Mary Miller’s all-Valley community photo is an act of love

A double symbol of love forms in the 2013 “Heart of the Valley” community photo shoot at Snoqualmie’s Centennial Fields. Organizer Mary Miller plans surprise shapes for this year. - Courtesy photo
A double symbol of love forms in the 2013 “Heart of the Valley” community photo shoot at Snoqualmie’s Centennial Fields. Organizer Mary Miller plans surprise shapes for this year.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Photographer Mary Miller isn’t sure what to expect at Sunday’s Heart of the Valley photo shoot, starting at noon at Centennial Field park, other than a bunch of people doing whatever they’ll be doing. That’s kind of the way she likes it.

“I’m hoping that it’s a playful event, like it was last year,” she said in a phone conversation last week. “That’s the thing about me, I’m usually very good with the spontaneous moments.”

The Heart of the Valley, Miller’s annual portrait of the Snoqualmie Valley, is built on those spontaneous moments.

And, on comical dogs stealing the spotlight, and personal events like the recently engaged couples who got their own heart-within-a-heart last year,

Its foundation, though, is the community itself. Miller, a photographer for 32 years, has lived in North Bend for more than 20 years, raising a son and daughter here. She has suffered with the Valley through tragedy and trauma like the April 25 explosion on North Bend Way that destroyed three buildings, and celebrated with them through festivals, graduations, weddings and other landmark occasions.

“Now, I think, more than ever, it’s important to reach out to people,” she said. “In my interviewing people over the last year, I’ve noticed a kind of shell-shock situation…. people need each other.”

Plus, everything is renewed in the spring, Miller says, which is why she plans the heart for each spring. “It’s all about lighting, and I don’t mind the risk from the weather,” she said. “In springtime, the colors are great on the field… and it’s about starting fresh.”

She is asking people to bring umbrellas again, although it’s not because of the weather. Along with videographer Zach Wunder, Miller will be perched about 70 feet above the ground Sunday, directing the crowd into the heart shape. She has some creative ideas for additional shapes that people can make, and the umbrellas may come in handy. She is not asking people to wear specific colors, she said, but “I am concerned that people come with clothing on!” This is a family event, after all.

Groups can wear their own team colors, if they like, Miller said, and get creative. “The more playful, the better,” she said.

The more people, the better, too. About 500 turned out  for last year’s photo, and she is hoping for more this year, for the image.

“If we get 1,000 people… it will be a more powerful piece,” she said, but adds that 700 would be “awesome.”

Miller also has a surprise planned for the day that will add to the power of the community photograph, but that, like the rest of her plans, will remain a secret until Sunday.

“People are asking me… they’re curious about what I’ll be up to. And I say, ‘Well, I’ll be up pretty high, so you’ll have to come and see,’” she said.

Now in its third year, the Heart of the Valley is “officially a Valley event,” Miller says, and one that she’ll be doing for some time. “I’m committed — or I should be!” she laughs.

Miller envisions the event evolving, maybe even to the point that the heart shape itself is superfluous. “It was originally chosen because people are familiar with it,” Miller said, “but the Heart of the Valley really is community.”

Although she’s a part of that community, Miller hasn’t thought much about getting into the photo herself. She said she wants people to come, and have fun, and that’s about it for her expectations. “It’s my thanking to my community… I don’t need to be in it,” she said. “I just see the people, and feel very proud to be a part of the community. It’s a reminder to me, and it always will be.”

To join the Heart of the Valley, get to Centennial Field Park, 39903 S.E. Park Street, Snoqualmie, by 11:45 a.m. to register. The band StoryBoxx will play throughout the event. Photos start at noon, and should be done in two hours.

Mary Miller




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