I was a denim jacket-, backward baseball cap-wearing, Pearl Jam-obsessed 17-year-old when the Day in the Life of Freeman played out on city streets and rural roads on April 20, 1994. A senior at Freeman Academy, I knew I would be going to South Dakota State University to study journalism, but I had no idea where I’d end up. Minneapolis appealed to me, and the starriest of skies took my mind to even bigger cities like Chicago and Boston. Maybe I would be a big-time sports reporter for the Tribune or Globe, or even a photographer for National Geographic. Wouldn’t that be something!
I can’t say for sure, but I like to think that my involvement with Day in the Life of Freeman 25 years ago influenced, at least in part, my decision to return to Freeman in May of 1999 to begin my full-time career working for the Freeman Courier. I traded the lure of the big city for a seat at the table in a small rural town on the plains of South Dakota because of the quality of life, and that’s what the Day in the Life of Freeman is all about.
That will be the focus next Wednesday, April 10 when 10 student photographers from Freeman Public and SDSU, as well as a social media and multimedia team from SDSU, descend on the community to document life as it is lived in Freeman. It’s a repeat performance from 25 years ago, but there’s no denim jacket or backward baseball cap for me (although I am still quite fond of Pearl Jam, still rocking after all these years). This go-around, I’m taking a lead on the project alongside Frank Robertson, a friend, colleague and the photography professor at SDSU.
And that is, perhaps, the most gratifying thing about this entire endeavor. Frank and I were both students back in 1994 — he was finishing his junior year at SDSU — and working under the leadership of my dad and Frank Klock, who teamed up to put the original Day in the Life project together. They were the teachers and we were the students, learning from the best. I remember Frank Klock telling me on the day of the shoot 25 years ago that Frank Robertson was as good of a photographer as they come; “He can go anywhere he wants,” Klock told me.
Turns out “anywhere” is here.
The Freeman community will be our playground next Wednesday starting at 5 a.m. and continuing into the evening. The team of more than 30 storytellers will cover all corners of the town and countryside documenting the activity of the day for preservation forever. They will look for the ordinary and keep an eye out for the extraordinary and show to the world what life looks like on one day, in one town. I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes from documentary photographer Dorothea Lange: “This is the way it is,” she said. “Look at it. Look at it.” And so it will be next Wednesday. See you then.