Photographers document bus riders’ stories


September 6th, 2012

Omaha, NE – Two Omaha photographers took to the city bus system for their latest art project. The exhibit, Conversations on a Bus, opens Friday as Omaha Creative Week heads to a close.

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Heather and Jameson Hooton are a young Omaha couple, who run a photography studio together called Hooton Images. “It’s good,” laughed Heather during an interview this week at the Omaha Creative Institute offices downtown. “We generally get along.”

Jameson and Heather Hooton are the creators of a new exhibit “Conversations on a Bus” (Photo credit Hooton Images)

The two work in fashion and portrait photography, mostly. But their latest project is something a little different. No makeup. No lighting. Just people on a bus. “I love different people and their stories and I’ve always had an interest in anthropology,” Heather said. “So I came up with the idea of where can we shoot the most different kinds of people in the same environment. So I thought of the bus.”

Working with Omaha’s Metro bus system, the two interviewed and photographed dozens of people as they made their way to work, back home, or wherever they were going.

“We only had two major questions that we were asking, and it was essentially ‘Where have you been?’ and ‘Where are you going?’” Heather said. “And we meant that both on the bus, and also in life.”

“That allowed us to be a little open to the conversation so they could grow organically, and essentially, just chat,” she said. “It was always really fun.”

A young bus rider featured in the exhibit. (Photo credit Hooton Images)

“It was a lot of fun because since I was able to photograph them while they were being interviewed, I could really try to hone in on expressions,” Jameson added, “and try to capture who they really are.”
With the help of the Omaha Creative Institute, the Hootons worked with local writer Sarah McKinstry-Brown, who wove each story together into a cohesive whole. That whole is opening as a galleried exhibit on Friday.

Jameson said the project has changed the way he looks at people. “It removes any prejudices you might have about people,” he said, “because you really start to see that underneath the surface things, people are all the same.”

Jesse, one of the photographers’ favorite subjects, became the face of the project. (Photo credit Hooton Images)

Heather recalled one of her favorite interviewees: Jesse, a man who has become the face of the project, who illustrated that point from the start. “He was just the most pleasant man I’ve ever met,” Heather said. “He was constantly smiling.” Heather said Jesse has traveled to 42 different countries, and lived all over the U.S. “But he’s ridden the bus his whole life,” she said.

Heather said she’s thankful to have met Jesse near the outset, because his message became the “mantra” of the entire project. “He told me that everyone on the outside, they might be different, but everyone’s the same,” she said. “You give them a smile, you give them respect, and they’ll give it back to you.”

Conversations on a Bus opens Friday night at the headquarters of Omaha’s Metro Bus System on 22nd and Cuming Streets. The exhibit will later move to Bellevue University and then to Council Bluffs’ RNG Gallery.

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