I go to a lot of street festivals. Austin has a whole cycle of them - the Pecan Street Festival, for example, is twice a year- and I usually make it to the same ones. My daughter enjoys them, since we only hit the ones with plenty of fun activities for kids, and I can't deny how much I enjoy the photography. It's moth to a flame territory for me.
In general, my modus operandi for these festivals involves a backpack well stocked with 35mm and 120 film, with my Nikon F and either Hasselblad or Rolleiflex, sometimes a Brownie Hawkeye as well, plus sunscreen, snacks, and water (since I am, after all, a mother first). We tend to park in approximately the same spots, and we look forward to certain treats and activities. My hometown had a wonderful annual festival that my mother and I spent the entire year anticipating, so in a way this cycle stretches back another generation. If they still held the Brazos River Festival in Waco, I would make the drive to attend.
Recently I read something that a fellow street photographer wrote about what a challenge it is to not keep making the same photographs over and over. I had never given this any thought, but now I find myself, this year, as I walk around the festivals I have come to know so well, thinking: is this new? Did I photograph that before?
Children change with alarming speed, so I make a point of trying to get similar photographs of my daughter each year. Those pictures are one thing, but what about the rest? Walking around with a camera, as a close observer, I see that the same street performers also attend all the same festivals. The balloon men & women. The face painters. The artists. In their sea of customers, this one can almost predict the exact spot they will be working, because chances are good that I have a photograph of them there. Many of the other attractions and stores also remain constants in the background, so that it's hard for me to tell exactly when in time some of the photographs represent. Since I am only talking about the space of a few years here, it doesn't really matter. But maybe one day it will.
My “busy season,” in terms of development and darkroom work, is spring, for the festivals, and fall, for the fairs and rodeos. Summer means waterparks and swimming holes, maybe a few road trips, and winter is all about home and family. The yearly cycle of street festivals is a fun background rhythm to our lives. When spring rolls around, we know what's coming. Maybe these photographs, year on year, give a rhythm to the way I work as well.