The Fresh Coast: More than just a catch-phrase

When Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett called the Great Lakes region the “Fresh Coast” at the Metropolitan Planning Council’s annual luncheon, The Cities that Work, last month, he was hardly the first to use the term.  In fact, Minnesota-based photographer Ed Wargin, whose artistic and commercial work is nationally recognized, has made it his life’s work to document the Fresh Coast: the entirety of the Great Lakes, both the American and Canadian sides, in all four seasons.

Wargin says the purpose of the multi-year project is to “promote travel, exploration, education, enjoyment and celebration of the Great Lakes, and strive to cultivate an active role of nurturing this region by passing forward to our youth a genuine legacy of concern, gratitude, pride and stewardship.” In other words, his photographs – all captured on traditional film, not digital media – aim to show just how much our water’s worth.

The photographs serve to illustrate both the vastness and diversity of the Great Lakes, of which we touch only the furthest southwest corner.  However, in the way it depicts many shared experiences, from communities’ reliance on water to the changing of the seasons each year across the region, the project also reminds us that the lakes are best viewed as a connected system.

You can view a gallery of Wargin’s work and read more about his project at

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