He spent 24 years visiting Table Rock, Nebraska. Now a photographer is publishing what he found

He spent 24 years visiting Table Rock, Nebraska. Now a photographer is publishing what he found
One of the photographs in the new book "Table Rock" is of two bridesmaids, Paige Freeman, at left, and Christina Meyer, at right, as they help ready the bride, Kelly (Freeman) Vogt, to enter her wedding reception in 2013 in DuBois, Nebraska. “Just Hitched” reads the sign on her ride to the event. The book is a collection of photographs by Markus Jokela.

LINCOLN — The Finnish photojournalist who chronicled small-town life during several visits to Table Rock, Nebraska, will be signing his recently published book on Saturday.

Markus Jokela will return to Table Rock to sign copies of the 160-page book, simply entitled “Table Rock.”

The book grew out of a newspaper assignment given to him and his late writing partner, Ilkka Malmberg, in 1992 to explore small-town life in America, 500 years after Columbus discovered the New World.

The pair immersed themselves in life in Table Rock, covering things like homecoming at the local school, a country wedding, a car crash at the edge of town, and a three-legged dog named “Puppy” during several trips spanning 24 years.

“The project started with two stories for the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper in Helsinki,” Jokela said in an email this week.

The 65-year-old, who won an international award for one of his Table Rock photos, described the town as “a place where time has stopped, as it has in similar small places in Finland.” The pair, he said, kept comparing their hectic, urban lives with the slow pace of life in a farm town of 269 people.

“The small town is a cradle of innocence and safety, a place where they still can believe in hard work, equality and mutual kindness — virtues that made the United States great,” wrote Malmberg, who died of cancer in 2016. “To these folks, corrupt big cities seem downright un-American. In Table Rock, everybody will remind you that they don’t lock their doors or cars.”

Jokela will be signing books at the old Table Rock school from 2-3 p.m. on Saturday, then from 3-4:30 p.m. at the Table Rock Theater Lounge.

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