R. Thomas Berner Photography Gallery - Denise Demong
March 28 - May 29
Friday, Saturday, & Sunday 12:00 to 4:30
Bellefonte Kids, 1970
“Bellefonte Kids, 1970” is a group of children’s portraits created more than 50 years ago by a photographer who was then not a great deal older than her subjects.
Denise Demong first visited Bellefonte in 1967 when, as a Penn State freshman, she joined the ranks of young people who decided to “Get Clean for Gene” and campaign door-to-door for anti-Vietnam War candidate Eugene McCarthy. During those visits she was stunned by the economic gap between affluent State College and Bellefonte, just 11 miles away.
Three years later, having gained access to Penn State’s darkroom, Denise returned and made these portraits. At the time, she printed only three. But she always carried a clear memory of the frames she had captured, and in 2018, when she began scanning and printing her old negatives, she knew which she wanted to print first: her Bellefonte pictures.
Bellefonte--now a revitalized borough sometimes hailed as Pennsylvania’s “Victorian Jewel”--was a hardscrabble town in 1970, Denise notes. But when she began working with her old images, what struck her most was how well-tended the children are, in contrast to their neglected surroundings. “More than that, they seem resilient,” she says. “I don’t presume to know what these kids’ lives were like. But I love their forthright gazes, their self-possession, and the way they present themselves, unabashed, to the camera.”
She adds, “For me, their stances and expressions seem timeless, even as this is a portrait of childhood in a very particular time, place, and circumstance.”