The Year in Pictures

The past year has been one of change, which generally means more time for me to be behind the computer instead of the camera. I still love photography and my role in documenting life around me. Here are a few of my favorites from 2019, with notes:

It was a bittersweet moment to see the last issue of the VALLEY NEWS come off the press in West Lebanon, N.H., at the end of January. The press crew moved to a new facility in Penacook, N.H., which also meant a full redesign and the newspaper’s deadlines have been moved up by several hours.

When one of the reporters at the newspaper heard the Tunbridge Fairgrounds had flooded following a sudden January thaw, she was blown away. While it was amazing to see, fair officials accessed the situation with a big shrug. Happens every year, they said.

Finding a fresh angle on any assignment is always a challenge. In Northern New England, high school baseball season always starts indoors because the fields are too soggy. I’m sure the players thought I was nutty for laying on the floor, taking a picture of a ball.

With a huge field of Democratic presidential candidates this time around, we have been seeing them more often. On a Saturday in April, I covered Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign stop at a Lebanon, N.H., house party, where she did a video for Twitter before departing. The standard question for getting credentials these days is “what is your Twitter handle?”

My daughter played on Sharon Academy’s Ultimate team for the first time. Ultimate is a sport recently sanctioned by state officials and Sharon is the only school in the area with a team. I was there for Senior Day, one of our daughter’s last school activities I photographed over the years.

With fewer weddings to photograph, I spent a lot of my time off over the summer crawling under and around my project car, a 1979 Fiat 2000 convertible. While I felt overwhelmed at the prospect of rebuilding the whole brake system, I did it and the car is close to being fully roadworthy.

When our daughter graduated high school, she not only had a long ceremony to be part of, but then a party with family and an overnight excursion with her classmates at the school. Organizers didn’t want students driving themselves home, so I picked her and a friend up and we went out for breakfast at Eaton’s Sugarhouse. I can see why I was driving!

Our annual VALLEY NEWS Athlete of the Year portrait sessions were spread amongst the staff this year, a relief to me. Of those I did, one of my favorites was of Kiana Johnson, a senior at Thetford Academy. Kiana had to change schools for her last year after Chelsea Public School closed due to consolidation. She brought the ball she was given for scoring 1,000 points in her high school career, signed by her teammates.

Over the summer, Ben Canonica asked me to document the removal of a dam along the First Branch of the White River in Royalton, Vt. The first order of business was to push over a cinder block shed, creating an eerie photo as decades of flying dirt and debris went airborne. Greg Russ of the White River Partnership, shown, and I were amazed at Ben’s expertise in maneuvering his machines to return the river to its original state.

After covering Plainfield’s Fourth of July parade for the VALLEY NEWS, I added this photo of John Yacavone at the last minute because it grew on me (I love how the flag blends into his pants!). He is an enthusiastic Uncle Sam, leading the traditional parade for the past six years.

Protestors told the VALLEY NEWS they were planning to picket Gov. Chris Sununu’s appearance at a Lebanon, N.H., senior center due to the budget impasse between the Republican and the Democratic-majority legislature. As Sununu was leaving the event, he suddenly decided to speak with them and I was happy to document it.

My wife and I were fortunate to be invited to stay for a week in July with her cousin’s family at the Adirondacks camp where we spent our honeymoon. The original building has been around for over 100 years and we stayed in the smaller and newer cabin where her late grandmother spent many summers. It was so relaxing!

Daylight is long enough in the first week or two of the high school season that you’re able to mix in sunsets with the action, as I did at a Woodstock, Vt., game at the end of August. Peak light instead of peak action!

Valley News photographs copyright © Valley News
May not be reprinted without permission

Uniquely Cindy

After recently photographing Cindy Pierce’s wonderful sold-out “Shuffle the Deck” performance in White River Junction, Vt., I feel so fortunate to have known Cindy over the past 20 years. I first met Cindy and Bruce as their wedding photographer then a few years later Cindy asked me to do promotional photography for her new venture, comic storytelling about her life. Cindy’s found her calling by traveling the country to speak to students about sexual health with her clear and honest approach. Cindy’s one of the most kind, giving, open and funny people I know! Here’s a few photos from the recent performance and others from the stage and her work at Pierce’s Inn from over the years:

The Year in Pictures

As usual, it’s been a busy year for me and my photography. I enjoy the variety of the work, whether it’s the unpredictability of newspaper photography, documenting important family events like weddings and other gatherings, or aiming the lens to tell the story of my community. Here’s a few of my favorites, with a bit of commentary:

Since photographing their wedding ten years ago, Cara and Dean have had me to their Barnard, Vt., home several times to document their growing family. As things were winding down this summer, Baiah and her siblings were exploring the nearby pond and she showed me her sweet and beautiful creation.

When the phone rings at home later in the evening, it’s usually an editor at the VALLEY NEWS. There was a lightning strike at a Vershire, Vt., home, which is a couple of towns away from me. After negotiating with a reluctant home owner, I got access, photographed the investigation and uploaded the photo into the system via. my cell phone close to midnight. Technology is amazing!

I’ve known Logan since her younger sister and my daughter entered kindergarten 13 years ago. Logan and Nick were married in a beautiful hilltop ceremony in Tunbridge, Vt., then had a reception at the fairgrounds in town. When their wedding party — who are also rec league softball teammates — toasted the couple by shotgunning cans of beer, I held the camera over my head and hoped I got the photo.

When the largest schools in Vermont are puny compared with others in the Northeast, the state’s smallest Division IV basketball teams are scrappy and play with tons of heart. In the championship game, Sharon Academy held on to win 60-56 over Danville and coach Blake Fabrikant was as happy as the players were. It was the school’s first championship win and I was there for the VALLEY NEWS to capture it.

In an exchange for partial CSA payment, I have been doing photography and maintaining Tunbridge Hill Farm’s website for the past several years. When I look back at my photos in the middle of winter, I can vividly recall the warm soil under my bare feet and the sweet taste of the peas plucked from their dewey pods.

Driving to cover a Claremont, N.H., City Council meeting for the VALLEY NEWS, I was not expecting much. As part of a school project, 10-year-old boy was to present a petition to lower the speed limit near his house. But once I saw his mother tear up with pride while seeing her self-assured son confidently reading his speech, I was hooked!

The newspaper has been naming the best male and female athlete for the 18 high schools it covers for the past several years, marked with portraits and a special publication. Oxbow High running sensation Izzy Giesing has won it four times, and I think I’ve done her portrait each time. Wanting to change it up, I had the thought to photograph Izzy’s spiked shoes flying through the air. With help from her twin sister, we did several attempts and laughed a lot at the shoes poking both of them while they landed.

Another victim of changing times, the venerable local office supply business Twin State Typewriter was closing its doors in White River Junction, Vt. While working in the store with VALLEY NEWS reporter John Lippman, I was happy to photograph customer Becca White’s reaction to the news from Donald and Wanda Nalette.

I have tagged along with my daughter to the July 4 birthday celebration for her friend’s brother for several years. It’s held at the Woodstock, Vt., community fireworks display and his parents are fully equipped with not only cake but party favors. The kids’ creative uses of glow sticks and their reaction to the display made me happy I brought my camera and its good lens!

Sometimes portraits just fall in your lap — I had an assignment to photograph property management owner Melissa Allen at her office in Grantham, N.H., for ENTERPRISE, the VALLEY NEWS’ business magazine. I was greeted by Penelope, Melissa’s sweet basset hound, and asked if Penelope could be in the photo on her desk, where there was nice morning light. Melissa relaxed, having her dog in the picture.

I was interested to see how competitive go-karting works as I spent the morning with Matthew Winter and his family at the Canaan Motor Club for a VALLEY NEWS story. There was a lot of time spent preparing the kart, attending the drivers’ meeting and doing qualifying races before the feature. When there was a bit of tension about adjusting the kart between Matthew’s father and an official, I was glad to be there to document it.

On the same day as the karting assignment, I had to run down the road to the annual Abenaki and Indigenous People’s Honoring Day in White River Junction, Vt. As I arrived, the organizers were speaking and I saw that Martha Knapp, one of the founders who recently retired, was in the audience. She was presented with a dream catcher and I was lucky to be there to photograph her reaction.

My daughter is in her final year of high school at Sharon Academy and she’s loved every minute of it. The school has an annual tradition of putting on an all-school play where every student is involved in the process. Many are on stage but there are others who do the lighting, play music, sell tickets or produce the program. I enjoyed seeing students who I have known since kindergarten flourish in their roles!

For the seventh year, I volunteered to photograph Santa’s appearance at the Tunbridge Public Library. Euclid Farnham has been doing the gig much longer — since 1979. It’s not only wonderful to see his interaction with the children (his wife Priscilla is usually there as Mrs. Claus but was under the weather), but as president of the Tunbridge Historical Society, Euclid has also put my work into their archives for others to enjoy years from now.

On another VALLEY NEWS assignment, I spent the morning with Mount Lebanon Elementary School Principal Eloise Ginty for a story about her decision to leave the job at the end of the school year. Fourth-grader Leigha Hopwood gave her a big hug during a break in school work. It went so well with the quote I got from Eloise: “I enjoyed every minute of being here,” she said. “It’s a great school.”

Valley News photographs copyright © Valley News
May not be reprinted without permission

Rest Stop

Vermont Gov. Howard Dean would occasionally stop by the Valley News offices to speak about issues he and the state were working with. When I noticed the governor had slipped off his shoes, I was pleased to get a different photograph from a predictable situation.

Vermont Gov. Howard Dean rests his feet while talking with the editorial board at the VALLEY NEWS in West Lebanon, N.H., in April 1994. Dean, who was a five-term governor, ran for president as a Democrat in 2004.

Archival Quality is a series looking at Geoff Hansen’s favorite photos from over 30 years as a photographer.

 

Copyright © Valley News
May not be reprinted without permission

Heyday

The other day, I received in the mail my signed copy of Heyday: 35 Years of Music in Minneapolis that features Daniel Corrigan’s excellent photography. While I love music and photographing musicians and performances, Dan’s vast archive puts mine to shame. He has photographed countless bands who either started in the city or were traveling through. I knew Dan when I was a student at the University of Minnesota, and wanted to do his portrait with other photographers for an arts class in 1988. Dan invited to a magazine shoot he was doing with the band Soul Asylum in a South Minneapolis apartment. He was kind and patient as I fumbled my way through the shoot — I was pleasantly surprised to see the photo included in his book!

daniel-corrigan-photographer-soul-asylum

While reading up on Dan’s book, I also found this interesting video Pitchfork did a year ago about him and his life.

Archival Quality is a series looking at Geoff Hansen’s favorite photos from over 30 years as a photographer.

 

Wild West

In the mid-1990s, my wife and I discovered the best remedy for Vermont’s mud season — a 10-day trip to Arizona, doing a lap of the state. The Grand Canyon is awesome for its size (277 miles long and 18 miles across at its widest point!) and for people watching. Two boys created their own version of the Wild West!

Grand Canyon play

Archival Quality is a series looking at Geoff Hansen’s favorite photos from over 30 years as a photographer.

 

Changing Face

Twenty years ago, I did photographs of Hartford Village, Vt., for a Valley News profile of the changing face of the small community. I did pictures at a bait shop, Head Start program, the library, Bingo hall and at professional photo lab that was about to close. Since then, the majority of the small businesses focused on photography in the area are gone, replaced by smartphones and apps.

Color printer

Color printer Dennis Grady checks a print against a customer’s guide during a work day at Hathorn/Olson Photo Labs in Hartford, Vt., in Jan. 1996. After 10 years, the business closed to leave a commercial vacancy in the village.

Archival Quality is a series looking at Geoff Hansen’s favorite photos from over 30 years as a photographer.

 

Copyright © Valley News
May not be reprinted without permission

Godzilla vs. Mothra

Archival Quality is back! While browsing through my work this morning, I smiled while looking at a photo of our dog Lucy towering over our friend’s puppy Tootsie in 1994. Lucy looks like the star of many Japanese monster films because dogs play with such intensity! Taking pictures of her for fun eventually turned into one of my first books, My Life As a Dog, in 1999.

Archival Quality is a series looking at Geoff Hansen’s favorite photos from over 30 years as a photographer.

Primary Focus

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been searching the Valley News archives for the “Primary Focus” page published today. As a photographer at the paper for the past 26 years, I have been a part of New Hampshire primary coverage a few times. It’s interesting to be part of the exchange of ideas and the cult of personality. Here’s a few of my own favorites:

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new-hampshire-primary-past-002
Phil Gramm in Newport, N.H.
Bill Clinton & the Gennifer Flowers story
Dan Quayle in Woodsville, N.H.
Pat Buchanan and a cardboard George Bush

From top: Bernie Sanders gives an hour-long campaign speech to a full house at Dartmouth College’s Spaulding Auditorium on January 14, 2016; Hillary Clinton listens to an interviewer’s question during a November 2007 editorial board with the VALLEY NEWS; Phil Gramm shows off a finished shotgun while touring its manufacturing plant in Newport, N.H., in September 1995; The media anxiously waits to talk with Bill Clinton on February 12, 1992, the same the day a tabloid story accused him of having an affair; Vice President Dan Quayle heads for Woodsville High School’s gymnasium with his entourage during a January 1992 campaign appearance for the Bush/Quayle reelection campaign; Pat Buchanan plays to the media as he pretends to shake hands with a cardboard cutout of President Bush at a January 1992 Rotary meeting in White River Junction, Vt.

Copyright © Valley News
May not be reprinted without permission

Buffalo Gap

A few years ago while traveling through western South Dakota, my wife suggested we stop at the Buffalo Gap National Grassland to take a look. It’s the second largest preserved prairie in the country, but not a place I would have thought to stop (I grew up on the other side of the state). Looking at one of my photos now, I appreciate its expansiveness and imagine a time before Interstates and box stores.
buffalo-gap-south-dakota

Archival Quality is a series looking at Geoff Hansen’s favorite photos from over 30 years as a photographer.