by Marissa Lorenz
Any regulars of Big Shooter Coffee, the Moose Cafe, or the streets of Kremmling may have noticed
a new face recently, an open and curious countenance accompanied by a very large lens. That face and the equipment belong to Leo Delafontaine, a French photographer who has spent the last 10 days discovering the people and places of Kremmling.
Delafontaine lives and works in Paris as a freelance photographer. He does commercial work for various businesses, museums, and tourist destinations. But once a year, he likes to escape all that and discover a new place, new people, and a new visual story somewhere in the world. He has followed that desire to the Pyrenees, the Arctic, and to numerous micronations or self-proclaimed states, such as the Conch Republic and the Principality of Sealand. And this year, that wondering spirit brought him to Kremmling, Colorado.
Delafontaine can trace his interest in Kremmling back to his early days as a photography student, when he discovered the works of W. Eugene Smith, the Time-Life photographer who spent 23 days in Kremmling in 1948, following the beloved Doc Ceriani through his life in this rural landscape, only to later publish his photo-documentary in that same esteemed magazine. He says those images were of particular importance to him as he developed his own art, especially the picture of Doc Ceriani walking through the grassy landscape. And so he began wondering where this world was that W. Eugene Smith had captured so long ago.
His first idea was to try to do a contemporary version of the photo story with modern doctors, only to decide that he could not recreate Smith’s work, but wanted to explore his own experience of the Kremmling of today. And so Delafontaine has been finding local gathering places, speaking to whomever he meets, and photographing all who have permitted him.
He describes his own experience as “exotic,” claiming that he is an overall urban person drawn to small towns and communities. Interactions with locals, he says, have been “friendly and welcoming,” with strangers greeting him on the street from the time he arrived. Of particular note has been the weather, with such significant day-night temperature swings once the sun drops behind the mountains. And upon the several occasions he has asked for restaurant recommendations, he has been told to “get the reuben.”
With about 25 professional-quality images from this trip, Delafontaine plans to publish in a French magazine and use that work to seek grant funding that would allow him to return again next year. He would like to work in tandem with a journalist to further explore the unique Kremmling area and, perhaps, publish a book. “I don’t like to have any regrets,” he says, “and so I like to find those places where people are creating their own communities.”
To see more of Delafontaine’s art, visit his webpage at www. leodelafontaine.com. There you can discover his collections arktikugol, micronations, d’abraham, and more, to which will soon be added his views of Kremmling and the people he met here.
by Marissa Lorenz