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Todd Cody Designs of West Fargo offers rural-themed photography

Todd Cody says he's living a dream.

Cody, a photographer and graphic designer, operates Todd Cody Designs of West Fargo, which specializes in rural-themed photography of the Upper Midwest.

"Not many people get the opportunity that I've had to start my own business like this," said Cody, a former software manager.

The western North Dakota native launched Todd Cody Designs a year ago while still attending college full time.

He'll graduate next month in graphic design technology from Minnesota State Community and Technical College-Moorhead.

Cody's fiancee, Bobbi Jo Schaffer, also is active in the business.

Q: How do you describe your business?

A: I do graphic design and photography. Right now I mainly do photography.

I specialize in North Dakota- and Minnesota-type scenes. A lot of rural photographs, including barns, floral, a lot of cars. A lot of things important to the people who live here.

(The photos I take) remind them of good times they've had.

Being from West Fargo, I get the opportunity to go to the lakes country and shoot and to go to the prairie and shoot.

It's a pretty wide variety of subjects that we shoot.

What's your product line?

I carry a number of framed pieces, a variety of frames.

One of the things we've started carrying recently is barn-wood frames, actually made from North Dakota barns and fence posts.

We also carry prints and greeting cards.

How about prices?

We constantly hear how affordable it is.

Our biggest pieces range from about $30 to $55 framed.

Who are your customers?

Most of our customers are local.

We get a lot of people coming who are sending (their purchase) to friends living in another country.

We've heard stories of our photography going to Germany, to New Zealand and to Canada and Mexico - all over the world, which is a great compliment to us.

What's your background?

I grew up in western North Dakota, Williston and Dickinson.

When you're younger, as a kid, you really don't appreciate North Dakota. You want to get out of here.

So I did. I joined the Army. I lived on the East Coast for quite a bit. Then I moved to Seattle for about 10 years.

I did a lot of technical work out there. I worked at Microsoft and Boeing. I was a software tester and manager.

Then I started missing my family (back in North Dakota). I was the only one out there.

So I came back. I was tired of the technical scene, and I decided I really needed to do something creative.

I'm kind of embarrassed to say I never really owned a camera before.

I had a (photography) class at school that was a requirement. I had a camera and the class, and I kept shooting.

Your friends and family say, 'You should sell some of this stuff. It looks great.' But they're your family and friends; they're going to tell you nice things.

Then we ran into some people who said, 'You really need to do this.' So we did it.

People sometimes talk about making a big career change. The one you've made seems almost too good to be true ... .

I know. Every day I wake up and I kind of have to pinch myself because it's come so far so fast for me.

It's kind of like living a dream.

People ask me what I'd like to be doing five years from now. I'd be happy to do exactly what I'm doing.

Ever meet Bill Gates during your Microsoft days?


When I first met him, my first impression was, 'Wow, he's kind of short.' But he's got that aura.

Would you have done better financially remaining in your software career?

Oh, yeah, I would have been a lot better off.

But there's a qualify of life that exists here. That was one of the biggest reasons I came back here.

Does it bother you to photograph old or abandoned buildings that reflect rural decline?

Just the opposite.

I'm sad the building is going to fall down.

But I'm glad to capture them before they're gone.

And you know what? (The people who built them) may have decided, I've provided enough for my children. Now they can move on to somewhere better.

How big would you like the business to become?

I think if we started adding other people - photographers, taking their work - that would take away from the way that I shoot.

You'll have a presence in Medora, N.D., this summer ... .

That's a big opportunity for us. It will start in May, and we'll be there for four months.

It'll be a Pride of Dakota store. (Pride of Dakota is a statewide program that promotes businesses that produce process or manufacture a final product in the state.)

We'll also be opening a small seasonal shop in Detroit Lakes, Minn.

We're expanding and getting very, very busy. It's exciting.

Where to find his work

- Todd Cody's work is carried at Next Door Consignment and Vintage Point, both in Fargo, the Quiet Cricket in Vergas, Minn., and Sweets 'N Stories in Oakes, N.D.

- Online: