Though I live in a fairly large metropolitan area now, I grew up in rural areas of Wyoming, California and Colorado. And I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world. Most of what I love was the way you could just roam for miles without any effort. But the sense of community in rural areas is amazing. People just help each other out more. When you live in the city, you don’t quite rely on the help as much since there are so many services available. I mean, if you break your leg in New York, you call an ambulance. In the middle of Wyoming, you’ll probably call a neighbor first. I thought of that more as an adult thing but photographer Benjamin Rasmussen shows that this value is inculcated early on.
He’s working on a large format project in the town of Chugwater, Wyoming. He covered the prom at the local high school, which has only 16 students total. He writes:
For some of the kids, it seemed like a night that they had waited a long time for and they embraced the experience. The teenagers I was drawn to though, were those who weren’t really into it. They were the ones who thought that prom was stupid or that it was a waste of their time. They spent the beginning of prom hanging out in front of the school, listening to music and talking with friends. But eventually they joined in, because without them, there would not be enough people to make prom possible.
As Rasmussen notes, you can’t ditch an event when your community needs you so desperately.
If a couple of kids do not join the basketball team, the team has to be disbanded. If many more students move away, the school will be shut down. And if everyone does not go to prom, there will be no prom. To me, there is something really beautiful about that kind of responsibility.
I think our children are capable of picking up on this responsibility from a very young age and it’s such a gift that parents can help nurture that. Of course, in a culture where we think kids should be trained to be cut-throat and only out for themselves, such virtues may be in danger of disappearing.
That a photographer could detect such subtle lessons says a great deal about his eye and, indeed, Rasmussen’s photographs are stunning and insightful and there’s a reason why his work is used by some of the best.
The image above is from this Chugwater project but you really need to check out the whole site for more.