With the skyline of Wykoff in the background, portraits of local residents hang on the windows of downtown Wykoff businesses. The portraits, part of the "Facing Wykoff" art exhibit, will be on display through the end of September.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
With the skyline of Wykoff in the background, portraits of local residents hang on the windows of downtown Wykoff businesses. The portraits, part of the "Facing Wykoff" art exhibit, will be on display through the end of September. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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Jackie Braze saw her late grandma on the street.

Irene Jacobson walked the line.

And the man who shot Alcatraz is now Facing Wykoff.

"I've shot former Alcatraz inmates and pro wrestlers, and you guys were so much easier to photograph. I feel that we've captured a moment in time in this town. Thanks for letting me into your world," said Spring Valley photographer Anthony Calabrese, addressing the people who attended a gallery opening reception this past Sunday, Sept. 1 for the photographic exhibit, "Facing Wykoff." The exhibit is now on display in windows throughout Wykoff's downtown until Sept. 30, featuring color and black and white photographs.

"Only in a small town can you go out and stand in the middle of the street, have your picture taken, and traffic stops or slows to go around you," said Calabrese. "In the Twin Cities, they'd speed up and throw things at you. That speaks to the quality of life in a small town."

The project is a collaboration of rural Wykoff artist Eva Barr, photographer Calabrese, the Wykoff Historical Society, Wykoff's Fall Fest committee, and individuals throughout town who volunteered to stand for portraits, including Braze, who, upon seeing her portrait, said, "That's my grandmother!" and Jacobson, who, along with her son, Jerry, and daughter, Linda, chose to stand on the center line of Highway 80 and face Wykoff, their hometown.

Calabrese explained how the exhibit began simply with Wykoff's residents initially volunteering to be photographed at the Eickhoff Building in downtown Wykoff.

"I love the craft of photography. I've been working in the darkroom since 1967, and I enjoy documentary projects. They are rewarding...in the experiences I get to have. With this project, I started by taking one shot of people with their name on a card, sort of a 'convict shot' to keep track of who was who, and we shot for six hours on a Saturday and five hours the next day on Sunday. We had a questionnaire for them and it asked who they were, what their hobbies are, what they like about living in Wykoff."

When it came time to take the actual portraits, the subjects were given an opportunity to speak up about where their favorite places in town might be. "I asked them where they'd like to have their picture taken, and some people had places they liked, but quite a few asked, 'How about out in the street?'

"They seemed to enjoy having their picture taken. I was very pleased that people seemed excited about this project and proud to be part of the town. I was happy to be part of a chance to promote a small town like Wykoff because I grew up in the Twin Cities, and having grown up there, I have an appreciation for small towns."

Barr noted that they had more than 80 people, and "they were very brave to invite us to snap away and make the final selection. Every one of them is a gem in some way. I hope this exhibit is a tribute to all the great people...they helped make this an optimally collaborative project."

Calabrese pointed out that while he was photographing, he appreciated that his subjects were open, warm and willing to share about themselves.

"Everybody knew everybody, and there was warmth, friendliness, interaction...these folks were very trusting. It's the friendliness that makes a small town very special," he said. "While we were hanging the photographs, we had so many people come and ask if they could help, and some people stopped at the Eickhoff Building to offer help when we were framing. It was really neat to see."

Barr related, "It's good to fill the windows with faces of people in the town. Downtown became our gallery, and it's fun to see the community become an exhibit."

Visitors will find familiar faces, including Bill and Connie Bicknese, Geneva Kidd, Lynn and Joan Kidd, Joyce Leutink and her dog, Libby, returning Wykoff High School alumni Lyman and LuAnn Hare, and new faces belonging to people who have chosen the town as a pleasant place to raise their children or retire.

Calabrese observed that the photos are "consciously in black and white or color" to portray the most important details about the subjects, such as "kids' neon clothing" or that a person's face and hands have interesting topography.

"I'll have new things to teach when I start this semester at St. Mary's University, where I've been for four years," the photographer stated, once again thanking Wykoff's residents for stopping by and sharing a smile.

Wykoff Historical Society member Carolyn Meyer said, "I'd like to thank Eva and Tony for a job well done, and we're pleased to be able to preserve these photographs for the historical society."

Visitors who peruse the gallery are asked to sign in and share their impressions in a tally book placed in a box near the entrance of the Gateway Inn, and those impressions will be available to read during a closing event slated for Wykoff's Fall Fest during the last weekend of September.