No Place like Dome

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.

2011-05-22 11.08.14

Blue Dome 2011

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.

About rhysfunk

Rhys Martin was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1981. In 2009, he sold everything he owned and left the country, living out of a backpack for ten months. He discovered a passion for photography while traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Europe. After returning home, he looked at his home town and Oklahoma heritage with fresh eyes. When he began to explore his home state, Rhys turned his attention to historic Route 66. As he became familiar with the iconic highway, he began to truly appreciate Oklahoma’s place along the Mother Road. He has traveled all 2,400 miles of Route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. He has also driven many miles on rural Oklahoma highways to explore the fading Main Streets of our small towns. Rhys has a desire to find and share the unique qualities of the Sooner State with the rest of the world. Cloudless Lens Photography has been featured in several publications including This Land, Route 66 Magazine, Nimrod Journal, Inbound Asia Magazine, The Oklahoman, and the Tulsa World. In 2018 he published his first book, Lost Restaurants of Tulsa. Rhys loves to connect with people and share his experiences; ask him about enjoyable day trips from Tulsa, locations along Route 66, and good diners or burger joints along the way.
This entry was posted in Route 66, Tulsa and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s