LACONIA – Drysuit firefighters practice rescue in icy water on a sub-zero day, alongside M / S Mount Washington docked for the winter. North Country High School cross-country skiers run in the shadow of the state’s highest peak.
A cog railway car driving up one of the steepest tracks in the world. Two beer drinkers on a porch dotted with old chairs and stoves. Ice fishing in Meredith Bay.
These iconic images reveal the soul of New Hampshire, a photographic tour of all that is ordinary or eccentric, including portraits of people doing things that give meaning to their lives in our lavish, rambling state.
“New Hampshire Now: A Photographic Diary of Life in the Granite State” is a book and gallery exhibition of unforgettable moments and lucky glimpses, which opens Friday night with a 5-7: 30pm reception at the Mill Belknap – one of eight locations statewide to host the exhibit, book signing, and sale. Three years in the making and inspired by famous chronicles of American life during the Great Depression, New Hampshire Now compiles current images captured by 46 photographers in seven areas of New Hampshire, including Gary Sampson, the state’s seventh artist-winner, who led the Visual History Project, a collaboration of the New Hampshire Historical Society and the New Hampshire Society of Photographic Artists. The exhibit and album feature numerous photographs of the Lake District by Ian Raymond of Sanbornton, who has a studio in downtown Laconia on Main Street across from the Colonial Theater.
âThe Mill has been a community center for 200 years, and this book shows the New Hampshire community,â said Tara Shore, program manager at the Belknap Mill Society. âOur mission is the arts, history and education. All of these photographers and all of their work, we are honored to be a place to show this.
Most of the images are moving or breathtaking. Others make you feel joy. Some are snapshots of complex and impenetrable emotions. Many are scenes from the Lake District taken by Raymond, who has been taking pictures since he got his first camera at the age of five. It has a collection of 40 cameras dating from the years 1800 to 2012.
For Raymond, the project started two and a half years ago, when he and his wife made a list and got in their car. He was ready to photograph some events of obvious interest, and hoped to stumble upon the magic and record it into unique pieces.
âI scoured the state trying to find something interesting and find 10 other things along the way,â Raymond said. “Some topics are incredibly fleeting and by the time you go back to them you’ve missed it.” Raymond served as the state’s local representative in 2013 and 2014, but had never explored the far reaches of the state, which revealed surprising events and people, most of whom agreed to be photographed.
Her photos are an assortment: Tilton-Northfield’s Old Home Day Homecoming Queen shines as she waves from the back of a pickup. Raymond’s grandson, Connor, five, in full firefighter gear, standing on the step of a fire engine at the Gilmanton Fire Department, where his father worked until recently. A wide-grinning Laconia Motorcycle Week performer, wearing a camouflage swimsuit under her leather jacket, with a matching camouflage-patterned boa constrictor wrapped around her neck.
âIt’s a great way to show the evolution of culture and society,â Raymond said. “Some things that you photograph, you realize, have historical significance.” He photographed the Black Lives Matter gathering in Concord, with thousands of people on the State House lawn. He chronicled the restoration of the Colonial Theater as seen from his studio across the street. While traveling the state, he photographed a medical marijuana farm tucked off the highway in southwest New Hampshire, and Tullando Farm, the state’s first robotic dairy farm, where 400 to 450 cattle are fed, watered and even skinned by computer equipment.
During the pandemic, Raymond and his wife âjust got in the car and started driving. We jumped in the car with no specific destination in mind. We have reached just about every city. It was interesting to go to the nooks and crannies of New Hampshire and see what was going on there.
They met some interesting people including artists, artisans and pioneers. Sometimes they were invited to stay for lunch.
âAnyone who does something with passion – it’s refreshing to see people who really love what they’re doing. As a photographer, the idea gives you a glimpse into people’s lives that is so different from yours. It’s an incredible window, âsaid Raymond.
His photographic expedition included a visit from Ben Killham and his sister Phoebe, who run a rehabilitation center and black bear sanctuary in the Upper Valley. They recently rescued a three-month-old cub with a form of encephalitis, which had been abandoned by its mother. The little one was frolicking like a puppy at their feet. Raymond also photographed a veteran and his therapy dog ââfly fishing in Pittsburgh, who appeared empty and nearly lifeless during the pandemic. The only souls he met were either fishing or riding ATVs in the woods.
He photographed Ernest Thompson, writer and director of “On Golden Pond,” outside a fundraiser at Pitman’s Freight Room in Laconia.
Approximately 55 color and black and white photos of a dozen photographers are included in the two-story exhibit at Belknap Mill.
The fact that the mill was chosen as one of the New Hampshire NOW sites âhas been an incredible honor,â said Karen Prior, executive director of the Belknap Mill Society. âThe Lake District is changing and Laconia is on the move. Watch all the energy and revitalization that is happening. This exhibit shows the Lake District in its best light.