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Bill Frakes’ Nebraska: Wide Open Spaces, Classic Faces

[All Images © Bill Frakes]

This is home. This is the rural West. This is Nebraska. My first home and likely my last.

The Nebraska Project is a collection of still photographs, written stories and photographic essays. About a dozen years ago I decided to pull all of the work together into one place. I’ve managed to do that, and the response has been very gratifying with millions of online and print views. I spend several weeks a year building new pieces to add to the project. Mine is a passion for place and a relationship to nature developed over a lifetime.


With uncomplicated sight lines, and virtually no visual pollution you can truly see forever on the plains and hills of the Cornhusker state. There is an exotic component to the simple strength of the safety that envelops you here. An unimaginable volume of land that flows endlessly and softly rolls into only sky.

It’s beautiful, untouched and inspiring country. An American Oasis. It’s a tapestry of land harnessed to be bountiful. A place that helps feed the world.It is the spacious skies. It is the amber waves of grain. Of cattle on grass.


Mother Nature makes you earn your fun here. Huge temperature swings, vast differences in topography, a wind that is unrelenting. She made up for it with beautiful scenes, more miles of rivers than any other state, and vistas that stretch on to the far horizon.

When I was young I couldn’t wait to escape the place. I did physically for awhile—my career took me far and wide —I’ve traveled to significantly more than 100 countries but my heart never truly left and those feelings of home always pull me back, stronger all the time. I’ve consistently gone back to Nebraska to feed my heart and soul.


I’ve studied with wonderful professors, been mentored by some of the best photographers of the 20th and 21st centuries, worked alongside tremendous colleagues, but the most important part of my educationcame from my Mother. She was a classroom teacher, an artist, and scholar. Among my earliest memories are lessons my mom taught me about shape, contrast, content, context and visual irony. She taught me to look more closely, to dig deeper and to work until I had exhausted all possibilities.

I worked on the staffs of the Miami Herald and then Sports Illustrated for the better part of four decades. I’ve always done freelance assignments and have been published in 100’s of general interest publications and websites worldwide. Additionally I have directed music videos, short documentary films and produced advertising/commercial work for a wide range of international companies.

Nebraska is rooted in an agerian way of life, with a relatively small population living on large swaths of land, the state is home to a population of men and women who work hard physically, whose lives are tethered to the whims of the weather. I’m currently working on a feature length documentary about a 6th generation cattle ranch in the Sandhills. I’ve spent six months on the film so far, and I’ll spend another about another six months finishing it.

With a shooting schedule of over 300 days a year I have to maximize my time no matter what the project. To achieve that objective when printing, I can count on two Red River papers that I’ve found to give excellent results– Arctic Polar Luster, Polar Matte . The quality of these papers allows me to get consistent results. And when jobs call for other paper surfaces, Red River always has exactly the product I need to get the job done quickly and efficiently.

What’s next? I am producing another gallery show, making lots of prints, working on a book, editing in my archives, and deciding which major story to tackle in Nebraska next.

About The Author:

Bill Frakes is a Red River Pro and former Sports Illustrated staff photographer and has worked in more than 125 countries for a wide variety of editorial and advertising clients including Nike, Coca-Cola, Champion, Isleworth, Stryker, IBM, Nikon, Kodak and Reebok.

Editorially his work has appeared in virtually every major general interest publication in the world and he has received hundreds of national and international awards for his work.

Learn about the Nebraska Project:

View more images and videos about the Nebraska Project.

Original Publication Date: April 30, 2023

Article Last updated: September 14, 2023

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