West Michigan Pike

Photographer: Vince Musi

Internationally acclaimed photographer Vincent J. Musi, whose work is frequently seen in National Geographic Magazine, recently completed a two week photographic assignment for Michigan's Beach Towns Association in conjunction with the organization's efforts to gain certification of U.S. Route 31, "The West Michigan Pike", as a Michigan Heritage Route.

Musi, who is also a contributor to Time, Newsweek, Life, Fortune and The New York Times Magazine, arrived in Saugatuck in July of 2008 to begin a 15-day photographic excursion that would take him from the dugout of The Douglas Dutchers Vintage baseball team in Douglas, Michigan to the kitchen table of 103 year old Saugatuck artist Sylvia Randolph. According to Felicia Fairchild, President of Beachtowns Association and Executive Director of the Saugatuck-Douglas Visitors Bureau, "We wanted to launch this historic route in an unprecedented and powerful way. We wanted to create buzz, curiosity and excitement about this project throughout the region. But most importantly it was our objective to create an enduring photographic retrospective that would link this historic route from our past to our present and to our future." She added, "We sought out Mr. Musi because of his vast body of work and his artistic and thought provoking style."

For more than 25 years Mr. Musi has photographed diverse subjects including Traveling Route 66, The Lewis and Clark Trail, Life Under Volcanoes, Illegal Immigration and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. His most recent story on Animal Intelligence captured the cover of the March 2008 issue of National Geographic Magazine and he recently returned from a month in Italy where he was on assignment for the publication.

Musi, considered one of the nation's finest photographic essayists, believes that pictures are meant to convey the essence of a particular subject. He has done a number of features on vanishing cultures and has a special interest in covering cultural subjects that are tied together by history. During his visit to Saugatuck he was struck by the anti big box feel of the lakeshore and the predominance of businesses owned by private individuals and sometimes owned by several generations of the same family. He observed, "There is real treasure here in the history, people and communities that needs to be documented and preserved. I only scratched the surface." Regarding his travels along the Pike he added, "The journey is just as important as the destination and even though much of the original West Michigan Pike doesn't exist any more, the spirit and soul of what made it special still does."

"Yesterday on the West Michigan Pike" was produced by the Michigan Historical Center as part of the Southwest Michigan Road Map collaborative project with BeachTowns, Inc. It was underwritten by the Michigan Humanities Council, Preserve America, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Berrien County Community Foundation, Frey Foundation, Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, Holland/Zeeland Area Community Foundation, Muskegon County Community Foundation, Fund for Mason County of the Community Foundation for Mason County, and the Upton Foundation.