Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gordon, NE

Story and photos by Clay Lomneth

July 18, 2009. Gordon, Neb: To give you an idea of how this day started: I woke up and found a drunk driver had taken off my passenger-side mirror and left a huge dent above the wheel. "I thought I heard something in the middle of the night," Kyle said. Great.

Being of a cynical nature, I assumed the rest of the day would only get worse. Man, I was wrong.

Kyle and I drove into Gordon from Rushville, wheel scraping against the dent every time I made a sharp turn. We cruised the streets for a little bit until we hit a gold mine: there were people setting up for a wedding in the park.

I've shot a lot of weddings in the past. They're a lot of fun, great moments, people are in a good mood (most of the time) and they generally have better things to worry about than being camera aware. I've developed a certain style of shooting weddings, which is different from, say, how I would shoot an assignment for a newspaper. 

Shooting documentary photojournalism is completely different from shooting for newspapers and wedding clients. We have to show more of the environment, we have to show something that's only seen in a small town. 

I can't stress how welcoming and generous and accommodating everyone we met on this trip was. They were a photographer's dream. They let us into their lives, let us take photographs of them doing what they do, and on top of that, offer to feed us. If there's one thing photographers as a group love as much as photographing, it's probably getting free food.

The wedding we stumbled upon was that of Cole Fancher and Carmen Walton, both of whom had lived in Gordon their entire lives. After talking to them both and getting permission, Carmen and Cole let us hang around the whole day and shoot their wedding. Kyle and I could not believe our luck. 

Without trying to stress him out more than he already was, I talked to Carmen's dad Casey about paying for a wedding during the recession. In addition to being the father of a beautiful bride, Casey owned an auto parts store in town and had a ranch nine miles north of Gordon. 

"Everyone talks recession, but Gordon, Nebraska has been in a recession for 10 years," he said. People here have learned to live with their paychecks and not spend any extra, so the recession had little to no effect on most people in small towns. 

Most everything, including the decorations in the park, was done by friends of the family. The official wedding photographer was a friend of a parent and the couple grew up with just about everyone in the wedding party. Casey said that at the reception, most of the town would show up, even if it was just say hello and congratulations.