Visual Arts

Rocking one million faces: Peggy Dyer talks about her new show at Breathe Denver

After hearing Bon Jovi exclaim in "Dead or Alive" that he had "seen a million faces, and rocked them all," photographer Peggy Dyer was inspired. And ever since, she's been working on her own project: to photograph one million faces. She's now nearing the 8,000 mark, and the latest volume of her project, Freedom Is Not Free: Volume II, is up at Breathe Denver through July, honoring military men and women she photographed last month.

Dyer took some time to talk with us about the title of this latest installation, what keeps her going in her pursuit of faces, and Bon Jovi's ability to act as a muse.

Westword: Where did the title Freedom Is Not Free come from?

Basically, this idea first came to me at the beginning of last month. We had Pride in Denver and I thought, we all have someone before us in whatever genre we're in, and those people have paved the way. We take their losses and advances and courage and we see that reflected next to the messages, like at Pride.

I spent some time with troops who were deploying, and it changed everything, as well, and related to that feeling -- that we're benefiting from what those before us have sacrificed for. I did these photos in June, and by July they were hanging on the wall. It's not so much about it being the idea of someone holding a message written on a whiteboard or scrap of cardboard, but what I love is to create images from those people, as well. It's striking -- here's some real faces of men and women who are going overseas to fight for their families, and ours, and here are their faces. It's not just a number, it's a face.

Is this a part of your original project?

Yes. I started the project in 2009. I was inspired when driving over the hill going into Boulder and heard Bon Jovi say, "I've seen a million faces, and I've rocked them all." I started a website and I started taking pictures. I'm roughly around 7,861. I say roughly, because I have some on my camera, too. I just invite people up and sometimes I'm standing at the bar, or one time I was at an event that I was hired and paid to be there and people came up and wanted to be a part of it.

Do you think this is the first time Bon Jovi has ever inspired a large-scale art project?

I think that Bon Jovi inspires a lot of at projects, but nothing perhaps to this scale. A million is a big number. I recently was watching a show, Deadliest Catch, and they use that same song. That song is definitely out there inspiring them to fish [laughs].

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Tiffany Fitzgerald

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