To preface how this session came to be, there's a story you need to know:
Last time I drove through my hometown of Dover, New Hampshire with George, we were on our way to get pizza (of course we were headed to La Festa, let's be real), but I took him on a quick detour. I realized I had never shown him my high school. You might think it's no big deal, but for someone who grew up moving all over the country (my Dad was in the Air Force) it's incredibly rare to have slices of my life to share with him in person. If I ever have these opportunities, I jump on them. Maybe it's because I hadn't stepped foot in the building in almost ten years and I was feeling wildly nostalgic, or maybe it's because photographers can find beauty in anything, but I truly saw my high school in a whole new light. I visually took in the white arches lining the front of the school and it reminded me of some of the architectural images I'm inspired by from my fellow creatives. My eyes were drawn to the "Freshman Wing" of the school. The hallway connecting it to the original building are these massive windows letting in the most savory light. At the end of the building is a greenhouse, and you know how much I love photographing in a green house. I started thinking "Wow... this would be a phenomenal engagement session location. I'll keep this on my list of Dover locations for the future." But then it occurred to me, this would only serve a very specific couple. This couple had to be emotionally tied to this building.
Then like a bolt of lightening, an idea zapped in my brain, landed in my heart and has been clutching it ever so tightly since that day. I knew I had a project to create here. This idea started planning itself once I paired these thoughts with the realization of Dover High School closing it's doors for good once the new high school is built. (Don't worry, the new school is going directly behind it. It's stunning and these kids will thrive in this new space.) My wheels were spinning thinking about the friendships I made here, the stories that will live on despite the building no longer being in service, and then I thought about the romantic relationships that bloomed here. High school sweethearts. We're in the business of love storytelling and this is a story you want to re-tell to your friends, family and especially children.
I put myself in the shoes of every couple who are still together to this day that might have said their first hello's here, had their first kisses in these hallways, graduated together, etc. If I were them, it would be a priceless experience to walk through these hallways again hand in hand with my sweetheart, reliving all our high school milestones together. Could you imagine doing that with a professional photographer? It would have eaten me up every single day if I didn't make this experience happen for as many couples as possible.
After being connected with the right people, I blurted my idea out to Dean Waldron. With his enthusiastic "YES," I reached out to Tara + Keith to try out this wild dream of mine with me. I knew I had to take at least one couple through the school with me to see if these emotions were all in my head, or if this really was the perfect session location.
Before I even took out my camera, I was greeted by the warmest hug from my former field hockey teammate and friend, Tara. This girl is pure sunshine! For the next hour all three of us must have said "I can't believe we're here right now" and "I can't believe we're doing this" at least once every minute. Over the next hour we found the spots where our lockers used to be, the classrooms we soaked up four years of learning in, the photography/art room that sparked all of this (would 18 year old Christy Turmelle even believe this was my life?! Pursuing my dream career?! Pinch me.), the murals that still show proudly on the walls, and gushed over our favorite teachers that have continued their careers at DHS. We reminisced about the hallways we'd run laps in when our practice days were rained out, the gym we climbed the rock wall in even though we were petrified of heights, the most perfect chocolate chip cookies in history, the auditorium that hasn't changed a bit, the spot on the Mezz they'd meet up at in between periods, every time we'd hang a banner on the Mezz inviting our classmates to cheer us on at our home field hockey games, and the intercom where we'd hear "Betty B, that's me!" We could name every teacher we ever had in every classroom we walked by, and hoped we could get a peek at the ceiling tiles we painted.
Some of the things that stuck out to me most weren't physical. To be honest, it's truly a time capsule in there. I feel as though most generations from 1967-2018 could walk these halls and unravel their own stream of memories just like we did. We were truly moved to see flyers pointing out healthy teen friendships, free prom dresses for those who needed help with prom expenses this year (thanks to the Seacoast Fairy God Mother), quotes from our favorite shows like the Office & Parks and Rec on the door of a classroom, 'Stranger things' typeface for the Gaming Club, and A Chorus Line as the Spring play? Are you joking? Was Dover always this cool or are the faculty, students and community just this incredible? This generation of kindness and inclusivity was moving to witness on this level alone.
...... this was genuinely intended to be a short blurb about the heart and intention behind this session, but clearly there was a lot to unpack there!
Tara and Keith met freshman year in Mr. Wasson's Earth Science class at Dover High School. Throughout their time at DHS, they had mutual friends through their field hockey and lacrosse teammates which kept them in a close friend circle. However, it was a 4th period lunch that brought them together. Now, here we are 11 years later. A house, a marriage, a dog and the future ahead of them.
"It felt like it was just yesterday that we were walking through the halls of DHS. It brought back a lot of memories of the beginning of our relationship :) this experience wasn’t something we ever thought we’d have the opportunity to do!"
What's their secret to tending to their relationship through their formative years of high school and college? Tara said simply knowing they were right for reach other has attributed to their evergreen relationship. With a healthy dose of making time to talk and listen to each other, they learned early on how to set themselves up for a lifetime of adventures.
If you were wondering, Keith sweetly said "Come here, my sweetheart" before they walked down this hallway. They're the real deal and it was an absolute honor to capture this love for them.
These next photos are the ones I envisioned perfectly in my mind for weeks, and thanks to these two, the result is even better than I could have ever imagined. The chipping paint, the cracks in the columns would most likely be edited out by other photographers, but to us, it just shows the character we love so much about our school.
For these two Greenwave athletes, the community and social life surrounding sports was deeply embedded in their relationship. From Friday Night football games, to hanging out after their practices, to even running the track during gym, the bleachers were one of their usual hangout spots during their time at Dover High.
Tara's sister kept their sweet pup, Oakley, entertained with carrots and walks around the school while we were creating all this magic. Now was his time to shine and he did not disappoint!