This is the first in a series about photographers that have come together to build a community to support each other. We hope you will find these articles enlightening and inspire you to build your own community. If you are part of a photographic community and would like to share your story drop us a note at email@example.com
Thank you Judy Sherrod for sharing Shootapalooza with us.
Please tell us about Shootapalooza.
Shootapalooza is a murmuration of artists. It has shape without structure. It moves and flows in all directions simultaneously. We are a rolling rambunction.
It is a collective of art-making people. There are seventy-five of us with no plans to grow any larger. It’s a women’s organization, but we do have a few really GREAT men.
Our common thread is the photographic arts.
Our first Shootapalooza was held in February, 2014 in Port Aransas, Texas, a fishing town on Mustang Island, off the coast of Corpus Christi. We refer to it as “Shootapalooza, the Experiment,” because that’s exactly what it was.
The goal was to figure out if people would come to the beach in February to show their photographic artworks, share knowledge, and shoot together. I hoped for ten people, no more than twenty, and we had sixteen. It was deemed a success.
Since the one in 2014 was called “Shootapalooza, the Experiment,” the one we had last February was called, “Shootapalooza, the Inaugural.” We had thirty-two artists.
The next one, I think, will be somewhere in Florida, if I can find a place for us that isn’t so terribly expensive. We’ll have sixty-four artists there.
We don’t have a high-power, expensive “key note” speaker. Instead, everyone is a keynote speaker. We don’t have expensive workshop leaders. Instead, we teach each other. We spend a lot of time in our meeting room sharing ideas, studying things together and trying new things . . . like turning a motel luggage cart into a rolling camera obscura.
We have additional get-togethers, most often at our World Wide Headquarters, A Smith Gallery in Johnson City, Texas.
What do photographers do there?
We begin each day with “Show and Tell.” Everyone participates. Everyone shows the things they are working on. It’s not called “portfolio presentation.” That’s intimidating. Everyone’s been participating in a show and tell of some kind since the first grade. We discuss concepts. We discuss techniques.
Then we have “Photo Labs,” and that’s where we teach each other. That’s where there are opportunities to get crazy with ideas. Nothing is wrong and everything is right. There are often some really fabulous accidents. We go on field trips. We play, eat, party, and party some more.
What was the genesis of Shootapalooza?
I registered Shootapalooza.com in December, 2012 because Barney Adams, a friend in Pass Christian, said, “Oh yeah, a real shootapalooza!” It sounded so good, I couldn’t resist, but had no clue what it would become. And then the ideas began to roll in. I spent that Christmas in Port Aransas and started to get a feel for some of the possibilities. It took a year to plan. The announcement went out on January 1, 2014.
I’ve drawn a picture of a river fed by at least a dozen tributaries, trying to explain Shootapalooza. There are many sources. One particularly influential source was a trip to Ireland in 2010 with Patricia Delker of Magic Images, Keith Carter, and a dozen other talented photographers. And then there’s this great group of women (Women and Their Big Cameras) that became the base upon which Shootapalooza is built. There are influences from f/295 in Pittsburgh, Bill Schwab’s Photostock in Michigan, and PhotoNOLA, among other entities.
And there are many many many many great ideas from the artists, themselves. It has to be loosely structured so that Shootapalooza can create its’ own form as it moves forward.
Who are some of the people that have participated in the event?
Let me combine that with your question, “What classes do you offer?”
I mentioned our Photo Labs. We call them that rather than “workshops,” because these artists don’t need three or five days to learn something new. Ideally, we would have a one-hour Photo Lab each day then turn ‘em loose to practice and try new things. But I have this problem called “over-scheduling,” so, to quote Vicky Stromee, there’s a lot of “creative chaos.” But creative chaos has turned out to be one of those surprise serendipitous ingredients that helps to create what shootapalooza has become.
In 2014, Vicki Richardson Reed from Cedarburg, Wisconsin, introduced us to Lumen Printing and Purell Alcohol Transfers. Becky Ramotowski, our resident astronomer (Albuquerque), led a Caffenol Photo Lab.
During last February’s get-together, Amanda Smith and Kevin Tully from A Smith Gallery, had a multi-afternoon demonstration on Photo Encaustics. Laura Corley Burlton (Houston) taught a Lab on cyanotypes. Yvette Meltzer (Illinois) led a three-day “Art Spa” on Process Painting. Kimberly Chiaris and Michael Butts (Colorado) got everyone going with Pinhole Photography. We had Lumen Printing and Purell Alcohol Transfers again, thanks to Vicki Reed. Mariana Bartolomeo (Arizona) taught two sessions on hand-bookmaking. And we still had time to eat, drink and sleep.
One thing that’s important to point out is that these artists are learning new things and then sharing those newfound skills in their respective communities. Kimberly Chiaris recently taught bookmaking to the women in a Colorado shelter for victims of human trafficking. Angela Johnson is teaching the things she learned to seniors in Madison, Wisconsin. We don’t mature as a collective entity unless we turn outward and share the things we have learned and the gifts and talents we have.
Any stories that come to mind over that have happened in the past years that you would like to share?
You know that old saying, “what happens at shootapalooza . . . ?” So we won’t mention anyone skinny-dipping in the Gulf of Mexico at midnight. Or Martin Scorsese’s advance film crew, right there on the beach in Port Aransas, Texas.
OK. 2014 Shootapalooza, The Experiment: Carol S. Dass and Heather Oelklaus blew into town from Colorado Springs. It didn’t take Carol long to find the beach, and she set out to collect sand dollars. Only it wasn’t sand dollar season, I guess. Every morning, bright and early, here go Carol and Heather, down to the beach.
Heather found a sand dollar. But rather than trumpet her find, she snuck out in front of Carol, and hid it in the detritus from high tide. Carol walked right by it, still hunting. So Heather picked it up again, ran around in front, and put the sand dollar back in the seaweed. Carol walked right by it another time. So finally, Heather put the damn sand dollar on top of the pile, jumped up and down, arms waiving, and called, “Carol, here’s one! Here’s your sand dollar.” That pretty well represents the spirit of Shootapalooza. It is a group of caring, supportive, encouraging artists.
Please tell us about World Cyanotype day which is Sept 19th.
Really and truly, it’s like all these puzzle pieces came raining down from they sky and they put themselves together and, “abracadabra!” World Cyanotype Day was born.
We’ve asked the participating artists to spend the month of September making cyanotype prayer flag strands after the pattern established by Tibetan Prayer Flags. It’s not a religious project. It’s an art project.
When finished making a prayer flag strand, we’d like for everyone to string it up somewhere, photograph it, then post the photo to Instagram with the hash tag, #WWCD2015. It would also be nice to know the artist’s name, where he or she lives, the number of flags in the strand, and its length. There’s this idea about adding up all the lengths just to see how long this collective virtual artwork actually is. Our fingers are crossed.
It gets us all working on a similar theme. It’s a great way to learn from each other. It’s a great thing to teach others.
This little project has not just blossomed. It has exploded. Never in my wildest mind could I have anticipated so much enthusiasm from all over the planet.
On the 19th of September, the official World Cyanotype Day 2015, in the town of Johnson City, Texas, population 1,400, we, a little group of enthusiastic heat-seekers will make an attempt at creating the world’s largest cyanotype.
The idea came from The Hill County Science Mill early last March. All that we have been doing since then points toward the nineteenth and our hopeful success. It is a way Shootapalooza can benefit the community that houses our World Wide Headquarters, and shine a spotlight on this state-of-the-art science museum that considers its audience to be the three and one-half million people who live within a seventy-mile radius of its front door, which is an hour west of Austin and an hour north of San Antonio.
What makes Shootapalooza possible?
Clearly the willingness of people to travel great distances to be in a community of like-minded souls.
I believe people are hungry to be together in a creative environment that’s encouraging, validating, supportive, and non-threatening. Each person who comes, comes ready and prepared to give, and open to receive. They come with different gifts and they come with different needs. And then we all work together to ensure that when the party is over, everyone leaves stuffed full of good things.
Do you ever sleep?
I stay up very late working. Once on a roll, I just can’t stop. So everyone thinks I’m at it 24/7. Only no one knows how late I sleep.
Shootapalooza is a labor of love. I love what I am doing. I love the people I am so fortunate to work with. It is so much fun and so very rewarding that I hope I get to do it for the next hundred years.
Thank you Judy Sherrod for sharing Shootapalooza.
Banner image by S.Gayle Stevens and Judy Sherrod.
Judy Sherrod passed away suddenly in 2017. Judy has been described as a force of nature, but she was also a very humble person. She never wanted her work to be put out there before the work of her friends. She formed the Shootapaloozas, a murmuration of artist. She will be missed and remembered.