autumn red and gold. But she knows that
landscape like she knows her own family.
And so she is able to portray those scenes in
a way that only a local could: in all seasons,
at all times of day, and in unusual moments
that she’s able to capture because her odds
of being there at the right time are so much
higher than anyone else’s.
This is, I suppose, what comes from
accumulating 7,000 hours in a single airplane, photographing a single geographic
region of the country. But it’s also fitting
and reflective of Marge, herself. For Marge
is somewhat like the Michigan landscape
she photographs—not flashy or dramatic, but
imbued with the same practical strength and
resourcefulness that characterized the pioneers who first settled the land there.
What makes her accomplishments all the
more impressive is that Marge was in her
mid-40s when she learned to fly. She’d mar-
ried her brother’s best friend when she was
18, and the first of her five children was born
the very next year. But when her youngest
finally went off to school, she began search-
ing for something to do with her suddenly
free time that could contribute to the house-
hold income. She raised tropical fish for a
while (there were aquariums all over the
house, she said), canned and preserved all
kinds of produce from her immense back-
yard garden, and worked as a negative
retoucher for a photography studio in down-
town Muskegon. But on the way home from
a spiritual retreat in New Mexico one night,
she found herself moved to the point of tears
by the beauty of the Chicago lights as she
flew over them.
A flip down window cut into the right-side Plexiglas window allows Marge to shoot images out the side with no distortion.
A camera in the belly of the aircraft allows her to shoot vertical mapping images.
Cessna 150 Aerobat that was based at
a nearby airfield.
“I think we build restrictions into what
we believe is possible, for ourselves, and
everyone lives inside this little cubicle that
you think is you,” she said. “But all of a
sudden, I had a window, and I saw, ‘Hey
these limits are things that I’ve limited
myself to. And there’s a whole ’nother
world out there.’”
Flying may have been a mid-life addition
for Marge, but photography, at least, was in
her blood. She still remembers, as a little
girl, developing negatives with her parents
on their kitchen table, with blankets draped
over the windows to create a makeshift
darkroom. So perhaps it was only a matter of
time until the two interests met.
Not long after she took up flying (a hobby
she paid for with her work as a negative
retoucher), the nearby turkey processing
plant where her son-in-law worked suffered
a major fire. From the ground, the damage
didn’t look too bad. But Marge flew over the
plant the next morning in one of the flying
club’s Cessna 150s and shot some pictures of
the caved-in roof and decimated interior.
She printed up some 8-inch by 10-inch copies of the photos, and her son-in-law took
them in to his boss. To Marge’s surprise, the
boss asked her if she’d sell him 120 copies of
the photo, so he could send them out to the
plant’s customers to explain why their
orders were going to be delayed. He also
asked Marge if she could shoot monthly aerials of the construction/repair process, to
track its progress.
Just like that, a business was born.
There was a hitch, however. The flying
club told Marge that she couldn’t use the
club’s planes for commercial work. So she
found herself in sudden, desperate need
of an airplane. The club had a Cessna
Cardinal, and she’d already decided that a
Cardinal was the perfect airplane for aerial
photography—slow speed capability, no
struts to get in the way, and good visibility.
She’d just have to add a small, hinged window opening on one side.
Marge found a 1973 Cessna 177B Cardinal
in Oklahoma that sounded good, checked
out its logbooks, bought a one-way ticket