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New Book Captures NH Life During Pandemic

Published Monday Jan 3, 2022

Author Matthew J. Mowry

The cover of New Hampshire Now. Photos courtesy of the NH Society of Photographic Artists

A new 288-page book, inspired by photography documenting life during the Great Depression, captures life before and during the pandemic in NH.

“New Hampshire Now, A Photographic Diary of Life in the Granite State” is a project by the NH Society of Photographic Artists and the NH Historical Society and was started three years ago to record daily life.

The book, which retails for $49.95, features more than 250 photographs that are also included in eight exhibitions around the state. Photographs are also archived at the NH Historical Society in Concord.

The project was the brainchild of Gary Samson, an award-winning photographer and seventh NH Artist Laureate. Samson originally organized 17 photographers to photograph life in Peterborough in 2016, which resulted in an exhibit in 2017.

A photo by Mark Bolton taken amid the pandemic.

That inspired the statewide project, which was expected to last through May 2020. But, when the pandemic hit and the project was put on hold in March, the team decided to extend the project through November to be able to also capture the election, pandemic life and the Black Lives Matter movement. “This was history that needed to be photographed,” Samson says.

Photographers produced 10,000 images that were winnowed down to 250 images for the book. “What I liked most about what the photographers were doing is they were photographing everyday life,” Samson says.

Among the photographers who volunteered is Mark Bolton, who has been a photographer for for Foster’s Daily Democrat and the NH Union Leader. “It’s not just photographs of pretty lakes or mountains. It’s a real look at the current situation,” Bolton says. “What we were dealing with in 2020 was historic and needed to be recorded as part of the project.”

Bolton says the project inspired him to take on another project, capturing life in Rochester, where he lived until recently. He plans to turn those images into a book as well.

Of his own images, Samson says his favorite is of a homeless encampment when volunteers arrived to hand out supplies. He says the picture catches the humanity of that moment. “I would like to think photography can be a tool for change. It shows us what is not right in the world as well as what is right,” Samson adds.

Volunteers handing out supplies at a homeless encampment.

The book is available at independent bookstores statewide. Samson notes it’s a true NH-made product as it was published by Peter E. Randall Publisher in Portsmouth, printed by Puritan Press in Hollis, and printed on paper made by Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington.

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