Colby-Sawyer College is one of eight institutions across New Hampshire hosting a concurrent exhibition of photography called, “New Hampshire Now: A Photographic Diary of Life in the Granite State.”
The exhibition, presented by the New Hampshire Historical Society and the New Hampshire Society of Photographic Artists, showcases the work of nearly 50 photographers who traveled the state between 2018 and 2020. Collections of photographs are on display in each region of the state, including at Colby-Sawyer’s William H. and Sonja Carlson Davidow ’56 Fine Art Gallery, with collections designed to resonate with residents of a specific region.
“Colby-Sawyer is truly honored to be one of eight locations chosen to showcase this project and the work of these amazing, local photographers,” School of Arts & Sciences Professor Jon Keenan said. “This exhibit directly supports the college’s overall educational mission, including our photography and studio art program, as well as other disciplines. The photographs reveal beauty, dignity and simple elegance in a wide range of evocative scenes in an ever-changing New Hampshire.”
As a whole, the exhibition features more than 5,000 photographs that capture New Hampshire’s people, places and culture through an unprecedented span in time. Images showcase the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, a summer of social unrest following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the pain and resilience of a state as it battled a global pandemic.
The exhibition is the brainchild of renowned photographer, filmmaker and educator Gary Samson, who served as the project’s director. A former chair of the photography department at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, Samson began work on “New Hampshire Now” in January 2018 after being inspired by the Great Depression’s Farm Security Administration documentation project of the 1930s.
“Our goal was to capture, share and preserve for future generations a record of our lives here in New Hampshire,” said Samson, who served as the New Hampshire Artist Laureate from 2017 to 2020. “The project includes almost 50 photographers who, for 30 months, photographed the state. They photographed the things that were of particular interest to them, which, I think, makes this project unique in the sense that you had photographers saying, ‘This is important. I’m going to photograph this.”
The exhibition at Colby-Sawyer will be on display in the Davidow Center for Art + Design during regular gallery hours Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. though Dec. 15. Exhibitions are also being held at the Belknap Mill Society in Laconia, the Portsmouth Historical Society, the Historical Society of Cheshire County in Keene, the Manchester Historic Association, the Museum of the White Mountains at Plymouth State University and the Tillotson Center in Colebrook. A flagship exhibition encompassing the state as a whole is on display in Concord at the New Hampshire Historical Society.
In addition, a book titled, New Hampshire Now, is available at each exhibition site (as well as independent bookstores across the state and online at nhhistory.org) and features 256 of the most powerful images included in the exhibition. The book is an entirely New Hampshire production that was designed in Portsmouth, printed in Hollis and produced on paper from Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington.
Colby-Sawyer will also host a panel discussion on Nov. 1 at 4 p.m., titled, “New Hampshire Now (and Then): More than Just a Pretty Picture,” in which panelists will discuss the exhibit’s overarching theme as well as specific photographs. Panelists include art and photo historian Inez McDermott, School of Arts & Sciences Professor Scott Horsley, School of Nursing & Health Sciences Professor Shari Goldberg and “New Hampshire Now” Project Director Gary Samson. The event is free and open to the masked and vaccinated public and was made possible through funding from New Hampshire Humanities Council. To learn more about “New Hampshire Now,” visit newhampshirenow.org, or colby-sawyer.edu/gallery.