MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The phone was ringing nonstop Monday morning for an artist in Minneapolis because friends were calling to congratulate the photographer.
Wing Young Huie is this year’s McKnight Distinguished Artist.READ MORE: Minnesotans Look To The Sky
Huie is the first photographer to get the honor in its 21-year history. The award recognizes a Minnesota-based artist’s contribution to the state’s culture.
Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield explains how photography found its way into Huie’s life.
Huie, who was born and raised in Duluth, first picked up a camera while studying journalism at the University of a Minnesota.
That eventually led him to pursue street photography, capturing everyday life in the Twin Cities.
“I am continually confronted about my assumptions of other people,” Huie said.
In the mid-90s, Huie’s first big project explored St. Paul’s multicultural Frogtown neighborhood. Twenty years later, he captured life along University Avenue.READ MORE: Fallen Minnesota Officers Honored With NFTs: 'It's Like A Digital Tombstone'
He says the best compliment he has received was from sixth grader.
“He said, ‘I really like your pictures.’ I said, ‘Great, what do you like about them?’ He said, ‘They’re real.’ And I said, ‘Don’t you ever see photographs that are real?’ And he goes, ‘No.’” Huie said.
The award’s $50,000 cash gift will help the Minnesota photographer continue to pick up his camera.
“There are a lot of projects I want to do, and this will give me the freedom to just do them,” Huie said.
Huie’s new project is called “Chinese-ness.”
For part of it, he traveled to China to photograph Chinese men whose life he could have had if his parents didn’t move to Minnesota.MORE NEWS: Soaking Up The Sun, Safely: How To Best Protect Your Skin, And Spot Skin Cancer
That book will be released by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in October.