by Sean Cayton
Freelance Photographer

I remember once debating a photographer friend on the journalistic merit of the small town portrait studio.

I argued that the small town portrait studio was no different from the photography department in a small town newsroom. Different branches of the same tree, I said.

To my way of thinking the family portrait, the baby picture, the senior sitting or the wedding photograph carries just as much weight as a picture of a house fire in the morning paper.

I cited an example to defend this premise.

It was a straight forward wedding picture of my grandparents. It shows two young people embarking on a promising life together. They eventually raised four children and became grandparents to 13.

This photograph was recently passed down to me in its original frame. It is a treasure to me. When I view it today, I imagine what my grandparents must have felt at the time.

I don’t know the photographer’s name, but I learned that he operated the local portrait studio in the small Kansas town of Mound City.

On a recent visit, I came across dozens of his photographs hanging in the local historical museum. The pictures were simple vignettes of a growing and vibrant farming community. The photographs recorded 30 years of the town’s history from the 1930’s through the 1960’s.

Two pictures that struck me were panoramic images. One showed a new brick school with hopeful students standing out in front. Another showed the local hunting club with their hound dogs.

After recounting the story of the wedding picture and the small town photographer who made it and so many others, I argued that he was both involved within his community and documenting it at the same time.

I’m not sure whether I convinced my friend, but today I am finding myself heading further down the path of the portrait photographer. And I am celebrating it.

Now on display at the Antlers Hilton during the holidays is a photographic exhibit sponsored by a group of local portrait photographers in Colorado Springs. We call ourselves Take 7.

This will be the third year we have hosted the exhibit and invited the public to view our work, much of which is focused on our community.

I am coming to understand and to appreciate the value of a quiet contribution made with the intent to document and record the events happening in my own town.

© Sean Cayton

John Neuhaus, 3, sleeps in the car before his parents wedding at the Briarhurst Manor in Manitou Springs.

© Sean Cayton

Groom Dave Nast, left, with his best man Marshall Cape during the wedding reception at the Sheraton Hotel.















© Sean Cayton

Best man Charles Langely escapes the grasp of bride Sarah Konicke during a game of Duck Duck Goose after the ceremony at the Colorado Springs School..

© Sean Cayton

Sally, a yellow lab, stands at the entrance to my in-laws home in New Hampshire.














© Sean Cayton

High Scool Senior Richard Lamb sits in the crawl space near his bedroom surrounded by music lyrics he painted on the wall. Lamb is an aspiring guitarist and plays in a band.


Sean Cayton




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