Casey, assistant curator of education and exhibitions at the museum.

People are connecting to post-World War II life in Minnesota through the lens of veteran.

The marquee photo is of a Hutchinson water carnival shot in 1950.

"He had a very good sense of design, a very good sense of composition, the subjects you know are very deliberate," Swanson said. 

Shutterbug's method was meticulous. He wrote detailed notes on the backs of each slide, which was surprising because he wasn't a professional photographer.

"You could see notes on the back of these slides, of his exposure times for example and the distance of the object, so he really worked hard to produce quality images," Swanson said. "There was a lot of water as subject, and we at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum focus on great art and are inspired by water, so I couldn't stop looking at these images."

The images are of postwar leisure and optimism from 1944 to 1955, featuring Como Park in St. Paul, some of the lakes in Minneapolis and the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

"There's nothing staged in these photos. They're all very documentary," Casey said. "So you get to see things like old cars, old clothing, signage, things like that."  

Shutterbug's small hobby carried a big message.

"Take care of your old things, take care of that box of photos that you might pull out of your grandma's attic — there could be something cool there," Casey said. "Not everyone's going to have a museum exhibition, but something worth saving there for your future generations, to see what the world looked like in a different time."

The "Shutterbug" exhibition, which includes dozens of Shutterbug's photos, continues at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum through early May.