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When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade for hundreds of strangers and throw a party twice as long as previously planned, right?
In this case, the lemons are the COVID-19 pandemic shut downs; the lemonade is the annual Eyes on Main Street photography exhibit located in downtown Wilson. The party is 200 days of the exhibit instead of the 100 days originally planned.
The photography festival, which historically begins in late April or early May, was put on hold back in the spring when the world was unsure where the pandemic would take us. After that decision, the exhibit committee mulled over what was best for both the community and the artists involved.
After putting the brakes on an August opening due to continued uncertainty related to the pandemic, the committee decided to open Eyes on Main Street in late October and extend its run date to May. A major change to this festival will be the holding of lectures, workshops and a celebratory party at the end of the festival run instead of the beginning.
“Instead of having all the guests coming at the very beginning of the festival, running workshops, lectures and so on, we decided that we would run these at the end of the festival,” said Jerome De Perlinghi, the festival’s artistic director. “Of course, that all depends upon the health situation of the country and the world at that time.”
Also, the festival will run for 200 days instead of the usual 100 days.
De Perlinghi noted that the outdoor photography festival will be a great activity for those looking for something different and safe to do.
“This could be one of the safest activities for people to do,” De Perlinghi said. “The virus is not on the photographs. You can always keep 20 feet between you and the people in front of you and behind you. I really do believe we are going to get more visitors — less people who will stay in Wilson a couple of days, but more people who will come for a day visit.”
“There have been so few activities for people to do the last seven or eight months now, so I think people will be very happy,” De Perlinghi continued. “Visitors will literally be able to dream in front of the photographs for a few seconds or a few minutes and have the feeling of doing something really interesting.”
This edition of Eyes on Main Street will see its large-scale photographs along different streets and new windows and walls. Construction work on several buildings on Nash Street resulted in a loss of 23 windows used to display the work of photographers from around the world.
Barnes Street will now be the main street, while keeping some work on Nash Street and connecting the two with photographs along Tarboro and Goldsboro streets. The exhibit starting point will be in front of Tig’s Courtyard, 109 Barnes St. W. The entire exhibit route is approximately 1 mile long.
De Perlinghi said that one benefit to the show running during the winter months is that the heat will not harm the posters as much as it does during the summer months.
“The photographs will suffer a lot less because of the cooler temperatures and less sunshine,” De Perlinghi said. “That is the reason we can do this for 200 days.”
REPRESENTING THE WORLD
The 100 photos in the 2020 edition of Eyes on Main Street feature both photographers and subject locations from around the world. All continents are represented, as are 38 nationalities and 47 countries. Fifty photographers are women, and 50 are men. Over the exhibit’s six-year run, 137 countries have been represented.
In addition to the 100 photographs showcased on windows and walls around the downtown area, several indoor exhibits will be available for viewing, with masks and social distancing required in the areas.
Between April 2019 and March of this year, 13 photographers from around the world participated in the festival’s residency program, shooting photographs in and around Wilson during the one month each photographer was here. Examples of their work will be exhibited in the Eyes on Main Street gallery at 231 Nash St., across from Imagination Station.
The Youth Photography Program Outdoor Exhibit features hundreds of photographs taken by Wilson youth during the 2019 workshops and Chinese youth during the festival’s collaboration with the Pingyao International Photography Festival in September 2019.
The first recipient of a $2,000 photo-reportage grant from the festival, Andra Hautanaki, will also have her work on display. Hautanki spent six months in the remote villages of southern Chile documenting the country’s rural school systems and the struggles of children in their daily lives. Her work was featured on a 20-page spread in the New York Times in August of this year, giving credit to the Eyes on Main Street festival for making her work possible. Thirty-six of her photos will be on display in the windows of 225 Nash St., three storefronts east of the Eyes on Main Street Gallery at 231 Nash St.
De Perlinghi encourages visitors to see the show multiple times during its 200-day run.
“You could see the show three times and see something different every time,” De Perlinghi said. “I’ve been seeing them for over a year now, and I always find something new.”
For more information about the Eyes on Main Street festival, visit www.eyesonmainstreetwilson.com.