Photography, Dance & Fallen Heroes

by Brian Mengini for The Dance Journal

Spirit of the Fallen is a project I started back in November of 2009 and was initially inspired by a memorial installation at the Police Administration Building by Commissioner Ramsey in tandem with Comcast, paying tribute to the fallen officers. I had wanted a new philanthropic project to get involved with, something large scale to appeal to the masses and a radio spot about the Fallen Heroes memorial told me what it would be. The project seemed to have come together overnight, which to me is a sign that it was the right one!

As a dance photographer, I drew upon my own experience and work to create a series of images using dancers with angel wings to represent the spirit of the fallen officers.  I felt that by creating fine art images, using these winged athletes, it would maintain a respect towards those we pay tribute to and also transcend the dance community because I created pieces of art, not just a dance image.  The topic is something that encompasses the entire city.  These officers protect the streets for ALL of us!  So we ALL need to pay respect for their service and life.

I did not anticipate how quickly these images, this project, would not only come together, but create the buzz it did.  I have heard many stories about how people were misty-eyed after seeing some of the images.  It is very humbling to have created work that is impactful in this manner.  You can look at the images and really feel the climate and the spirit of it all.  It was an amazing journey, truly!  It has definitely become much more personal to me since its inception.  I have made new friends in the law enforcement community as well as with some of the families of the fallen.

Aside from just creating images to pay homage, I also wanted to raise money for the FOP Survivors Fund, a fund in place to help with final expenses, etc for the fallen officers and their families.  To this end, select images from the series would be produced into a 2011 calendar and sold with the proceeds going to the fund.  Our goal is to raise $10,000 for the fund.  This equates to 500 calendars at $20 each.  We will have a calendar release party on October 2nd at Finnigan’s Wake.  I will also have them available online for sale.

As a precursor to this release, we will have a Spirit of the Fallen Gala on August 29th at the Irish Center from 4-7pm.  There will be live music, dancers, exhibit and more!  I had wanted to do a large exhibit prior to the calendar, but wanted it to be more then just an exhibit.  I wanted to create an event to really celebrate the lives of these courageous men and women who gave their lives to keep ours safe!  Tickets are $35, advanced sales only.

Again, this topic is one that affects all of us – our children, friends, loved ones.  These men and women, put their lives on the line daily just to make sure our streets are safe for us!  They kiss their loved one goodbye as they leave for work not knowing they may not come back that night.  It is not a thought to them.  They are just going out, doing their job.  But it is a reality.  It is an occupational hazard.  All in a days work to them… Please support the project!

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