The Power of Place, People, and Photography

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On Wednesday, The Power of Place became a reality. After two years of filming, editing, and tinkering, the documentary about the Northern Pass and its effect on the people and places of New Hampshire finally was brought to life in front of a sold out audience at Red River Theatres in Concord, NH. To be fair, I only helped, and the documentary producer, Jerry Monkman, did a tremendous amount of work on this incredible film. While I put many hours into shooting and assisted with interviews, edits, and other aspects of production, my time was only a fraction of what was needed to pull together this project. I feel lucky to have been a part of the process and to have had the opportunity to work so closely with Jerry. Given the opportunity to do it again, I would in a heartbeat.

In the film, emphasis is put on the places that would be changed forever if the Northern Pass came to life. Places like the White Mountain National Forest and Appalachian Trail would be permanently scarred and a number of state parks and private lands would be impacted as well. The story is told by the people who love these places, who live and recreate along the proposed power line route. In the film we meet people who have built their lives, their homes, their families, and their businesses around these locations. Their words, along with powerful visuals of the landscape, startling facts about the project, and testimony from experts, tells a compelling story as to why the Northern Pass is not needed and the New Hampshire landscape should be preserved.

The Power of Place is a film about place, but also about people and photography too. Photography is what helps us connect to this story and the people and places represented. Without good visuals and relatable characters, the whole issue of the Northern Pass would seem distant. Photography, combined with personal stories, bring this issue to life.

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For me, the film and its premiere was a solid reminder of the power of place, people, and photography. I love New Hampshire, and reliving those moments spent out in the field while watching the footage we captured there on a big screen, reminded me how much so. The people, in the film and at the premiere showing their support, served as an important reminder that many kind souls and loving hearts surround me each and every day. From new faces to old friends, the people I have met along this journey, one that really started five years ago when I moved to New Hampshire, have reaffirmed my connection here. And photography of course. A film like this cannot exist without compelling visuals, and photography is really is backbone of it all. Without photography, my life would be so different. I would have traveled less, and not met as many of the wonderful people I now know and call friends. Without photography, I would not know Jerry, and this film would not exist. Without photography and this film, dozens of compelling stories would have gone unshared.

Wednesday night was Jerry’s night, and it truly deserved to be. He has worked so hard and overcome so much to bring The Power of Place to life. But I think all of us who had something to do with the film shared in the limelight in our own way. Jerry ran the show, and his years of hard work were finally realized. Jerry’s family, always incredibly supportive of him and his work, could not have been more proud I am sure. For those featured in the film, it had to have been powerful to hear their own voice and get to share their stories with a greater audience. Those curious about the Northern Pass probably found the film enlightening, and maybe even felt compelled to action and inspired because of it. Fellow photographers and filmmakers in the audience likely enjoyed seeing the success of one of their peers and excited about the depth and potential of a project completed in their own backyard.

As for me, I felt happy. Watching The Power of Place on the big screen was for me a dream realized and reaffirmed. I felt connected to New Hampshire’s landscape and people, passionate about photography and the environment in a way I hadn’t felt in a while, and comforted to be surrounded by a community and culture where I feel like I belong. The Power of Place was truly powerful in ways I didn’t know until I saw the premiere, and I’m thankful for being a part of it.

Note: You can learn more about The Power of Place by visiting the website where you can watch the trailer, purchase a DVD or digital download of the film, and view a list of upcoming screenings. Also check out our page on Facebook.

Behind the Scenes of The Power of Place

Jerry Monkman and I have been logging a lot of hours of filming for The Power of Place over the past few months. We are working on a documentary about the Northern Pass transmission line project, a proposed high voltage power line that would cut through 180 miles of New Hampshire, impacting some of the state’s most iconic landscapes, including the White Mountain National Forest and Appalachian Trail. So far we have interviewed more than a dozen people and visited and filmed areas all along the proposed route. The process has involved many long days, thousands of miles on each of our cars, terabytes of disk space, and hundreds of emails back and forth, but we are accumulating a ton of good material and both of us feel like this documentary is going to actually turn into something that just might catch people’s attention.

Most days after filming I am too tired or too busy to blog about it (although I do tend to post iPhone photos I shoot while out in the field to my Facebook page or to Instagram and Twitter), but I feel really guilty not talking about this project more because 1) working on it has been awesome and 2) not enough people, particularly New Hampshire residents, are well informed about this important issue.

Last night, Jerry and I spent the night atop a mountain under the stars to shoot sunset, sunrise, and the night sky in between. We’ve done this a couple times before by now, and I’d like to say it’s getting easier, but I’m not sure that it is. Even if so, it’s still hard! We rarely get much sleep (believe it or not, it is COLD in August in New Hampshire on a bald mountain summit overnight), and we are always lugging a ridiculous amount of hardware up and down steep rocky trails characteristic of New Hampshire. Regardless of how tough the journey might be, it’s always a pretty awesome experience, and we are getting some great footage thanks to our efforts, so it’s been 100% worth it every time.

Here is a small glimpse of what we’ve been up to. Jerry and I are both trying not to publish too much material that might make it into the film, but I’ve been taking pictures with my iPhone and even turned on my GoPro yesterday to capture some “behind the scenes” footage of the documentary process. Enjoy these snapshots and be sure to check out The Power of Place page on Jerry’s website to learn more about the project.

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Should you worry that our documentary is going to contain imagery of similar quality to the shots above, taken with a first generation GoPro, fear not! Despite my snap happy ways I still know how to use a high resolution DSLR and capture images that more accurately reflect how awesome the state of New Hampshire is. Here are a couple sneak peaks of the beauty we experienced last night. These are straight from Lightroom, so the sharpening and fine detail aren’t quite up to my usual standards in these web versions, but I can assure you the RAW files look pretty sweet!

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Jerry and I are hoping to wrap up the majority of our filming within the next month as hints of autumn are already appearing in the north country and even the swamp maples are starting to turn at lower elevations and latitudes. That means there is a lot to do between now and the end of September, so I probably better get some sleep!

Southeast USA Road Trip Update

I’ve been on the road since April 10th, spending time in Florida, South Carolina, and now Tennessee. I’ve been doing a mix of my own photography, workshops, events, and scouting and it’s been a fun trip so far.

My days have mostly consisted of not enough sleep, but in between shooting and working, I’ve had time to process a couple shots. Most of this road trip is focused on shooting in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, a place I’ve wanted to visit in springtime for at least five years. I actually haven’t gotten too many quintessential shots from here yet, but I’ll be in the Smokies until Tuesday, so there is still time and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can create something really special before it’s time to leave.

Southern Royalty : Prints Available

A male peacock perches on a fence beneath a canopy of live oak branches, dripping with spanish moss and covered in ressurrection fern. The bold green colors and unique flora are typical of the southeastern USA, where spring is one of the region's most beautiful seasons.

Morning Glow : Prints Available

New buds and springtime blooms glow in the early morning light at Cades Cove in the Smokies. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for it's springtime beauty, with colorful trees and wildflowers bringing the landscape to colorful life.

Dogwood : Prints Available

The white flowers of a blooming dogwood tree stand in stark contrast to the spring green leaves of the surrounding forest in Cades Cove, part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.

In the meantime, I’ve also been trying to promote a documentary project by my friend Jerry Monkman called The Power of Place. This 30 minute film will focus on the impacts of the Northern Pass, a proposed power transmission line that will cut through 180 miles of New Hampshire and impact some of the state’s most iconic landscapes, including the White Mountain National Forest and Appalachian Trail. Jerry has launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising the funds needed to successfully produce the film, and if successful, I’ll be assisting him – he’s even given me the title of Associate Producer. Jerry is using Kickstarter, a popular crowdfunding platform, to gain support for his project. To learn more about The Power of Place and the Northern Pass, visit Jerry’s website. Please also consider donating to this project – we can’t complete it without your help. You can make a pledge on The Power of Place Kickstarter page.