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.
Heather and Jameson Hooton are a young Omaha couple, who run a photography studio together called Hooton Images. â€œItâ€™s good,â€ laughed Heather during an interview this week at the Omaha Creative Institute offices downtown. â€œWe generally get along.â€
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. â€œI love different people and their stories and Iâ€™ve always had an interest in anthropology,â€ Heather said. â€œSo 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.â€
Working with Omahaâ€™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.
â€œWe only had two major questions that we were asking, and it was essentially â€˜Where have you been?â€™ and â€˜Where are you going?â€™â€ Heather said. â€œAnd we meant that both on the bus, and also in life.â€
â€œThat allowed us to be a little open to the conversation so they could grow organically, and essentially, just chat,â€ she said. â€œIt was always really fun.â€
â€œIt 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,â€ Jameson added, â€œand try to capture who they really are.â€
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. â€œIt removes any prejudices you might have about people,â€ he said, â€œbecause you really start to see that underneath the surface things, people are all the same.â€
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. â€œHe was just the most pleasant man Iâ€™ve ever met,â€ Heather said. â€œHe was constantly smiling.â€ Heather said Jesse has traveled to 42 different countries, and lived all over the U.S. â€œBut heâ€™s ridden the bus his whole life,â€ she said.
Heather said sheâ€™s thankful to have met Jesse near the outset, because his message became the â€œmantraâ€ of the entire project. â€œHe told me that everyone on the outside, they might be different, but everyoneâ€™s the same,â€ she said. â€œYou give them a smile, you give them respect, and theyâ€™ll give it back to you.â€
Conversations on a Bus opens Friday night at the headquarters of Omahaâ€™s Metro Bus System on 22nd and Cuming Streets. The exhibit will later move to Bellevue University and then to Council Bluffsâ€™ RNG Gallery.
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