Dirt Roads to Downtown

Mark Fox

Mark Fox turned his labor of love to photograph every county in North Dakota into a coffee table photo book, “Dirt Roads to Downtown.”

Nokota herd
Old boot
Fargo downtown
Watford City
Backwards cows
Ferris wheel view
Grand Forks gallery
Abercrombie barrel race
Oahe Lake boat

From Adams County to Williams County and the 51 in-between, Mark Fox sought to photograph every county in North Dakota. What started as a labor of love and homage to his home state slowly evolved into his photo book, “Dirt Roads to Downtown,” showcasing each county in North Dakota.

Fox was born and raised on a farm outside of Cando. He grew up as a typical farm kid, loved the outdoors and, as far back as he can recall, enjoyed taking photos of people and nature.

One of his first photographs, captured when he was around 12 years old, was of a tornado on the North Dakota prairie just outside his doorstep.

“I remember my mother pulling on my arm to get back inside the house,” he says. “As I was getting pulled back inside, I was yelling, ‘No. One more shot!’”

It was the precursor to Fox’s lifetime of adventures behind the camera.

After several decades spent traveling, living and working outside of North Dakota, Fox had an idea: Why not photograph every county in North Dakota?

“Perhaps it had been done before, but not by me! And most likely not in the photojournalistic style that has defined my work for more than three decades,” Fox says.

In 2019, after five years of traveling, planning and scheduling, Fox covered his home state end to end and top to bottom. He captured small-town events, found oddities along the open highway and discovered beauty in the old that was once new.

Fox narrowed his collection to more than 500 North Dakota images, which are featured in the 253 pages of his third photo book, “Dirt Roads to Downtown.” The book was released in November 2022.

“Not every photo is brochure material, but I like to think every photo has a story to tell – a sum of all parts,” he says.

Fox says this project “tugged on his heartstrings” and pulled him back to the Peace Garden State. After 43 years away, he calls Cando home once again.

“It makes me feel good to be from here and show off the state. There is a lot to offer,” he says.

“Dirt Roads to Downtown” is available for purchase at retail bookstores around the state, including Pioneer Gifts & Book in the Long X Visitor Center in Watford City, Western Edge Books in Medora, Dakota Store in Jamestown, Zandbroz in Fargo, Main Street Books in Minot, Hairetage Hallmark Cards and Gifts in Wahpeton, Neumann Drug in Cando, Ramsey Photo Lab in Devils Lake and Scheels locations in Bismarck, Fargo and Minot. To order online, go to Pediment Publishing/Dirt Roads to Downtown. For information on distributing or purchasing the book, contact www.mintbrandmarketing.com in West Fargo.

This is a condensed version of a story written by Brittnee Wilson, Northern Notes editor, and published in Northern Plains Electric Cooperative’s March 2023 local pages in North Dakota Living.