For the past seven years, photographer Estefany Molina has attended Greenport Village’s annual Dances in the Park, camera in hand to snap photos that bear witness to the spectators’ lives. She’s now sharing these moments in “Monday Night Dances,” a new art show at First and South restaurant.
Molina, who is based in Greenport, began photographing the weekly Mitchell Park events in 2009, gravitating first to the music and then to the people. She had always been interested in live music and the dances presented an opportunity to practice her craft.
“I just kept doing this for years up until perhaps 2012 when I realized, ‘Oh, I have something going here, so I’m just gonna keep going,’” the 25-year-old said. “Now it’s like, seven years later, and I realized I have all these pictures. I should probably show them to people because throughout all these years people have always asked me, ‘What do you do with these pictures?’ ”
At first, it was daunting for Molina to hit the dance floor with her camera and have no explanation to offer people who asked where her photos would end up. She told spectators they were for a newspaper a few times, but after noticing that people didn’t shy away from her lens, it became easier to snap away. In time, Molina became a fixture at the events, with dancers happily allowing her to take their photo.
Molina noticed many of the same community members returning to Dances in the Park each week and then year after year. Her exhibit at First and South reflects this passage of time while capturing intimate moments in the lives of her “characters” — the people who always attend the events no matter the type of music being played.
“I inadvertently developed this archive of not only the community and this event, but also this weird record of time passing,” Molina said.
One woman she saw frequently on the warm Monday nights always danced alone.
“It would always be this great, beautiful… She would not necessarily perform, but she’d dance and she’d be so into it and so involved and kind of be her own world,” Molina said. “It turned out she was doing this as sort of therapy in some sense because she lost her husband. In that way, she started dancing again, finding herself again, and I thought that was beautiful.”
Molina also took notice of two couples that never missed a dance. She said her show features two pictures of both couples, each taken a few years apart to demonstrate subtle changes in her subjects.
One couple was older and had been married for decades, Molina said. They were always dancing, the man in a hat and the woman sporting a fanny pack.
Since the other couple was younger, Molina said she was able to watch their relationship develop over the years, getting the sense that they got to know each other through dancing.
“It’s the things you don’t give too much importance to, but then over time you’re like, ‘Oh, that was that moment. That’s where the seeds were planted,’ ” she said.
First and South restaurant in Greenport will host a happy hour artist’s reception for “Monday Night Dances” Saturday, Dec. 10, from 4 to 7 p.m.