Perhaps it was the delightful smell of fresh soil or the scorch of the afternoon sun, but something about the day we photographed Real Fair Food featuring Arkansas 4-H members who compete in country fairs around the state, transported me to a place in time–one where I could not be certain I had not previously visited. It was familiar like a favorite movie. Close enough to touch, but not all my own.

By the day’s end, I was certain that the nostalgic experience was in large part due to the humble and comforting presence of the people that we shot that day–The ones that enthusiastically showed up-geese, goat, ducks in arms; freshly baked goods in wicker baskets wrapped in gingham, so simple a presentation, but so attractive I had to restrain from touching for fear of damaging. What they brought was their art and crafts honed from generations before that will continue to be shared for generations to come.

Behind the scenes with Kallyn Sossamon and Brandon Markin

Behind the scenes with Kallyn Sossamon,12, Olivia and photographer Brandon Markin at the Dunbar Community Garden, Little Rock.

Remarkable individually and more mesmerizing and entertaining together as friends and family, they knew how to communicate with each other, making it fun to get the job done. From age seven to seventy, no hands were idle and all hearts were warm.

Each one was a needed reminder that no good thing comes without patience; that everything must start somewhere, and that significant results don’t happen without hard work and persistence. The process of competing at fairs involves whole families. They are hands on, they are tuned in and they are fully present with their subject and with each other. Their genuine and light-hearted closeness was almost tangible. They exhibited a humble fortitude and maintained a steady sense of humor. Their dynamics worked together because they worked together.

The day ended with a peaceful presence reminding me to slow down and to relish the inherent goodness of what was before me, all the while hoping I’d be lucky enough to snag one of Terry’s shortbread cookies at the end. Maybe tuned in to me, she graciously offered them. They were amazing.

Take a look at the photographic essay in the AY October issue showing the competitors that will be at the Arkansas State Fair that begins October 14th in Little Rock.


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