Back in 2011, I had my very first public exhibit of my photography. I set up a single table at the Blue Dome Arts Festival and sat under my brand-new tent, eager to share the stories behind the photos I’d selected. I had a pair of canvas prints made and a selection of photos from Tulsa and my trip around the world.
I have since referred to that weekend as a disaster. My tent nearly blew away the first day (I packed up early once I realized how woefully unprepared I was), I had no real way for people to SEE my work unless they manually flipped through a box of prints, and very few people stopped to chat. I sold four prints the entire weekend, all to friends or family.
Since that weekend of hard learning, I’ve come a long way. I discovered Route 66, explored much more of my home state, and continued to develop my photographer’s eye. Most importantly, I met Samantha; her support and encouragement have helped me grow more than anything else. Back in 2011, I was a broken person. When I unpacked my tent to set up for my second Blue Dome festival last weekend, I was whole…not to mention a whole lot better prepared!
Much like my inaugural event, storms wreaked havoc early on. 80 mph winds caused quite a bit of damage the night of initial setup and intermittent storms lead to Friday as a complete wash. Samantha, who had her Bohemian Romance booth set up right next to me, agreed that after about an hour-and-a-half we should call it a day. We had high hopes that the rest of the weekend would be a lot smoother.
Our hopes turned to reality; Saturday and Sunday’s weather was PERFECT! It was then I was able to fully assemble my booth and appreciate how far I’d come in the last six years. My work was easier to see and I had a greater variety of items to showcase it. It was also a lot more targeted: the majority of what I had on display featured Tulsa and Oklahoma Route 66 photography.
This much-improved setup lead to many wonderful conversations with people, which has always been the highlight of what I do. A woman came up and tearfully told me how much the Desert Hills photo moved her, as the motel was her home for a time when she originally came to town, broke and homeless. A man picked up a coaster that featured the decorated main street of Tonkawa, a small town in Kay County he grew up in, and remarked in amazement to his friend. Many passers-by commented on the photo of the old Riverside pedestrian bridge, which is due for demolition soon. I even encountered a group of lovely Australian tourists traveling Route 66 that just happened to be in Tulsa during the festival! I loved hearing every story and had the opportunity to tell a few of my own in exchange.
By the time we tore down on Sunday evening, I was utterly exhausted. Days later, I’m still a bit achy…but it’s a good ache. I’ve come a long way since that disappointing weekend six years ago. Where will I be six years from now? I hope I feel that I have made just as much progress as I do now.
Also, it was not lost on me that my booth was located right on the original alignment of Route 66. Although it didn’t mean anything to me in 2011, it meant a heck of a lot this year.