Fotofest Day 1

As I sit here typing in my hotel room with my blood pressure skyrocketing and an never ending sense of panic, I decided to write a blog so I can remember what I discovered today. I am meeting with 37 different art world influencers doing 20 minute portfolio reviews, but that is not were the feeling is coming from.

The day started pretty normal. Houston is 2 hours ahead of Los Angeles, but the time difference didn’t phase me. I got ready in my business art attire, compliments of my mom’s wardrobe and accompanied by a scarf-necklace my mom purchased for me on her recent trip. It was a simple Eileen Fisher clothing type of day - you know, dressy but comfortable. I did my makeup and ironed my hair. I quickly learned that the lovely humidity in Houston made my attempts at business hair pointless. All the curls came out moments after leaving the hotel.

My barely awake face

For those curious of what Fotofest is exactly, it is a speed dating event that lasts for 4-day sessions and happens in 3 different session. This is a bi-annual event, so they call it Fotofest Biennial. Just imagine a room filled with tables, filled with strangers, and you have 20 minutes to get them to fall in-love with you and your work. What ends up happening in these sessions is you plant seeds in these photography influencers, which will either die or flourish depending on whether or not you nurture them. I equate it to speed dating because it really feels like that some times. 

There are reasons to come specifically to Fotofest in Houston to receive this sort of acceptance and rejection. The reason to come to Fotofest is not only because it is the longest running speed-dating session for photographers to interview with many organizations, but rather to meet with majority of the international photo art organizations. This is the best place to try to break away from only exhibiting in the United States and venture outward. To me, I was curious as to how other countries saw and interpret my work. More on this as these 10 days wear down.

Today, I had five reviews. The global take away message from today was to write a book on the Pilgrimage of Heritage series as well as have accompanying audio for each image. Since a standard book was already in the works, I have decided to make a pop-up of sorts type of book for this series. I will get more in to that in the coming months.

Between meetings, I was fascinated by the work hanging on the hotel walls. This work feels complimentary to mine, though I could be mistaken.

After the meetings were finished for the day, an interesting thing happened. A friend and mentor offered to guard my portfolio and framed “The Socialite” in her room so I didn’t have to keep dragging it 4-5 blocks from my hotel to the Whitehall hotel. She gave me a key to her room. While my portfolio rests peacefully knowing it will not bump another sidewalk or paver on the brisk walk over in the morning, I ponder. Will I remember that I left my portfolio in someone else’s room when I wake up tomorrow after the night I’ve had?

Fotofest had a bus drive us to 3 different locations. Our first stop was at the “Project Row Houses”. For those of you entering Houston soon, the address is 2521 Holman Street. This is a great conversational place where each artist was given a tiny home to form their conceptual idea. The artists involved are Adelle Main, Marc Newsome, Nikita Hodge, Sofia Mekonnen, Danielle Fanfair, Zeinab Bakhiet, and Brian Ellison. The work spoke of gentrification, an ever-evolving problem in all city centers, and the people who were the voices of and from the community .

Before arriving at the second location, I received a text from my mother. It said, “Shooting at the Americana. We can’t get out of there.” By we, she meant herself, my niece and my kids. This was followed by silence. I replied, “Glad you’re alright and you got out of there safely.” I assume people are safe if they can text or even contemplate holding their cellphone and focusing on conversation. Also, my mom is notorious for exaggerating details. So, I continued with the scheduled plan.

The second stop was at Foto Relevance, a new organization that works to elevate photographer’s careers from a consultant point of view. I saw the amazing Jan Szabo there! She’s from the Los Angeles photography community. Also, exhibiting or on show was Deborah Bay, Marti Corn, Vladimir Frumin, Martin Holmes, Torrie Groening, Lou Vest, Fikry Botros and Julia McLaurin.

I did not make it to location #3 or even back on the bus for that matter. My husband texted me this article.

The series of texts that followed were what brought on panic, high blood pressure and a horrible headache. Before receiving all of the details, I broke down. Of course my break down was caused by trying to continue conversation as though nothing was going on. I broke down to the point of having to leave the amazing, contemporary exhibition and excusing myself from the tour. Instead of calling a cab, Uber or Lyft,  I walked 5 miles back to the hotel. Walking helps clean my mind. I called my mom. The reception was horrible, so I kept walking. I followed the bus route that was headed toward downtown until I discovered Smith Street. 

On the journey, a 19-year-old lady kept trying to get my attention. She eventually caught up with me. She noticed I was upset and continued to walk with me. Her hair was shaved off. She was taller than me and wore a faded red tank top and torn jeans. She told me her story. She said she has HIV. Later she mentioned that today she found out she has full blown AIDS. She walked with me for a while. Finally, she asked me for a favor. She wanted $4.50 to buy dinner. Had I been in a normal state of mind, I would have invited her to dinner and learned more about her, but not tonight. I gave her $5. She embraced me firmly. 

Long story short, the family is going to be fine. It made me think of a new series to build around the idea of when you’re a mom, it always feels like the world is falling apart when you’re away. I wonder how other business women survive.

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