When I first started reporting and photographing back in sophomore year, nothing in the job matched the terror of walking up to strangers and interrupting their lives for my pipsqueak job. I would scope out the people who looked the least busy and awkwardly hover near them, silently rehearsing my ask and working up the nerve to ask it. Journalism, luckily, is nothing but talking to strangers and undoing the grade-school conditioning. After doing it again and again and again, talking to people became easy — as long as it was obvious why I was there, such as a protest or parade to cover. But when I’ve had no reason except what’s essentially a hobby, as with everything you see here, it can still feel like sophomore year.
A weekly photo blog is a solid way to (slowly) get over it. I think I talked to a record number of strangers yesterday during the second part of my plan to photograph the length of the Razorback Greenway. I’ve broken free of grade school! And I found aerial yoga enthusiasts, picnickers and a graffiti park full of abandoned concrete mixers because of it. There’s also congregation of empty Porta Potties out there, if anyone needs one.
Here’s to facing fears, opening up and enjoying the warmth while it lasts. Thanks for looking.
When the air’s cold enough, the warmest part of a wintertime polar bear plunge might be the water.
Saturday morning was bright and cold when a few hundred people filled a little corner of Beaver Lake, laughing and screaming and splashing as they willingly launched themselves into 30-some-degree water. Costumes and swimsuits didn’t do much to stop plungers’ body heat from seeping away into the water and the even chillier air. On impact with the water, people’s faces stretched into wide-mouthed shock, teeth-gritting intensity or all-out laughter, as if they couldn’t believe they got in this situation. This is fun, right?
I have to assume the self-inflicted agony is at least a little fun, because people do these plunges all over the world, usually out of charity or piety. This particular plunge raised money for Special Olympics Arkansas, the state chapter of the broader organization that runs sports competitions and opportunities for people with mental and disabilities. A crowd ranging from schoolkids to grandparents turned out to give around $50,000 to the group.
Many also took the chance to show off their diving form or occasionally wacky costumes. Waldos and Oompa Loompas, a Chinese-style dragon and the whole Peanuts gang huddled together like penguins before diving in. They jumped in without hesitation and bolted out with equal gusto. A shrieking flock of high-school kids flew out of the water especially quickly toward waiting blankets and towels. Kids wrapped in towel cocoons dashed for their cars as their parents came up behind. “Invigorating!” one woman yelled out, smiling big as she dried herself off. I sure hope so, you wild people. It was at least fun to watch.
Thanks for looking,
Lent is almost here, which means many of the world’s 2 billion Christians are preparing for 40 days of fasting, abstention and contemplation. That, in turn, obviously means a lot of people (including here in Fayetteville) are throwing a huge party first. There’s nothing like religious rules to inspire some of the globe’s biggest bashes: Carnival and Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras is a celebration of contrasts, of revelry before the calm, cold weather slowly turning to warmth and goofiness and color mixed up with a taste of weirdness. It’s at least a few centuries old, and its deepest roots perhaps go back millennia to the earliest inversion festivals, times when society’s normal rules are temporarily stretched, ignored or turned upside down. Halloween’s one example, and Mardi Gras shares the same inclination for costumes and the celebration of how spirited and fun and wild life can be.
The last time I made it to Fayetteville’s Parade of Fools was an overcast, gray day. Not so yesterday; the afternoon was bright with beautiful and challenging light that made downtown explode with color. I went up there about an hour early to catch the parade prep – some of the best photos can come not during a big event, which everyone and their brother will photograph, but while everyone’s greeting each other and getting ready. The energy was infectious as the parade began, and it was a great time. The vaguely unsettling costumes with the white masks and the brilliant jumpsuits and hats were by far my favorite part.
In the spirit of the day, I also tried out some different photo ideas and styles than I’m used to relying on; hopefully they turned out all right.
It was a great 25th year for the parade, Fayetteville. Laissez les bons temps rouler!