Written By Kierstin Gunsberg
Bill O’Rourke takes photos that look like they were swept from a vintage magazine. With painterly strokes of color and light he captures the creatures and scenes that embody northern living, so it’s a little surprising that he ever felt at home anywhere else.
Hailing from Brooklynn, NY, Bill moved to Michigan with his family in the 1970s but left shortly after to explore yonder, taking opportunities to visit other, often warmer, parts of the country through his sales job. “What youth may lack in wisdom it sure makes up for in freedom,” he says, reflecting on the years he spent traveling far from the Great Lakes region.
Eventually though, youth simmers down, even in the Caribbean sun. So, he backtracked to the Mitten and settled near Bay City. There, he enrolled in college to study photography and English with the hope of becoming a bonafide photojournalist. However, as Bill puts it, “life happened.” He’d started a family and with a youth of his own who might long for the same freedoms he once enjoyed, Bill turned to other, higher paying pursuits in fields he’d become familiar with over the years. He started back in sales but edged his way into construction, influenced by years spent honing his carpentry skills on the west coast, and this sustained he and his family for a long time until, again, life happened.
Six years ago, Bill was diagnosed with Stage 2B lung cancer, resulting in the removal of one of his lungs, and though he feels grateful that they caught it early, things are different now. Working in construction isn’t something he can do with the veracity that he once did and when it comes to his favorite outdoor pastimes, like sailing, he has to be conservative. As much as those things have faded into the background though, there’s now room for what he loved from the start, “While my illness has caused me to slow down, photography is beginning to take the place of some of my more strenuous pursuits.” He says that a lot has changed about photography from when he began studying it back in college, but “the basic mechanics are still there.”
Nowadays, Bill is enjoying his life up north where he moved after his diagnosis. He’s inspired by the landscape, “After traveling around the country and Caribbean from Big Sur to the Virgin Islands I can say Traverse City takes second place to nowhere. It really is a jewel and I am blessed to be able to capture images of that jewel to share with you.”
Here are just a few samples of Bill’s work. We will be highlighting more of his beautiful images (including Patriotic Images, Festivals from previous years, and more incredible wildlife images) on our website here and on our facebook page.