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.
I can’t go a day without thinking about the joy this project has brought into my life. For that, I am grateful.