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Keepsake for community's sake

by David Gunter
| December 31, 2010 8:00 PM

SANDPOINT - Five years and a couple thousand books into the process, photographer Tina Friedman now finds herself just a small stack shy of breaking even on a photo-filled coffee table book project she began in January 2006.

With that financial obligation taken care of, she plans to route virtually all future revenues from book sales to a half dozen local nonprofits - including Angels Over Sandpoint; Panhandle Special Needs, Inc.; Transitions in Progress Services (dba Bonner County Homeless Task Force); Bonner Community Food Center and the Panhandle Animal Shelter - and establish a fund to help local elementary schools pay for field trips that district budgets can't accommodate.

In addition, the Hope artist last week donated enough books to be included with Christmas dinner boxes the food bank provided to needy families.

"This project has brought so much joy and love into my life that it brings me to tears," the photographer said. "Now, the spirit of giving is going to feel like playing Santa Claus 365 days a year."

Friedman estimates that the remaining books - approximately 3,000 of them - will drum up about $120,000 for the nonprofits over time. That allows the woman behind the book to heave a charitable sigh of relief, especially compared with how things looked going into the New Year of 2006.

"In the early stages, when the money wasn't coming in, it was scary," said Friedman, who hired several dozen writers, graphic artists and editors to help complete the work.

Her goal was to compile photos and writing which, taken together, allowed readers to "feel the richness and goodness of this community."

During a whirlwind run-up to publication, Friedman amassed a library of 14,000 images, shooting first on film and later transitioning to digital as the grand scale of the project became apparent. She had no specific shot list for the 1,000 photos that eventually made it into her book - other than to capture obvious major local gatherings such as The Festival at Sandpoint and the Pend Oreille Arts Council Arts & Crafts Fair - preferring instead to let the natural flow of events set the stage.

"I was everywhere with my camera," she said. "Most of the time, I just candidly walked around town and, when I saw the image I wanted, I shot it."

The resulting book, titled "Sandpoint - a Small Town with a Big Heart" ended up as what the artist calls "a glorified scrapbook" - a description at which she arrived out of love and respect.

"It's a tool for families to share stories of their lives in Sandpoint with children and grandchildren," Friedman explained. "Remember Harold's Foods? Remember swinging on the rope swing by Sand Creek? A lot of those places are no longer here, but they still exist in the book.

"It's a permanent memory."

Friedman is no stranger to large and adventurous photo excursions. She has made two trips to Africa, one of which included 18 months of backpacking across nine countries with her daughter, who was 10 at the time, and living in small villages and collecting images at every stop.

"That experience of putting myself out there with such deep trust helped me with this book project, because I was moving into uncharted territory," she said.

The photographer also explored new horizons in her shooting style, moving from a focus on people photography to take in scenics and action shots as she captured photos of natural wonders and sports events while the book came together.

Friedman's spark of inspiration arrived after her nearly five-year stint at Northwest Academy came to an end when that school closed.

"I wanted to do something that had value and meaning to me, something that connected with joy and creativity," the photographer said. "Something that would make a difference."

She formed a nonprofit called The Heart of Sandpoint, Inc. and forged on to finish the book, knowing that the combination of commissioned articles about specific businesses and book sales eventually would pay for the writers' and editors' time and cover the cost of printing. As 2010 draws to a close, Friedman is just a couple dozen books away from hitting the mark.

"January is the five-year anniversary of the start of the project," said Friedman. "It took two and a half years to complete the book and it took the same amount of time to break even."

After she was well into putting the book together, the photographer met with the Kalispell Tribe and discovered what she said is "the root that taps into this area's heart." Along with a feature article and photographs on the tribe, Friedman dedicated the book to the Kalispell people as a way to honor them. In turn, she tapped into the origins of a sacred place that has won her own heart.

"The natives truly value the land and that's a big part of what has generated the loving energy here," she said. "Sandpoint is not just a town, it's a community of people who love and support one another. It's become my family and my true home."

"Sandpoint - a Small Town with a Big Heart" is available at: Yoke's, Super 1, Sandpoint Furniture/Carpet One, Foster's Crossing, Sandpoint Super Drug, Truby's Health Mart, Day's Inn, La Quinta, Sharon's Hallmark, Northwest Handmade, Zero Point, Great Stuff, The Cottage, Corner Bookstore, Common Knowledge Bookstore and Ammara Wellness Spa.

For more information on the book and a sneak peek at its photos and contents, visit: www.theheartofsandpoint.com.

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