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!
Big hug to The Smooch! Project for brightening the world for me & so many others.