With the advent of ever-present social media, actual real world civic engagement among neighbors has been diminished and made worse by the pandemic of Covid-19, shutting down social life since March of 2020. Falls Village residents Rebecca Bloomfield, Adam Sher, and Meg Sher were looking to re-engage their fellow townsfolk and forge new friendships and understanding across social, racial, & class divides.
To move beyond small talk, a series of “big talk” questions was developed to engage subjects’ world views and personal philosophies, exploring the sense of belonging, concerns for the future, and feelings of misunderstanding. A public call for subjects was made and respondents were scheduled for socially distanced outdoor photo and interview sessions.
Rebecca Bloomfield, the project’s photographer, found that she was thinking a lot about vulnerability while the interviews were being conducted. “It’s so rare that we get past small talk with our neighbors, and I think it’s rare because it’s vulnerable to ask the questions in the first place, let alone open up and answer them. I hope that as more people share their stories and perspectives, we build trust, empathy, and connection.”
Interviewer Adam Sher, an educator and community organizer, hopes that Small Town, Big Talk, “encourages depth in our conversations, with the understanding that our society changes and evolves on the local scale leading to larger national conversations. There is a lot of talk about unity these days, but even in small towns unity is elusive, and perhaps impossible without experiencing our diversity of thought and feeling. I hope when people view the exhibition, they are inspired to have big talks in their own lives.”