It's about Love.
It's about Healing.
It's about
Making the World a Better Place.
The heart-lifting effort to collect 10,000 photographs of the affectionately-inclined from around the world.

SMOOCH! PHOTO: From the Photographer's Viewpoint

Two HUGE Smooch! Project Milestone Events

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Please plan to join us as we celebrate the 5-year anniversary of The Smooch! Project.


Please join us for an internationally-themed anniversary celebration dinner. The future of The Smooch! Project is world-wide and to kick-off our new vision for the future, we’re teaming up with the Midtown Global Market to offer an unforgettable evening of food & fun. There’ll be a multitude of gifts from around the world offered at our silent auction. Here’s the details:

Saturday, April 30, 2011
The party begins at 5. Dinner at 6.
Sheraton Minneapolis Midtown
2901 Chicago Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55407
(Adjacent to the Midtown Global Market)

Think Caribbean. Think Food. Think Fun. Tickets are $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!

The evening will also include a very special guest: The woman who gave the photographer the all important first smooch that began this epic effort to collect 10,000 photographs from around the world.

There will be lots of amazing deals: Beautiful & useful auction items gathered from around the world. Our top auction prize: A 7-day vacation at Casa Sirena, a beautiful six-room boutique hotel on a Caribbean island just a short 20-minute ferry ride from Cancun. [The 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.]

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!


Can you believe it? We’ve scheduled our 100th Smooch! shoot! We’ve even placed it on the exact same spot where the very first public Smooch! shoot was held in April 2006. Smooch! history in the making and we’re so excited! 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
Party Room
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.

I’ll look forward to seeing all your smoochy faces there!

Yum! Yum! Yum! Smooch! Project chocolates!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Talk aboutGREAT timing! When chocolatier Mary Leonard, owner of Twin Cities-based Chocolat Celeste, approached me a few weeks ago to inquire whether I would consider partnering with her to offer customized Smooch! chocolates, I was immediately interested. Mary has a well-deserved reputation for creating incredibly delectable delicacies for the chocolate connoisseur. The long-term possibilities for The Smooch! Project were, well, a very sah-weet thing to consider!

We agreed to give the idea a test run. With February just around the corner, there was no time to develop custom Smooch! Project artwork. Luckily, Mary came up with a perfectly smoochy solution: Huge, hot pink lips on a dark chocolate bon bon. Each one is a little bit of heaven designed to melt on your tongue. Marvelous! And just in time for Valentine’s Day!

In celebration of their new alliance with The Smooch! Project,BETWEEN FEB. 1-14,Chocolat Celeste will donate 10% of all sales of these beautiful and delectable Smooch! chocolates to support our effort. How totally sweet is THAT?!?

There are two ways to support the Smooch! by purchasing these lovely, amazingly delectable custom chocolates:

Remember: to help support the Smooch!, please place your order between Feb 1-14. Try them, you’ll like them!

Love, Kisses and Chocolate? A Perfect Combination!

Our next Smooch! shoots are scheduled at our Smoochy friend Chocolat Celeste, 652 Transfer Road, St. Paul, MN. Please join us for two creative and unique Valentine’s Day Celebrations:

Date Night Smooch!: Friday, Feb 4, from 3-7pm. Enjoy a taste of chocolate and wine, shop for your Valentine gifts, and participate in The Smooch! Project.

Saturday Chocolate with a Smooch!: Saturday, Feb 5, from 10am-5pm. For friends, couples, and small dogs. Enjoy chocolate and Valentine shopping for those you love.

Can’t make it but want to participate in The Smooch! Project? We’ve got more smoochy opportunities coming up. Check the calendar at the right.

Healing Old Wounds, Creating New Relationships

Sunday, January 23, 2011

This Smooch! Archive photo, Mary luvs Oshea, illustrates a major theme underlying The Smooch! Project effort: That amazing human ability to generate forgiveness and reconciliation. The story of Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel is a hugely compelling one, but there is no need for me to tell it here. You can hear it for yourself by checking out the intro trailer for the new film about The Smooch! Project (appropriately entitled SMOOCH) under development. Watch it and you’ll find out just how remarkable these two people are — and how surprising their relationship. Would you be able to forgive the person who murdered someone you loved? Personally, I am not certain I could but I am inspired by the fact that it is possible, because Mary found a way to do it. Mary and Oshea have begun sharing their remarkable story of reconciliation and healing with others through a ministry-based organization called From Death to Life, which welcomes all mothers dealing with the loss of murdered children.

The story I wanted to share today is about another member of From Death to Life that I photographed that day for The Smooch! Project. Angel Cradle has no relationship with the man who murdered her son Duane. When we first met to plan the Smooch! shoot, she asked if she could bring her granddaughter. “Of course, of course,” I assured her with a smile. Two days before the shoot, she emailed me to say she had changed her mind. “Would it be OK if I brought the urn containing my son Duane and smooched that instead?” she wrote. “Of course, of course,” I replied, as my heart suddenly felt far too small for the chest it was sitting in. What a beautiful gesture. What a poignant photo, as you can see here.

Angel and I worked hard together to capture this image, entitled Angel luvs Duane (deceased). The beautiful inscribed metal urn containing her son’s ashes was quite heavy, but Angel managed to heft it with grace. The lighting typically used in Smooch! shoots created glaring reflections. Resolving these technical challenges required two separate photo sessions. Angel was very accommodating. During our time together, she told me about her son and the circumstances of his death. That was hard, too, but we managed to find some ease as we struggled to capture an acceptable photo. “Did Duane cause you trouble when he was growing up?” I asked. Angel gave me a puzzled look. “Because he’s still doing it now!” I said, and we both lightly laughed. It was challenging for Angel to speak about Duane. Even though it had been several years since he died, thoughts of that loss still bring her much pain. I was greatly struck by Angel’s willingness to share her story, her home, her time with me. It’s people like her, like Oshea, like Mary, who are literally demonstrating to the rest of us how to become a better human. More compassionate. More generous. More forgiving. And, ultimately, more happy, despite the challenges that life throws our way. I was blessed to meet these remarkable people.

And about that film called SMOOCH

How lucky The Smooch! Project is to have captured the interest of award-winning filmmaker Dawn Mikkelson! You can find out more about her work at her company website, Emergence Pictures. As you might imagine, Dawn gets a lot of film ideas pitched her way. But making a movie requires a years-long commitment. So how does she choose which idea she’s gonna go with? By her personal litmus test. Dawn knows she’s found a personally-compelling film idea when, in her words, “I wake up at 3am in the morning and obsess about it and have dreams about it!” You can hear her discuss her background, creative focus, and her enthusiasm for the new SMOOCH film in her 10,000 Fresh Voices interview for community radio KFAI. (While you’re there, you can also listen to my smoochy KFAI interview here, where you’ll also hear from three members of the 2010 Smooch! Project Dream Team.)

Yup! There are Twin Cities’ Smooch! shoots coming up

February is, of course, an important month in Smoochland! We’ve decided to offer two open-to-the-public Smooch! shoots — details are in the calendar to the right. If you’ve missed past opportunities to participate in The Smooch! Project and have a hankering to publicly smooch a loved one, now’s your chance!

Dreaming with The Smooch! Project

Saturday, January 8, 2011

In 2010, 15 amazing people made an ongoing commitment to contribute time and energy to The Smooch! Project. This was The Smooch! Project Dream Team, a remarkable group of individuals who shared the dream of collecting 10,000 images from around the world. Dreamer Joanne McGibbon, shown above being smooched by her son, Brian, was on the team in 2010. You can read her Smooch! Project Hero story here.

All 2010 Dreamers agreed to contribute an average of two hours per month (or 24 hours over one year) to help out in a wide variety of ways. And — WOW! — help they did, as you’ll see by the list of the individual Dreamer contributions at the end of this post. 2010 was a really great and productive year.

Last month, I asked every Dreamer whether they wished to continue supporting the Smooch! in 2011. The bar was being raised: Dream Team members were now being asked to provide four hours per month (or 48 hours over one year). The happy result: 11 Dreamers from 2010 agreed to continue their work in 2011.Three members asked to remain on the update list as “Honorary Dreamers,” meaning they wanted to keep up-to-date on the behind-the-scenes Smooch! activities and would serve in an advisory capacity.

I am so amazed at the draw this project has on people! I asked the Dreamers what motivated them to support the project long term. Dreamer Karen Van Wert replied, “I believe that one person can change the world. The Smooch Project is one person’s dream to make the world a better place and I want to be a part of that effort.” Dreamer Soup (Sue) Daugherty said, “I believe that The Smooch! Project is the closest thing to world peace that I will see in my lifetime. Not that I wouldn’t love world peace of course . . . But hey, I’m 54! The Smooch — LOVE. COMMUNITY. HEALING. What’s more important than that?” The Dream Team is a remarkable group of people. I am a very lucky photographer. Truly.

We’re looking for new Dreamers for 2011. Do you have an interest in joining the team? The more people we have working on this effort, the sooner we accomplish the goal: Collecting 10,000 images of the affectionately-inclined from around the world. Your help would be so greatly appreciated. To indicate your interest, simply send an email to me at I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

In the meantime, check out the list of 2010 generous people who served on the Dream Team last year . . .


Becky Pelant: Data entry
Betsy Altheimer: Development & fundraising coach
Glen Booth: Photoshop wizard
Joanne McGibbon: Promotion (Art-o-Mat entries)
Judith James: Fundraising, grantwriting, story editing
Karen Van Wert: Photo assistant, domestic Smooch! shoot development
Lee Wilcox: Facebook and market research
Linda Crawford: Editorial advisor, fundraising
Louisa Hext: Community Bridge Builder, International Smooch! shoot development
Patricia Danielson: Corporate sponsorship development
Randee Baron: Postcard collation, Smooch! shoot manager
Soup (Sue) Daugherty: Travel planning, event planning, fundraising
Suzanne Joyce: Facebook development, data management, research
Tamra Sharp: Office management, fundraising
Vanessa Wilson: Smooch! shoot manager, HR & business advisor

Smooches for the Playing for Change band . . . and you too!

Friday, December 24, 2010

We were totally thrilled to schedule a private Smooch! shoot with the internationally-known Playing for Change (PFC) band while they were here in Minneapolis last month. Their musical vision: to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world — a mission The Smooch! Project whole-heartily shares. PFC has developed a huge international following for good reason: A beautiful message beautifully presented. They have been a role model for us for several years. We want The Smooch! Project to be like them when we grow up! How awesome it was to meet and spend some time with these inspiring people.

Above, PFC band member Peter Bunetta is being smooched by PFC roadie / photographer Lindsay Fishman. More PFC archive pics from this shoot can be seen in The Smooch! Project Archive. Check them out here.

During the shoot, several PFC band members came forward to participate but had no handy partners to smooch. No problem! Trusty members of The Smooch! Project Dream Team (our awesome team of dedicated volunteers) were sooo happy to step up to the challenge! The result: Within the Smooch! archive, you’ll see Ilon Ba (PFC electric guitar) smooching Dreamer Patricia Danielson. You’ll also find Grampa Elliot (PFC vocals / harmonica) getting a smooch from Dreamer Louisa Hext. The Smooch! / PFC archive collection is completed by a photo of Clarence Bekker (PFC vocals / acoustic guitar) being smooched by his PFC roadie / sound tech friend, Melissa Britton. As is usually the case, everybody left their Smooch! shoot smiling. Later that evening, The Smooch! team all sat down to a wonderful concert by this amazing group of talented performers. It was quite an amazing day for The Smooch! Project.

PFC had so much fun, they decided to write about us on the PFC blog,followed by a mention on the PFC Facebook page. That was sooo sah-weet of them! Their doing so introduced The Smooch! Project to more than 170,000 PFC followers from all over the world. We are so grateful to this remarkable group of people for their love and support. Perhaps someday The Smooch! Project will be in a position to return such a great favor. Until then, we can only offer our simple, heartfelt thanks to this wonderful organization. This, plus a great big shout-out: PFC ROCKS!

Which now provides a great segue to our next story . . . .

Mucho thanks to all our Smoochy supporters of 2010

Where do we begin? So many people contributed time, energy, expertise (and — Wow! — sometimes even money!) toward our effort to collect 10,000 images from around the world. Last August, we tallied up all the Smooch! Project Heroes, those open-hearted people who have volunteered over the last four years in support of this effort. All told, the Heroes list exceeded 110 people! Amazing. Even now, the Heroes list continues to grow. We love our Smooch! Project Heroes!

From the Heroes group rise The Smooch! Project Dream Team: Those lovely souls who stepped up once to volunteer and then decided to stick around for awhile. The Dreamers share the vision of collecting 10,000 photographs from around the world. Dreamers form the inner circle of support for this entire effort. Without them, The Smooch! Project could grow only slowly. In 2010, fourteen Dreamers contributed a considerable amount of time and energy toward this effort. The amazing growth of The Smooch! Project is a direct result of the effort of these individuals. Amazingly, almost all of the 2010 Dreamers have once again committed to working on this project for yet another year. These people are a blessing for The Smooch! Project and we are lucky, lucky, lucky to have their support. Thanks so much, Dreamers! A great big smooch to each and every one of you.

Finally, there are the 1,600+ people on the Smooch! email list plus our 260+ Smooch! Facebook Fans. Yup, our group of smoochy supporters is growing and it’s all because of people like YOU. A great big, heart-felt thank you to each and every one of you for your ongoing interest, help and support. We very much appreciate having you along for this exciting ride. Hold on to your seats! 2011 holds amazing promise for The Smooch! Project.

A great and happy new year to all!

An editor, a supporter, a much appreciated boost

Monday, June 14, 2010

Scott Nichols loves art, especially photography. At least, that’s what I recall him telling me almost four years ago when he called me to talk about The Smooch! Project. Scott is also the News Editor for the Eastside Review, aweekly community newspaper covering a Saint Paul, Minnesota neighborhood. At the time, I was living in the downtown neighborhood called Lowertown, which was included in Scott’s coverage area. He had heard of our project and wanted to do a story. It ended up becoming much more than that.

The Fall 2006 St. Paul Art Crawl was coming up and The Smooch! Project was going to be a part of it. Scott was planning to include the upcoming shoot in his next issue. Hooray, I remember thinking. That would be cool. Then he also proposed what I thought was a brilliant idea (IMHO): Why not invite Eastside Review readers to attend the shoot and feature their Smooch! Archive photos and personal stories in later issues of the paper. Wow. Didn’t I say BRILLIANT? Needless to say, I was totally thrilled.

Over the next three months — 9 issues in all — photos and stories about The Smooch! Project appeared within the pages of Scott’s newspaper. For a project just completing its first year of growth, this coverage was a tremendous boost and very much appreciated. Scott and I occasionally kept in touch for another year but this fell away when I moved to Minneapolis, outside of his newspaper’s coverage area. The Smooch! Project continued to grow.

Now I am working my way back through the collected archive, as I gather and prepare the images to upload onto The Smooch! Project website. Last week, as I was completing more archive photos gathered in 2008, I came across this one:

I had set up a Smooch! shoot at the 2008 Stone Arch Bridge Festival of the Arts, always held during Father’s Day weekend in the Minneapolis. Among the many people I met and photographed during that two-day event, one of them stood out. Here is an image of Scott Nichols, being smooched by his lovely wife, Amy. This was the first time I had ever met this man and to also meet his beautiful family was a real bonus. They were out on a weekend family outing and had no idea that they were going to stumble over The Smooch! Project that day. Now that the project was no longer a subject for his newspaper, Scott was free to become part of a project he had once only written about.

The image, Amy luvs Scott, has been uploaded to the website and is now part of The Smooch! Project Archive online, where it belongs. I was really happy to finally meet him and glad that he found the opportunity to become part of the project. His coverage of this heart-lifting effort to collect 10,000 images of people showing affection to someone they love was an important part of our early years. I have not forgotten and to this day, I remain very grateful for his interest and support.

There is still much more work to be done to complete the current archive. At the moment, I have completed my work on only one of the two days from that shoot but I hope to complete all of the Stone Arch Bridge Festival images soon. My original goal was to finish our work on the images already collected here in Minnesota BEFORE we headed out on our first Smooch! Project road trip. Not gonna happen. We’re about 75 percent there: currently 740 of almost 1,100 images are now online. But — exciting news: We are leaving for . . . .


In less than a week, we will be embarking on the very first (and very exciting, of course!) Smooch! Project road trip. We’ve selected Detroit for several reasons, the primary one being that we consider this city to be ground zero for the financial challenges we have all be facing here in the United States. Hopelessness and senseless violence is a daily occurrence there. We think The Smooch! Project can help. We’ll only be within the city for a couple of days but we plan to connect with as many people on the ground as we can to prepare for a later return trip to begin a larger, more focused effort. We’ll be holding at least one shoot to collect a few representative images as well and come back home. Then we’ll have everything we need to write a rock-solid grant proposal. We believe the transformative imagery of The Smooch! Project has the power to heal a community. If our work there can break the cycle and stop even one violent episode, it will be entirely worth the effort. If you’re not on our mailing list to get the updates on our progress, you should be! It’s easy to do. The signup form is in the right hand column of this blog.

More stories to come . . .

Protected: My friend, the murderer, the mom

Saturday, May 8, 2010

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Still slogging on, but brighter days ahead!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Some days it can seem like accomplishing even the smallest thing takes a huge amount of effort. Then I consider the self-assigned task I have placed before me: Collect 10,000 images of the affectionately-inclined from around the world. Whew. That’s a bit of a mind bender. Especially when the effort also includes editing 1,000+ archive images gathered over the past four years and preparing them for upload to the archive on The Smooch! Project website. It can sometimes feel like a slow, slogging march toward a future that seems so far away.

But I know we are making progress. We’ve got a good team of volunteers working on the task. As I’ve told several people over the last few months, I feel like we’ve been pushing a boulder uphill for the last four years and I am getting a strong sense that we are very near the summit. I can’t see it clearly, of course, because I am still behind the boulder pushing. But the light around the edges seems to be getting brighter. More and more people are stepping up and adding their strength to the task. Someday soon, we’ll reach the top and that boulder will begin to quickly roll down the other side of the mountain. Then our task will be to keep up with the darn thing as it builds speed and momentum. Then, of course, we’ll have a whole ‘nuther set of challenges!

In the meantime, we continue our effort to complete the current collection of archive images and get them online for everyone who is so patiently waiting to see them. Progress is being made. Here’s an example:

This is my friend Ya Landa, being smooched by her youngest son, Dale. This photo was collected during Smooch! Shoot #5, in May 2006. You can see the image still needs editing. For example, this shoot is where I realized that my backdrop needed a light-proof liner. We had set up the backdrop against a picket fence. See the sunlight leaking through, outlining the wooden slats? Sigh. So much to learn! But that was part of the process. The Smooch! Project grew up here in the Twin Cities and after four years of mistakes, we think we know what we are doing. Most of the time.

This photograph is now being edited in preparation for its final upload to The Smooch! Project website. I’ve included it here not only to demonstrate that we are working our way through the historical photos in the archive, but to highlight the contribution made to The Smooch! Project made by Ya Landa. Four years ago, I asked for her help. I had just begun collecting images for this brand new art project and I was concerned that all the people I had photographed to date were all white like me. Hardly representative of the community I wanted to include in the project. I spoke with Ya Landa about it and, within ten seconds flat, I got a personal invitation to attend her family’s BBQ coming up the next weekend. She and her beautiful relatives welcomed me, fed me, and allowed me to take their photographs that day. They did not turn out as well as I would have liked but that was entirely the fault of the photographer, certainly not the subjects.

Over the last four years, there have been many people who have helped and nurtured The Smooch! Project effort.Ya Landa was one of the first to do so. For her support, I am sincerely grateful. It is people like her who have greatly contributed to the making of The Smooch! Project. I no longer regard this project as a personal effort. To me, The Smooch! Project has truly become a community art project. (Frankly, I think it always was but it just took me awhile to understand this. Guess I’m a bit slow sometimes.) For this, we all have Ya Landa to thank. Just wanted to be sure you knew.

Life marches on, despite the loss of a friend

Friday, February 26, 2010

January 2010 was tough. Really tough. Harder even than December, when I was part of a support team helping a friend who was dying. Renie was gone at the end of December. No more hanging out, reading together. No more flashes of happiness amidst the pain. Just the dreary aftermath following a person’s death: the photo display prep, the memorial gathering, the sadness mixed with laughter. For me, January was a time of quiet and recovery, my work on The Smooch! Project on a slow idle. But all things pass. My passion for the project has returned and we’re getting back up to speed once again. We’re back to working on the task of preparing all 1,000+ archive images for display on the project website. The image below is a good example:

Cheryl luvs Patrick is an excellent sample image from the early years of The Smooch! Project. This photo was collected during the May Day Celebration at Powderhorn Park on May 7, 2006. The project was just two months old and still evolving. We were shooting outdoors, using natural light. I remember the day as partly cloudy and the brilliant summer sun was wreaking havoc on the photo exposures. I am still sorting through the 470 images collected that day of sunburned, happy people. Reviewing all these photos has been pretty hilarious, as I can literally see how little art direction I was giving to participants. Frankly, I didn’t know what I was yet looking for. As a result, my direction to each couple was simply, “OK, now smooch!” Which everyone quite willingly did, of course, but it often turned into a smooching, laughing bedlam of activity. Photographs like this lovely example were captured more by accident than by design. My luck at snapping photos like this were the encouragement that led me onward. Reviewing them later helped me refine the vision of The Smooch! Project.

This was Smooch! shoot #3. As of December 2009, there have been more than 80 shoots, each one a new location and new lighting. Our current task is to take all the archive images collected over this three year period and do our best to make them seamlessly appear as if they were all shot at the time. A tall order! But we’re giving it our best. Stay tuned!

The very first Smooch! Project presentation

On the advice of a very dear friend (who was also going to be there), I signed up for a Speaker Expo event — which could be best described as speaker speed dating. There were dozens of speakers present, each of us prepared to give a 15-minute sample of our best effort to the dozens of other attendees whose job it was to find new speakers for their organizations over the coming year. I was not as well prepared as I had wished to be, largely due to the fact that I was still recovering from a bout of food poisoning a few days earlier. But I did my best and, in the end, The Smooch! Project itself saved the day, as I had hoped. At the end of my presentation, I was amazed to find myself on the receiving end of a standing ovation. I was so surprised, all I could do was laugh. Two experienced speakers attended as well and even THEY were standing. How heartening for a newbie presenter like me! I still think of it with amazement. The day after the event, I emailed each of these experienced pros. I had been trying to tell my friends about the wonderful thing that had happened and when I got to the part where these two stood up, I didn’t really know why they decided to do so. Why did you do that, I asked. Within ten minutes of my sending each email, the speaker called me. They each had been blown away by the power of the images and the sincere message behind the effort. These two are now my mentors and friends. They love The Smooch! Project and have offered to help me get my presentation act together. What an amazing project. And what a lucky photographer I am!

Listen: Got any ideas on where a presentation about The Smooch! Project might be welcome? If so, just let me know. I’m told I’m pretty good. laugh.

Housekeeping at The Smooch! Project

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Minnesota Smooch! shoots have now ended. It’s time to both look to the future as well as the past. In addition to preparing to get the project ‘out of town’ in 2010, I am busy working my way through all the historical images collected for the project over the last four years. The goal is to prepare all archive images for upload to the website. What a trip down memory lane! The photo here, called Chris luvs Captain Howdy, is drawn from the very first public Smooch! shoot, held in the community room of the downtown Saint Paul apartment building I was living in at the time. The date was April 29, 2006. I had put up a few posters in the building’s mail room. I had no idea if anyone would show up. I was surprised. Not only did 17 people walk in to have their photos taken, among them were six dogs and even a cat.

Captain Howdy seemed, at most, tolerant of Chris. But only just so. Turns out that Chris had borrowed the dog from a friend in the building, just so he could have something to smooch and participate in the shoot. If my memory is correct, Chris was an aspiring model and any photos he could get of himself were useful for his budding career. I asked him if we could take the harness off the dog but he declined. If we did, he said, he wouldn’t have anything to hold on to and the dog would run away. Here, Captain Howdy looks longingly at the door while Chris tries in vain to plant one on his cheek. There was a small group of onlookers in the room as I was taking this photo. The camera flashed. The image captured. We all laughed. Captain Howdy was finally free to go, much to his great relief. Even at its very beginning, The Smooch! Project brought humor and smiles to participants and viewers alike, as long as you don’t count Captain Howdy.

It is very hard to sort through the historical photos for several reasons. For one thing, I didn’t know what I was doing. Digital photography was a new art form for me. My equipment was substandard, especially when compared with what I am currently using. I offered very little art direction to participants, since I was exploring and I did not yet know what I was looking for. Happy accidents, like Chris luvs Captain Howdy, kept me at it. They provided encouragement. They showed me what worked and what didn’t. Since then, I have learned much. My success rate at capturing quality photos suitable for The Smooch! Project Archive has increased to nearly 100 percent. Images like this one helped me shape the project into what it is today. Even so, it is difficult to look at these historical photos without the critical eye they helped me gain. It can be painful! Artists often destroy their early work, as it does not reflect their current standards. I struggle with the urge to delete as well. My wise friends counsel patience, forgiveness, and tolerance. Good advice I plan to heed through the editing process.

And all the other things we are working on . . .

. . . which are too numerous to mention in detail. I’ll list of few of the irons we’ve got in the fire:
– I am continuing my effort to interest Ellen Degeneres in The Smooch! Project. Slow going but perseverance may pay off!
– I will begin offering public presentations about The Smooch! Project very soon. If you have suggestions on possible speaking opps, I would welcome hearing from you.
– I am setting up an internship program for students with Photoshop skills to bring archive to its highest level of quality. Let your photo student friends know about this opp to help polish a collection of images destined to become a historical legacy.
– We are building a budget and seeking business partnerships interested in supporting the effort to reach the goal: 10,000 photographs from around the U.S., and perhaps from other parts of the world as well.

Exciting days ahead. Stay tuned!



  • 2013 (3)
  • 2012 (4)
  • 2011 (17)
  • 2010 (5)
  • 2009 (17)
  • 2008 (4)


    Viewing the Smooch! Project is like receiving a long hug from a loved one: it reminds one that love is deep, abiding, and all around us. They are powerful while also conveying a lightness of heart, which makes the photos particularly appropriate for use within a healthcare environment.

    Megan, Healing Art Program Coordinator


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