If you missed the “A Day in the Life of Freeman” documentary that aired on South Dakota Public Television late Monday evening, Sept. 7, no worries. You can view the 25-minute film online by clicking here, and it is scheduled to air again on SDPB next Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 6 p.m., so set that DVR.
I’m biased, of course. After all, Freeman is my hometown, the Day in the Life cannon is largely about one of my greatest loves, photography, and I played a leadership role in seeing the project come to fruition in April of 2019. But the documentary by Miranda Orth O’Bryan, who took it on as a special project her senior year at South Dakota State University, is really, really good. SDPB wouldn’t have picked it up were it not and, remember, it has been selected to be shown as part of the Iowa Film Festival. That speaks to the quality of the work.
O’Bryan’s documentary does a masterful job of tying together the original A Day in the Life of Freeman project from 1994 and the remastered version 25 years later, in April of last year. I think the symmetry between the two is what makes this all so neat; I was a senior in high school when my dad and Frank Klock, then the photography professor at SDSU, hand-crafted the project from the ground up. Another photographer for the 1994 project, Frank Robertson, was a junior at SDSU at the time.
Today I’m wearing the shoes of my dad as publisher and editor of The Courier and Robertson is wearing the shoes of Klock in the Jackrabbit Journalism Department. That he and I had the opportunity to re-do the project in a new and much different time than 1994 is nothing short of a perfect storm. It was a privilege and an honor, and he will tell you the same.
What really struck me while watching the documentary is the impact of what was at the heart of the project then and what was at the heart of the project last spring — photography. Frank and I made it clear when mapping out A Day in the Life that, even though social media and video would be part of the 2019 version, still photography would remain the foundation. And it was.
Photos from 1994 show ladies in the lunchroom who are no longer there, the truck driver who is no longer with us and the second-generation banker who passed away too young.
And photos from 2019 show a girl stuffing her face with a slice of pizza, the third-generation banker recreating the shot of her dad and, in one of the last pictures, Dennis Schrock helping a customer at Fensel’s Electric.
The behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with key players adds a level of depth and preservation to the overall project that is of great meaning to me and, if I may speak for others, everybody who was involved with both projects. It is who we were and it is who we are, frozen in time for all to see.