GUYS! I had my first funnel cake ever at the Festival of Friends this past weekend! Why didn't you tell me funnel cakes were so damned good!
When I was young, my grandmother used to take us to Festival of Friends, a local multicultural festival of vendors and music at the biggest park in Hamilton. Since returning to the city a year and a half ago, I have mostly only gotten out to the James Street North Art Crawl that happens once a month. I decided to head to the Ancaster Fairgrounds to check out the festival.
There were a lot of people at the festival, but I suspect most of them were there to see the country music stars I had never heard of — I don't listen to country — and eat funnel cakes. The midway rides were kind of lame and sparsely used. The games were expensive, unpopular, and featured obviously bored, cell-phone-checking, cigarette smoking splinterheads. One of the vendor stands was selling illegal switchblades — AT A FESTIVAL — more than 200 of which were seized by the police.
This is not the festival of my childhood memories.
I had contacted the festival about getting a media pass, which I didn’t think would be an issue, since it’s a free festival and I am a freelance photographer that works with local media on a regular basis, including a major tourism publication that promotes festival like these in the area.
It took them a week to respond, and all the organizers offered was access to the photo pit in front of the concert stage. I shoot portraits, editorial and reportage. Putting my in the photo pit at a concert limits my ability to get anything other than the same shots that 20 other photographers are already getting. In exchange for access to the photo pit, the festival requested use of the photos for their archive, without compensation.
I find it unfortunate when festival organizers don’t recognize the real value and true potential of working with the media during their festival. I know because I ran a festival for 12 years. Media access was always a top priority and we always made sure seats were held and available for key media figures.
The email came less than 24 hours before I had to respond, and because I was busy, I couldn’t even get access to the photo pit. Guess what I decided not to shoot at the festival?
Free festivals like this are important to the city’s tourism, economic development, and its sense of community. (It’s why I dig Art Crawl so much.) I even ran into a few friends while I was there and met up with a couple more. Since my ability to shoot portraits was restricted, I opted to focus on shooting reportage.
The following images are from this past Sunday evening at the festival. I wanted to capture the spirit of the festival as I remembered it from my childhood, and I think I succeeded to some extent. My memories, however, also clashed with the reality of the festival as I captured it as it currently is. So what you see is the intersection of my past and its present.
Thankfully, they had funnel cake, the number one fun food.