The Unchosen Ones is an award-winning photographic documentary by R. J. Kern that showcases portraits created on the sidelines at Minnesota county fairs. Kern collaborated with the participants to create two traveling exhibits featuring photographs and interviews with participants.

Hennepin History Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2018.

Hennepin History Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2018.


Excerpts from the book, The Unchosen Ones:

“The Unchosen Ones stands, to be sure, as a document of these subjects, and of specific hot summer afternoons in Minnesota; I have no doubt that a hundred years from now viewers of these photographs will marvel at their truth, and greedily consume every fact and detail. This is what documentary photography is intended to do, but the best documentary, as this work is, transcends the specificity of time and place.”

— Alison Nordström, PhD, Independent Scholar, Writer, and Curator.


“No matter what place or award is received, the bond between the exhibitor and their animal is hard to break. The time spent feeding, training, watering, and grooming, along with the discipline to exercise and train their animal to hold its head high or to place its feet, hoping to catch the judge’s eye and win the highest approval. To many of these children, the animals become a friend or a pet. The exhibitors will carry the life skills and memories for a lifetime.”

—  Joe Scapanski, Minnesota State Fair Board of Managers

R. J. Kern is a fiscal year 2016 & 2018 recipient of the Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.