Photography has never experienced a time like this. Everyone has a camera. And everyone is making and publishing photos thanks to social media. We are inundated with digital images. And yet, for all the images we see over and over there is still a great power in printed photographs. Posting photos and tagging friends is great. I love it. But if you want to make an impact…print the photo. A digital file still doesn’t have the staying power of a printed piece. It gets quickly lost to our minds as we scroll through, Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, Flickr and whatever else. But a print you can hold in your hands. A print is lasting and tangible. And a print still costs money, so there is inherent value in it.
Last night was the first night of the annual Big Sky Weekend in Kalispell, Montana. It’s one of my favorite events of the year. Dancers come here from around the state and from neighboring states like Washington, Oregon, California. We’ve even had dancers come down from Canada for this. It’s a wonderful event filled with so much joy and great music, with friends who have become family, with dance moves and vibrant smiles. I love it. As a photographer I love this event. As a dancer I love this event. It’s one of my favorite times of year.
This year I decided to make a few thank you’s for people. I wanted to thank the Bozemanites. These are the college kids from Montana State University who consistently travel the five hours from Bozeman to join us at North End Swing for events through out the year like the annual sunset sail on the Far West on Flathead Lake, the New Year’s Eve bash, and other events. They are all so young, and yet people who get obsessed with music from a century ago, they tend to have old souls. These people inspire me and they bring such joy every time I see them.
But then I had to add Marcus. Marcus lives in Butte, Montana. But he joins us whenever he can and since he’s kind of by himself over there toward Bozeman, I wrap him into the Bozemanites.
And I had to add Miss Gwen. Gwen is from Missoula, but following college she grew up and moved away. This year she came up for Big Sky from New Orleans. That deserves a print. And how could I not included out beloved instructors Peter Flahiff and Ben White? They have worked so hard over the years to grow the dance scene here in Montana. They have come for so many workshops in Kalispell, Lakeside, Missoula, and Bozeman. I have to tell them thank you.
And I could not let it go without making a few prints for the people behind North End Swing. They do so much work, mostly in terms of keeping dancing alive in this area the rest of year. A few years ago, right after Big Sky, we had a couple of World War II bombers come to the local airport. I happened to be photographing that for the Daily Inter Lake and since I was there, I asked if I could maybe have a few dancers come out to dance on the tarmac with the planes as a backdrop. And what do you know, the owners said yes. That photo shoot is still one of my favorite that I’ve ever done.
I know that I have missed some people in this. I certainly could have printed many more. But what was most amazing about these was the reactions. I would have gotten so many hugs last night anyway. I love them and they love me. But they weren’t expecting presents (well, Jonathan was – I needed a co-conspirator to create a list of the core Bozemanites). These were supposed to come with a note. A nice handwritten note to let them know that they are loved, but I ran out of time…
Still, the way people lit up over these, that is a moment I am going to carry with me for a long time. In case you can’t read my scrawl, this note reads:
You are a Cherished Friend. This is one of my favorite photographs of you. Every time you look at it, I hope you remember that you are Loved and sincerely appreciated. For the music and the memories, Thank You. Love Bren
Here are the photos. I hope they’ll take them home and frame them. And whenever they see them, they’ll remember they are so loved. And that is the power of prints. You don’t just scroll pas them. You hold on to them, and look at them, keep them safe. Photographs are the physical manifestations of memories. But you remember more than the moment itself when looking at them. The photographs connect the emotion of the moment and the emotion of the larger event and the emotion of those who were part of it and they carry those things forward. Photography is more than a moment frozen in time. It is the safe house that guards and protects moments that were fully lived.
Ben and Peter, with their dance partners Ariel and Lauren.
The crew from North End Swing.