Videographer captures ‘Voices of Park City’
What if your distant relatives living in the year 2112 could see and hear you talk about what it was like in August 2016.
Local videographer Ralph Gates wants to make that possible. For the last decade, he has been video recording longtime Park City residents as they tell him their life stories.
He calls the series “The Voices of Park City: Passionate People of Park City with Imagination, Initiative and Perseverance.”
“These are essentially visual autobiographies,” Gates told The Park Record. “I have been trying recently to get the principal people who have come and made Park City what it is today.”
To date, Gates has captured 50 or so of those movers and shakers including interviews done years ago with former mayor Dana Williams and Leadersship Park City founder Myles Rademan.
“I have been trying to get members of the Town Council who had been here for awhile,” he said. “There are others who are here and getting old, and I want to catch who these unique people with these immigrant genes are and why they came to Park City.”
But Gates isn’t just interested in high-profile Parkites. His goal is to get many more Park City-area citizens to tell their story.
“It’s funny, because when I ask people if I can video their life story, they ask why and say, ‘I don’t have anything to talk about,’” Gates said. “So, I say, ‘What would you think if you could pull a DVD off the shelf and see your mother or your grandfather talking about their lives 50 years ago?’ and that’s when they usually agree to the interview.”
Gates began doing these interviews in earnest in 2006.
“My wife died 2004 and I didn’t do anything for two years, except sulk around,” he said. “Then I decided I needed to do something.”
So, Gates revisited a project that he had dabbled with 15 years earlier.
“When I first came to Park City in 1990s, I met Moose Smith, who was a retired Navy captain from World War II,” Gates said. “He was the first guy I met and we became good friends.”
Smith introduced Gates to the Navy Captains Club in Salt Lake City.
“This group was made of up men who were the rank of captain or higher during the Second World War,” Gates said. “Moose told me that they were meeting and had a guest that I would be interested in listening to. So, we went and he introduced me as Colonel Gates.”
Gates began to talk with the captains and decided to interview them.
“There were something like 25 members of the club and I recorded 21 of them who were in the War,” he said. “I thought it was fun to get their life stories, and they were wonderful life stories.”
During those early days, Gates had asked for minimal payment to cover his expenses.
“I soon realized that he wasn’t going to get anywhere by asking people to pay me to do this, but I did know that we needed these stories for a life record,” he said.
Gates donated the early Park City videos to the Park City Museum.
“They have probably 40 of them and if someone wants to see them, they’ll let them check them out,” he said. “But they’ve not done anything more with them.”
A few months ago, Gates approached the Park City Library and asked if they would be interested in the DVDs.
“When Adriane Juarez became the director of the new Park City Library, I contacted her because I wanted to do one for her husband,” he said. “We talked about this and I told her that in the last few years, Park City has been besieged by people who recognize that this is a pretty special place. And I asked if the library would be interested in these DVDs.”
Becca Lael, community engagement librarian, said the Park City Library is currently adding Gates’ donation to its Park City collection.
“These are historic compilations of items that represent Park City, and we are in the process of cataloging the videos,” she said. “He is still bringing new recordings over and is continually recording the stories.
“Ralph’s donations are a natural extension of what the collection is about. It works well with the library’s role of preserving Park City history, and they work nicely with the library’s mission, which is to provide resources in print and through technology to bring literacy into our every lives,” said Lael.
The DVDs are located next to the library’s reference collection in the Park City room.
“Whoever wants to come in and see items of hear the histories are welcome to come in and do that whenever the library is open,” Lael said. “We’re excited for Ralph’s collection. He’s very enthusiastic and we love seeing champions in the community.”
Author Edward Massey will present a reading and book signing of his new historic novel “Fugitive Sheriff” at the Kamas Valley Branch on Friday.