The town of Wilson, NC already had the right to claim itself to be a center for photography in the American South, simply because Distinguished Southern Photographer Burk Uzzle has his studio there.
But now Wilson has made a serious step into the Photography Big Time with its third annual edition of Eyes on Main Street, the Wilson Outdoor Photo Festival.
Eyes on Main Street consists of a main show of 100 large prints of work by 50 men and 50 women photographers, including both established and emerging photographers, from more than 30 countries around the world, all up now through July 16th, 2017, in downtown Wilson.
From April 8-July 16, these 100 photographs will be displayed in 100 storefront windows spanning six city blocks. Taking visitors across the railroad tracks that bisect the city, the exhibition links east and west Wilson into one shared community.
In addition, this year's Festival includes five additional exhibits which include shows of historic photographs as well as striking contemporary work for a wide range of international photographers.
A feature of these supporting shows is an exhibition of work by more than 125 young people from Wilson who were supervised by senior photography students from the School of Fine and Performing Arts at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois.
This show is up at 203 East Nash Street, in Wilson.
All this is the work of Artistic Director, chief curator and organizer Jerome De Perlinghi and his assistant curators Catherine Lloyd and Regina Monfort, who have organized the shows around the general theme Main Street, a Crossroads of Cultures.
In addition to the show of student work from Eastern North Carolina, the other sattelite shows include:
1. Eyes on Taiwan, featuring work by Yi-Yun Chang, Charles Chen, Kouhei Hirose, Chun-Chi Lin, Pi-Lin Liu, Liang-Pin Tsao, Eli Wang, Anny Wu, Ko-Ming Wu and Sun Yang, in the 3rd Floor Gallery at Imagination Station, 224 East Nash Street, in Wilson.
2. Before Facebook, a show of mid-nineteenth century daguerrotypes, tintypes, Cartes de Visite, portraits, and street scenes from the middle to the late 1800's.
3. A show of work by Chicago photographer Hareth Yousef (see image above) of images from his Tomorrow's Entry is not Guaranteed portfolio, a body of work documenting the everyday lives of Palestinians, sponsored by the Columbia College Chicago Student Gallery, up at 115 Goldsboro Street, in Wilson.
4. Showings of Frames of Life (1996), a movie by Mary Engel documenting the life and work of photographer Ruth Orkin. This film was premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1996, and was selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as one of the “Outstanding Documentaries” of that year.
In addition to these exhibits, there are also a whole slew of lectures, workshops, concerts, and other events too numerous to go into here.
But you can find out all about them on the Eyes on Main Street website here, and you can keep up with the Festival as it unfolds, on Facebook, here.
If you are unfamiliar with Wilson, it is an hour's drive east of Raleigh, via highway US-264 East, then I-587 east, to Wilson.
While you are there, also check out famed outsider artist Vollis Simpson's whirligigs in the Whirligig Park and Museum.
You are in the heart of eastern North Carolina, with much to do in the vicinity, and only 40 minutes from the Skylight Inn, serving what many claim is the best BBQ available anywhere, or 50 minutes from Kinston, NC, home of the by-now world-renowned restaurant Chef and the Farmer.
Artistic Director De Perlinghi and the City of Wilson deserve tons of credit for supporting this very ambitious photography festival.
May it succeed beyond your wildest dreams, and may you bring us many, many more years of outstanding photography to eastern North Carolina.