Hidehiro Otake, Photographer of the Northwoods

Hidehiro Otake first passed through Duluth in 1999, following a literal had-while-sleeping dream. He had been a college student and budding photographer living in Tokyo when he dreamt one night that he was in a cabin in an evergreen forest and outside was a wolf gazing back at him.

Inspired by that dream, he was researching wolves when he came upon Jim Brandenburg’s book, Brother Wolf. Hide then audaciously wrote the legendary photographer a letter, asking to be his assistant. He never received a reply, so he decided to knock on Brandenburg’s door on the other side of the world.

Hide flew into Minneapolis, then bussed to Duluth, only to find that public transport ended there. He slept at a low-profile hostel a guy on Observation Hill was running out of his home at the time, and the hostel owner offered to drive Hide to Ely. That began his decades-long Northwoods adventure.

It turned out that Jim Brandenburg had never received Hide’s letter, and did not need or want an assistant, but, 20 years later, Hide’s book of photographs,The Northwoods would win the Domon Ken award, Japan’s highest award for photography, and it would feature an introduction by none other than Jim Brandenburg.

Here’s a link to five articles by Hide. Click on “to be continued” at the bottom of each article to see all five.



about 12 months ago

Uncannily familiar to my own Brandenburg experience....  Thanks so much for posting.

Rich Hoeg

about 12 months ago

This story is totally cool! Add the fact that I am both a wildlife photographer and volunteer up in Sax Zim Bog, Mr. Otake's journey is even more amazing. Thank you Perfect Duluth Day!

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