It was a tempting offer, one I could hardly refuse: Display Smooch! images on a 38-inch digital display installed in a lobby wall at the U of MN Boynton Health Service. This would be the first opportunity for the Smooch! to ‘strut it’s stuff’ in a way I had always imagined: Hundreds of archive images appearing one after another in a continuous loop. Of course, I happily jumped all over it.
Hard to believe this was back in March 2010. Since then, with very few interruptions, 200 photographs from the Smooch! Archive have silently taken turns appearing and disappearing every few seconds, to the delight of staff and clinic visitors alike.
I took this documentary photo six months ago, in preparation for this story (plus for a planned video yet to be created). I was there for almost an hour, taking sequential still exposures to capture the display as it changed. I attracted attention from clinic staff, as I did not appear to be like the typical college students they usually encounter.
When I explained who I was and why I was there — Oh, my! — the smiles seemed to light up the entire lobby. “I love The Smooch! Project!” almost everyone exclaimed, an outburst quickly followed with a description of which Smooch! photos they liked the most. Often it was the ones that included pets, like the one captured in this photo. Or maybe it was the ones with babies in them. Then there is that funny old guy and his wife. As more photos appeared I’d hear, Oh yeah! Oh yeah! That one too! As you might expect, my time there that day collecting documentary photos was entirely enjoyable.
After awhile, when I was no longer a novelty, I was left to my work and could simply watch how people interacted with the photos as they displayed. There’s an elevator on the wall opposite the digital display. People would walk through the lobby, press the button and wait. Most often, they would turn and begin watching the display as the photos came and went, appeared and were replaced. To me, a digital display of Smooch! photos is delightfully restful, similar in many ways to standing on a quiet shoreline as tiny waves rhythmically wash up on the sand before your feet. That day I saw many missed elevators, doors opening in vain for people who, for a moment at least, no longer felt a need to be anywhere else. I wondered whether my Boynton Clinic supporter, Dr. Gary Christenson, knew that Smooch! photos were interfering with students & staffers getting to where they needed to go.
I knew there was no need for concern, as I already knew Gary’s thoughts on this. He had sent me a quote a few months following the launch of the display. “Both lighthearted yet serious, the healing images on the display have proved to be delightfully mesmerizing for staff and patients alike,” Gary wrote. “Their feedback has been extraordinarily positive.” I also had two more reasons to know that all was well. Gary had founded the art program at Boynton Health Service, an clear indication of how strongly he supports arts in healthcare. Added to that is the fact that he’s also a Smooch! Project Hero. To find out exactly what that means, you’re invited to read his Hero feature.
In the meantime, I think I’ll put together another set of photos for the Boynton display. High time they had 200 new reasons to miss an elevator!
The Smooch! Project Gratitude Gathering: December 3, 2011. What an amazing evening it was. An opportunity for me to offer a simple meal to a very select and special group of people — the Smooch! Project Heroes, the 200+ volunteers who have given me so much over the past 5+ years. A small token of my appreciation for their many, many gifts to me.
Heroes have managed Smooch! shoots, helped with office tasks, provided valuable advice in their areas of expertise and more. Heroes step up to a task as needed and return to the sidelines once their job is done. More often than not, Heroes volunteer a single time, content to step back and watch the project grow from that point forward. I’m happy to say there are now literally hundreds of Smooch! Project Heroes in the world.
From within the ranks of Heroes rise an elite group of people I affectionately call The Smooch! Project Dream Team. Dreamers are Heroes — but more so. They are dedicated ongoing volunteers who share the dream of collecting 10,000 photographs from around the world. Dreamers form the inner circle of support for the project and are consulted for advice, expertise and more. They are The Smooch! Project “worker bees.” Dreamers both shape and create the future of The Smooch! Project. Throughout the year, I call on them for help. A lot. And they step up to assist. A lot.
Without the Heroes — and most especially the Dreamers — the forward momentum of The Smooch! Project would slow to a crawl. How blessed I am to have these generous, smooch-committed people in my life. And how awesome it was to treat them and their loved ones to an evening filled with good food, beautiful projected photographs, and an opportunity to meet others who also love the Smooch!
It began snowing that afternoon and never stopped the entire evening. Driving was treacherous but 43 people made it to the event. I was greatly touched by the commitment of my guests. We enjoyed hot soup, salads and breadsticks galore. Stories and laughter too. There was cake and candles and a rousing rendition of song to celebrate the recent birthdays of three Heroes in attendance that evening. We checked out the new website on a row of waiting laptops. We had fun. It felt like family. I think we were that evening. I was very pleased. Kudos to everyone for making this such a special event. Smooches too.
ARE YOU A DREAMER? THE SMOOCH! PROJECT DREAM TEAM 2012
Each December, I reach out to the current Dreamers and invite them to commit to another year of working with me on the Smooch! In January, I put out a call for new Dreamers to step up. Are you a Dreamer-in-waiting? If so, I’d love to hear from you! Please send me an email to start the discussion. I look forward to hearing from all of you interested in the possibility.
It’s time to celebrate The Smooch! Project Heroes — the generous people who have volunteered and helped move this project forward since its beginning in April 2006. I am sooooo thankful for all the assistance I’ve received over the years. I’m very happy to host a new and oh-so-smoochy annual event, appropriately named The Smooch! Project Gratitude Gathering.
ALL Heroes and a loved one are heartily invited to attend. Just like my Smooch! shoots, this event is FREE, fun, and it won’t hurt a bit. Here’s the details:
The Smooch! Project Gratitude Gathering
Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011, 5-8pm
Eddington’s Restaurant, 5125 Edina Industrial Boulevard, Edina, MN 55439
Food will be served all evening, so guests may arrive at any time, up to 7:30pm
A short welcome & presentation will be offered at 6pm
This is designed to be a heart-warming opportunity for all Smooch! Project Heroes to come together and celebrate this past year and meet other generous people who also support the Smooch! Non-Heroes and Hero-wannabes are most welcome too! There’ll be lots of wonderful food plus a projected display of all the Smooch! Archive photos so far collected for the project. Everyone who has helped move this project forward — all the Heroes — are welcome to bring a loved one to this FREE event. Additional guests are asked to contribute at the door: $10 per person, $30 per family group, children under 5 are free.
No reservations are required but RSVPs are appreciated, to help us plan for the evening. Please send your RSVP email (include the # of people in your party) to: email@example.com
Our menu: All you Can Eat Soup, Salad & Breadsticks
Come celebrate The Smooch! Project with us! This promises to be a wonderful and warm event. I really hope to see you there.
It is our goal to create a 10,000-image archive of people from all over the world demonstrating their affection to someone they love. We do not have any big name backers or corporate sponsors (we’re working on this!) which means our source of revenue is limited to photo sales, sponsored Smooch! shoots . . . and generous people like yourself.
If you believe the work we are doing is worth accomplishing (help lift people’s hearts in challenging situations & encourage them to recognize our similarities rather than our differences), please make a tax deductible donation now. Any amount, no matter how small, would be gratefully accepted.
Thanks so much for your support. May your life be filled with heart-lifting smooches!
Last month, I went to the hospital. Specifically, I went to the Emergency Room of Children’s Hospitals And Clinics of Minnesota – Minneapolis. No, I did not have an emergency health need. I was there to collect photographs. Photos like this one:
Children’s Hospital recently purchased 22 photographs from The Smooch! Project Archive for the express purpose of installing one in every private room within their Emergency Department. I had come to the hospital to document these photos now residing in their new homes. I could not view all the rooms, of course, due to patient privacy. That day, I found eight empty rooms, all from which I collected documentary photographs.
Frankly, I cannot imagine a better place for Smooch! photographs than this. For me, this is a real-life example of how images from the archive are being put to work in the world, helping lift the hearts of people in challenging situations. My happy heart filled to the brim just seeing them there. Then, a surprising and remarkable thing happened. As I was packing up to leave, one of the ER nurses walked up to me. “Thank you for making these,” she said. “Thank you for The Smooch! Project.”
Gah! My already full heart suddenly felt like it would burst in response to that generous gesture. I caught my breath, smiled and thanked her for her kindness. But I knew how these heart-lifting photographs had come into being. I knew who truly deserved her thanks. And I knew exactly what I needed to do next: Share this story with Smooch! supporters.
I am very clear about this: The Smooch! Project and its growing collection of archive photographs would not have been possible without the help and support of the 220+ people — The Smooch! Project Heroes — who have helped me in so many ways, large and small. These are the people who deserve to be thanked for these beautiful photographs. For all you have done to help me move this project forward, that ER nurse — and I — are immensely grateful. From the bottom of my heart, thank you all so very much.
As a token of my sincere appreciation, I hope all of you will be able to attend an event to celebrate the Heroes of The Smooch! Project!
We held our very first thank you party last fall. It felt so appropriate that I decided we should try to hold one every year. Calling all Heroes (and their loved ones) — Please save this date:
November 12, 2011, 5-8pm
The Ivy Building, 2637 27th Ave. S., Suite 207, Mpls, MN 55406
This event will be FREE to all Heroes (plus a loved one). We’ll be offering everyone a hearty fall dinner of soup, salad, & breadsticks. Lots more details to come very soon. Smooches! to all!
Whew. What a trip, in more ways than one. The invite to bring The Smooch! Project to Coronado/San Diego has been such a great gift, for which I am truly grateful. Actually accomplishing this had been my primary challenge for the last few months. This was our first Smooch! Away Mission (SAM) where we would travel by airplane. Figuring out how to “fly the Smooch!” turned out to be both fun and anxiety-inducing. Was I going to rent, borrow, or bring my own equipment? I decide to use my own, but what was the best way to get it there? You’ll see my solution in the photo below:
This is Martha Delaney, Super Smooch! Supporter with greatly relieved me just moments after we landed in the San Diego airport. The photographer is her mother, Martha Lepore (more about both of these remarkable women below). Between us is literally the Smooch!-on-the-move: Two heavy-duty cases holding all the necessary electronics (strobe lights, laptops, and more) plus a huge black duffel bag holding everything from light stands, power cords to my personal items. The cases were checked as luggage and could not exceed 50lbs each. The oversized duffle bag would not be accepted if it weighed more than 100lbs. I was very, very close to being overweight on all three pieces and had worried for days that I had exceeded the airline limits. As you can see, the baggage made it, along with with us. No mishaps or challenges to overcome so far. The San Diego SAM was off to a great start.
This smoochy adventure would never have come about without the amazing support of both Martha Mom (MM) and Martha Kid (MK). Mother and daughter worked together to set up the trip, taking care of all the travel and accommodation details. MK accompanied me to Coronado/San Diego, where I am now very comfortably staying with MM. I am so very lucky!
MM is a highly energetic retired marketing pro who continues to work tirelessly to help the Smooch! make a big splash while here. I arrived four days ago. Three days ago, I gave a presentation to the local Optimists Club. Two days, I was taped live on a local TV station. Yesterday, we went to the Coronado Public Library to set up the equipment. Today we hold the 106th Smooch! shoot there. All organized by MM. Early next week, MK has offered to be my San Diego tour guide, as we check out some of the amazing attractions that entice millions of people to visit this area every year. On Wed, MK & I will return to Minnesota.
I’m just over half way through the Coronado/San Diego SAM, which has literally been a dream come true. My newest wish: More Marthas for future Smooch! SAMs! These two women made this trip both fun & easy, really setting a high benchmark for all upcoming smoochy trips. As I’ve already said, I am exceedingly grateful to both Marthas. I have no idea what the future holds for Smooch! Project trips but if they are anything like my Coronado experience, I am gonna be one spoiled photographer!
I’ll be frank: My life seems to be turning into something pretty darn incredible. Sure, I’m as broke as the rest of you but, from a gifts-from-the-universe viewpoint, I am so wealthy it simply takes my breath away. By way of example, let me tell you about one of the more amazing miracles in my life:
This is Dawn Mikkelson (along with hidden-at-the-moment shoot assistant Heidi Tugseth). Obviously Dawn’s a filmmaker. Actually, she’s an AWESOME filmmaker. (I’ve even got the footage to prove it — Just check out the links below.) I took the pics in this blog entry during one of her recent film events.
Here’s the miracle: Dawn’s decided her next documentary film effort will feature The Smooch! Project. This is a big hairy deal! Her new film is most appropriately entitled SMOOCH The Documentary. It’s about the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. If you haven’t seen the trailer for the film, you really should, IMHO. This film is going to be incredible.
There’s a secondary benefit to the miracle of SMOOCH. Dawn is collecting stories on the topic of forgiveness from people like you and me. Most of this footage will appear on her website. Some of it is destined to appear in the film itself. I’ve seen some of the stories collected so far. They’re poignant testimonies to the truly resilient capacity of the human heart. Here’s an amazing example collected at the shoot where I took these pics. Follow this link and you’ll also be able to check out a variety of videos relating to the film.
Got an opinion about forgiveness to share? We’re holding a joint Smooch! Shoot & SMOOCH Forgiveness Filming at Midtown Global Market on July 23 & 24. See the Smooch! calendar at the right for details. Come on down and Smooch! or SMOOCH. You can even do BOTH if you’d like. You’re invited to participate. Just like Brother Love, below. (Don’t ya just love the name?)
I think Lori Yang literally loves the world. Every bit of it, large and small. You can certainly see how much she cares for her daughter Harper, so beautifully captured in the archive pic shown here. I will confirm that Lori brought this same enthusiasm to her work as a Smooch! Project Hero when she helped manage a recent busy Smooch! shoot. (You’ll find her Heroic profile here). It’s this open-hearted generosity of spirit that led Lori to bring The Smooch! Project to serve on behalf of another cause she finds compelling and thereby save lives throughout the world.
Lori is an organizer for Be the Match, a worldwide bone marrow registry that serves people suffering a variety of blood diseases. She’s organized a community-based donor drive and helped find a sponsor to bring The Smooch! Project there. Lori doesn’t even know anyone who is in need of a donor. This is quite a rarity in the registry world, as most drives are created by people seeking a match for someone they know and love. Like I said, Lori loves the entire world. “I believe with all my heart that the 10,000 people in need of marrow donors can find their matches,” she said, “Just as surely as I believe our effort to photograph 10,000 Smooches will succeed.”
We’ll be there, collecting smooches and doing our best to attract as many people as possible to sign up as potential donors. Registering is (almost) as simple as a kiss: You simply fill out a short health form and swab your cheek with a kit provided at the event. Representatives from Be The Match will be there to send it on for processing. Then you get to feel wonderful that you might some day save the life of a complete stranger on the other side of the world! Frankly, I can’t think of a better match for The Smooch! Project (no pun intended). Here’s the details:
(On Grimes between Morningside & Branson Streets)
(In Edina Morningside Community Church basement)
(Map available at the block party)
Live music, munchies & more! Bouncy house, kids activities, dancing, gift basket raffle, and opportunities to be a hero and save lives by joining the bone marrow registry. Hope to see you there!
Tomorrow (May 7) is a big day for a little girl named Gracie and her family. Her parents and the community who loves and supports them are coming together to help her win the fight of her life. Amazing Gracie was born last November with Down Syndrome and an unbalanced heart. She’s already undergone two corrective surgeries. Later this month, Gracie and her family will be facing her third.
I met Amazing Gracie a few weeks ago at a privately-sponsored Smooch! shoot. Her parents made special arrangements to bring her to be photographed, as 4-month old little Grace must be protected from infectious germs in anticipation of her upcoming surgery. At the shoot, a family member gave me a flyer about the upcoming benefit and asked me to consider bringing The Smooch! Project to the event. While I did so, my smoochy calendar cleared for the weekend. The stars aligned and the way was cleared. Hooray! We scheduled the shoot just a few days ago. Here’s a photo of the star of the event:
Because of the need to protect her from germs, Amazing Gracie cannot be present at her own benefit. But this photo will be there! We’ve made it into a life-sized cutout and will be offering it to all well-wishers to smooch in front of our camera at this benefit shoot. All donations for the privilege to do so will go to Gracie and her family. The Smooch! Project is happy to contribute this shoot as part of the benefit to support this child. Won’t you do so too?
This family-friendly benefit starts at 3pm and will run until the place closes. There will be kid’s activities, a silent auction (3-11pm), all-you-can-eat spaghetti dinner (6-8pm), beer bust (8:30-11pm), and raffle prizes. The Smooch! shoot runs from 3-9pm. Here’s a link to an info flyer to distribute to your own network. Here is a link to Gracie’s Caring Bridge site. If you have questions, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here’s the location info:
Benefit for Gracie Delaney
Saturday, May 7, 2011
8525 Cottonwood St.
Coon Rapids, MN 55433
If you would like to make a donation or cannot attend the benefit and would like to contribute, stop by any Wells Fargo or Wachovia location nationwide and ask to contribute to the “Grace Delaney Trust.” Or mail a check (payable to Grace Delaney Trust) to : Wells Fargo Riverdale, c/o Grace Delaney Trust, 3200 Main Street NW, Coon Rapids, MN 55448. Please note: Donations are not tax-deductible.
Hope to see you there!
April 29, 2006 is a very important date in Smooch! Project history. That day, I held the first ever public Smooch! shoot in the party room of the apartment building I lived in at the time. Well, it was semi-public. The shoot was only open to the tenants of the Cosmopolitan Building, a downtown St. Paul Lowertown former warehouse renovated into 255 lofted apartments. I put up a small sign in the mail room and waited to see what would happen. I had no clue that history was in the making.
Seventeen people showed up that day, along with 6 dogs and 1 cat. Since that shoot, more than 3,300 people have participated in The Smooch! Project. I’ve collected more than 45,000 photographs. Of these, 1,200 have made it into the final archive. We’ve got a long way to go to reach our 10,000-image goal for the archive, but the trip so far has been amazing!
I offered that first shoot as an experiment. I wanted to see what effect photographs of strangers showing affection to someone they loved — also strangers to me — would have on me. This experiment succeeded well beyond my expectations. That shoot, and all the subsequent ones that followed, taught me a lot. About myself. About the people who chose to participate. About the people who have been following this project online.
The Smooch! Project has reached its 5-year anniversary. We’re holding our 100th Smooch! shoot in the exact spot where our first public shoot was held five years ago. We’ve come full circle! We’re growing up. We’d love to have you there. If you haven’t yet had an opportunity to participate in The Smooch! Project (or would like to ‘refresh’ your existing archive image) this is the shoot you won’t want to miss. Here’s the details:
Sunday, May 1, 2011
The Cosmopolitan Building
Noon to 8pm
250 East 6th Street
St. Paul (Lowertown), MN 55101
(Concurrent with the Spring St. Paul Art Crawl)
This is a FREE event. No reservations required. First come, first served. All affectionately-inclined humans welcome. Handicapped-accessible. Sorry, no pets are allowed at this event.
Award-winning documentary film director Dawn Mikkelson and her team will be on hand at the 100th Smooch! shoot on May 1 to record your stories of reconciliation and forgiveness for use on the film’s YouTube Channel and maybe even in the film SMOOCH!
Inspired by and featuring The Smooch! Project, SMOOCH is a feature-length documentary film which illuminates stories of reconciliation and healing from some of the most conflict-ridden nations in the world, profiling individuals who have found the humanity in the very persons they thought they could never forgive.
The SMOOCH team is now taking to the streets (and 100th Smooch! Shoot) to collect stories of hundreds of individuals. Participants will be asked, “Is there anything you wish you could be forgiven for? Anything you wish you could forgive? and “Have you ever experienced being forgiven or forgiving when you thought it impossible?” These stories will create an online chorus of forgiveness and hopes for forgiveness, eventually joined by user-generated videos from across the globe! Share your story of forgiveness or hopes for forgiveness with the world!!!”
Only one more week before our 5-year Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, April 30, 2011, we’ve cut the ticket price in half. Whoo Hoo!Come party with The Smooch! Project for only $50 per person! We’ll be celebrating the phenomenal growth of The Smooch! Project since it’s humble beginnings PLUS we’ve collected an incredible array of amazing items for our guests to peruse and bid on during our auction.
The evening begins with a social hour at 5pm. Dinner will be offered at 6pm. There’ll be lots of items arrayed for your bidding pleasure during the silent auction, with entertainment provided by local celebrities Viva & Jerry Beck (of Viva & Jerry’s Country Western Music Videos fame) starting at 6:30pm. At 7pm, our guests will be treated to a behind-the-scenes overview and future goals of The Smooch! Project (offered by moi),followed by a poignant presentation by Dawn Mikkelson, independent filmmaker of Emergence Pictures, about her next documentary — featuring The Smooch! Project and appropriately entitled SMOOCH.
But what I really wanted to tell you about today were all the goodies we’ve got lined up for the silent and live auction! At 8pm, for our live auction, guests will be invited to bid for the grand prize of the evening: 7 days atCasa Sirena, a beautiful boutique hotel on a Caribbean island only a 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun. Here’s a video showing you what it’s like there. Breathtakingly beautiful!
The grand prize details: The offer is for 7 nights accommodations, double-occupancy, in any available room in the hotel. Full breakfast and happy hour cocktails are included (Mon. – Sat.) Offer expires Oct. 31, 2011. (No exceptions) Airfare, airport transfers, and ferry to the island not included.
But before that, from 5 to 8pm, there will be oodles of other items waiting for guests to bid on during our silent auction. Here’s a partial list:
This is where we’ll be on
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Sheraton Minneapolis Midtown
2901 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55407
(Adjacent to the Midtown Global Market)
Think Caribbean. Think Food. Think Fun. Tickets are NOW $50 per person. Upon arrival, our guests will receive a $20 gift certificate toward the purchase of a matted, ready-to-frame print of their choice selected from The Smooch! Project Archive (or their private gallery) and personally signed by the photographer. And the food! Make your own Mexican feast of tacos with all the freshest ingredients, topped off with the traditional Churros dessert. Yum! Yum! Yum!
This event has limited seating: Don’t miss out on the celebration . . . and an opp to get a great deal on lots of items, including a 7-day Caribbean vacation! Reserve your spot by ordering a ticket NOW!
Your photos always make me smile. I support your efforts so you can share that with the rest of the world. Go, Smooch! Project!