Photo Collaboration University Without Walls Students x Olivia Mikolai Ridge

Daniel Perkins x Olivia Ridge

Kneeling Next to a Boone and Crockett Record-Setting Bighorn Sheep, 2022, Daniel Perkins and Olivia Ridge

First Correspondence Q & A
02/02/22 & 03/03/22

OR: How do you want to be seen? This is intentionally a broad question for you to answer literally or abstractly. Photographs reflect parts of ourselves. What would you like people to know about you from your image?

DP: Tough Question :) How can I make people know, through an image, that I have a huge heart? That it’s broken in the absence of my kids and family. I want people to know I’m unselfish and care about others. I love to fish, hunt, and play most any sport. I’m never happier than when I have my tool pouches on or am in a deer stand!! I love to read. I love to learn. I’m a hard worker.

OR: Describe the best photograph of yourself. This photograph can be imagined or real.

DP: Real - I have a photograph of me kneeling next to my youngest son when he’s starting fourth grade. We’re in his school in front of his locker. The smiles are genuine. The excitement is real. Life was dealing me better times at that point.

Imagined - Dressed in digital camouflage high in the Rocky Mountains. I’m kneeling next to a Boone and Crockett record-setting bighorn sheep. I’m holding up his beautiful head and horns and my bow is resting on his body. A dream come true. Majestic background revealing the snow-capped Rockies.

OR: Is there a real or historical place you would like to be photographed?  

DP: I’d love to have a photo where I’m next to a raging river cutting deep through the mountains. I’m an outdoorsman and all the years of confinement makes me crave nature. I need nature and fresh air :)

OR: What is your relationship to your State ID photo (like it, hate it)? Would you change or edit your State ID photo if you could? If so, what would you do?

DP: I HATE IT! I don’t know what to do. Every year we retake the photo. You are supposed to look tough? No smile? I want to smile. I’m not tough and don’t want to be. I want to smile. I’ll NEVER wear blue clothes when I get out of here. I think I’d smile for real, take off the blue, and maybe include a natural backdrop (mountains, forest, ocean, etc.).

Courtesy Daniel Perkins

Hi Dan,

Thanks for your detailed and compelling letter. You paint a vivid image of the outdoors that I also share a love for. The snow-capped Rocky Mountains, holding your big-horned sheep and bow, maybe sitting next to a raging river in the mountains.

What I hope to offer through this project is a photograph that is made for you – one that you actually want. One of the difficulties of this project is not being able to take a photograph of you. Knowing that any recreation of this image cannot satisfy the real, there are a few ways we can put you into the image you describe or obscure the figure’s face. What would it mean to you for someone to stand in your place in the ideal image of yourself?

I also wonder if there is a new photograph that I could take for you that could help image this scene. I likely won’t be able to visit any rivers in the mountains soon, but I can find patches of wilderness around the Midwest. Where did you spend time outdoors in the past? Any fond memories nearby or places that come to mind that I could visit and photograph for you? Otherwise, I could create a backdrop of the scene you describe by finding an image online. I’ve attached a few photos of rivers winding through the mountains. Feel free to mark these up to share as much as you can about your ideal setting in the great outdoors.

Looking forward to working on this image with you,

Olivia: Hello. I hope you’re well. Thanks for your response and these photos. There’s a lot of detail, and it feels like you’re really engaged. That’s exciting. First, I’ll answer some of your inquiries.

I have no problem with a stand-in to create an image. I read Outdoor Life magazine regularly. I imagine myself replacing the men and women in these photos all the time. :) The photos of the mountain scenery and streams are beautiful. That’s undisturbed land that most people will never experience or appreciate.

I was a member of the Rooster Heaven Hunt Club in Forrest, IL. 20K acres strictly for deer hunting. The Vermilion River borders the land. I owned a German Shorthaired Pointer. We did A LOT of pheasant hunting and man could “Sarge” command a field. Beautiful area. Lots of memories. I feel like a big bear may be lingering around in the settings you sent me. What an amazing archery hunt that would be.

I’d feel way out of place asking you to go photograph anything. Feel free to search images online and superimpose or whatever isn’t so cumbersome. There are probably photos of me on Facebook. I believe my page is still up. It’s unmanaged but there are probably a lot of photos. Is there a way to try that? My mother’s FB page?

All these settings are ideal. Are you familiar with the show Yellowstone? What a dream life for me and what a dream setting. Montana, Colorado, Wyoming. Not sure if this was helpful but nevertheless the dialogue is moving. Be well.


Hi Daniel,

Thanks for your patience. I was able to take a drive this weekend out of the city to find a piece of nature as I imagined your descriptions. I ended up at the Rocky Glen Waterfalls area near Naperville, Illinois. This area has the beautiful meandering Sawmill Creek running through and hardly any people walking around, with no trails along the banks. I took the photo from a high vantage point so you could have a sense of a wide expanse of wilderness like out West. If you would like me to make any edits, or if you want to make any notes on the photograph, please feel free to annotate the copy and send it back. It was really fun to go on a walk in the woods and hear the water below me.

Let me know what you think about any of the notes above.

Thank you. I’m from Aurora. I’ve been to and through Naperville probably hundreds of times. I’m amazed that I’ve never heard of or been to Rocky Glen Waterfalls; what a beautiful piece of land. It actually resembles the Vermilion River area I referenced in my last letter. I could see myself in a deer stand in the “perfect” tree in the foreground of that photo. I’m glad you enjoyed your walk. The sounds of nature are soothing.

It's a cool idea that my likeness be represented by a nature scene. Is there a way to superimpose a photo of me in there somehow? Too unrealistic? That’s why I was hoping you could access my Facebook profile.


Hi Daniel,

I spent some more time looking for your Facebook profile and was able to find it through your mom’s page. My feeling is that superimposition is quite limited, but I’m open and curious to hear what you think.

Since most of the photographs I am making for others in the project will not contain any portraits, it could help to think of an object that could stand in as a representation of you. In your case, something like a deer stand, binoculars, fishing pole, or hunting cap would fit most realistically into the photograph.

In re-reading our first letter, you also described a snowy Rocky Mountain scene. The fourth photo below is an edit of the photo towards a wintery, white-and-blue color palette. I’d love to keep the dialogue going to make this photograph come to life for you. Let me know if this sparks anything! I’ll be headed into the woods myself (camping) until early June. Looking forward to your thoughts in a few weeks if you want to make any changes to the image.

All the best,

Olivia: First of all, this caused me to reflect deeply on my life. Wow! Talk about rumination. To be humanized again, if only in a photo. The superimposition is great! You found a way to get me back to the woods! I do see how it’s limiting, though. I have pictures in my cell of me in camo...

I like the wintry color palette. The snowy Rocky scene would be a dream come true. Also, a hunting hat definitely represents me. I wear a hat A LOT. It’s mentioned as a fun fact at the end of my biography on the PNAP website. I’m glad you were able to navigate my mom’s FB page. No matter where this project takes us, it has already triggered deep thought, reflection, and emotion: tears and smiles. The ability to feel, love, hurt, cry, and laugh – that’s what keeps us alive.