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"Hands Across Beaufort," the photo exhibit and essay, has been a labor of love for Sandy Dimke.
The opening reception for the exhibit, being held from 5 to 6 p.m. Friday, kicks off the final forum in the Beaufort Three-Century Project's lecture series at Technical College of the Lowcountry in Beaufort.
The 109 photos are a collection of Dimke's essay on the labor of people's hands -- at work and at play. The photos, shot from January to July, depict people from all walks of life -- dentists, carpenters, painters and volunteers.
"Everything that says Beaufort in 2010," Dimke said.
Dimke's project began with the click of her camera lens on a snappy salute by Andrew Carroll, a newly graduated recruit from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. This first photo is the one that has the most meaning to her because it was the project's brainchild.
"It was so exciting to see him take that hand and make that salute," Dimke said. "He was so proud and so excited, and I was excited to see a person transformed from a teenager to a Marine.
"I was hooked on the project."
While the exhibit initially opens to the public Friday, it will be moved to the Beaufort library on Scott Street, where it will be on exhibit from Saturday through Oct. 15.
All of the photos will be preserved in a 115-page, 9-by-9-inch hardcover book that will be available to the public in November at an open house, other Beaufort Three-Century Project presentations, area bookstores and a book party in downtown Beaufort.
Dimke, an award-winning photographer and one of the four founders of the Photography Club of Beaufort, had been working in nature and abstracts and wanted to turn her lenses to people. She's won several awards at the Beaufort Art Association Spring Show and awards from Carolina Nature Photographer's Association. For four years, her work has been selected for the annual Beaufort County Calendar.
"But people were difficult to shoot because you have to make the person look beautiful," said Dimke, who decided to focus on hands. "I figured I could get into it by doing hands, and asked myself, 'Who would refuse having a picture taken of their hands?'<2009>"
She focused her essay on different aspects of life in Beaufort, from seaside activities -- such as de-heading shrimp and cracking open an oyster roast -- to mundane work.
While she was taking photos of flags at Beaufort National Cemetery on Confederate Memorial Day, her eyes were drawn to a Confederate re-enactor with his hand on his rifle.
"I literally jumped out of my car and ran over and shot a picture of his hands," Dimke said.
Throughout the project, Dimke learned some other, more personal lessons.
One photo taken at the Chocolate Tree focused on hands dripping in the sweet confection. But what caught Dimke's eye was an employee decorating for Easter using pink ribbons. She was a recent cancer survivor just returning to work. Dimke captured another poignant moment when she visited the Alzheimer's Family Services of Greateufort day center.
"At the Alzheimer's day center, there was a lady who sat there, not participating until a therapy dog came around, and the life was brought back into her by using her hands," Dimke said. "I found out she was a nurse in World War II in Manila. Her hands had been used to help soldiers heal and now her hands were helping herself heal by petting the dog. That is one of those chilling types of stories that jumps out at me about the project."