Last spring, photographer Kristina Perkins was at a crossroads. She hated her job, and felt antsy to travel. Finally, she made a decision: "I'm going to do it. I'm going to give a block of time to travel around the country and take photographs." It was an idea that had been lurking in her mind ever since college, when she took a Greyhound bus to visit a friend who lived in Montana, taking pictures of people she met along the way. So with the help of donations from friends and family, as well as her own money, Perkins bought a bus ticket for $430 and travelled to 37 states, taking over 4,000 photographs along the way.
Last November, she applied for the Feast
grant in order to get funding to print and frame her photographs and show them to the public. The way that Feast works is that audience members donate money at the door, have dinner, and vote on different candidates. Perkins won the grant she applied for, which amounted to $500. But instead of spending money renting a space, she decided to present her work at her own studio, which she rents with seven other artists.
Perkins describes her trip as exciting, stressful, and scary. Highlights, included visiting Seattle during the Bumpershoot Festival and two places she had never been to before but totally fell in love with. The first was Salt Lake City, Utah. "I would never live in Utah, but it is gorgeous," Perkins says. She was very surprised by how much she liked it. She also stayed with a friend's parents who live in Lafayette, Louisiana, and went to Baton Rouge for a day, as well as New Orleans. "People in that state are incredible," she says. "They are so full of life."
During long stretches of time on the bus, Perkins ate a lot of peanut M&Ms and drank lots of coffee. She updated her blog
on her phone, where she was able to jot down stories about the people she was meeting. She also spent a lot of time staring out the window, and checking out the landscape.
The show that she's presenting this Saturday will be a mix of portraits and landscapes/buildings, but probably more of the latter, she says, because not everyone was willing to give permission for her to show their photographs on a public forum.
When she first started on her journey, she acted as a fly on the wall, trying to be an observer with her headphones on. People would see her camera and start asking her questions. "If people approached me I would tell them what I was up to," she says. "I tried not to broadcast it too much." As a woman traveling alone with expensive camera equipment and a laptop computer, she didn't want to garner too much attention.
Still, as time went on, Perkins became more comfortable with her surroundings, and more comfortable talking to people. "The number one question on the bus was 'Where did you come from? Where are you going?'" Perkins says. "We started swapping stories. I gave people my card."
Perkins for the most part stayed with friends, friends of friends, and family along the way, otherwise sleeping on the bus or at the station. Other than the price of her bus ticket, she ended up only spending a couple hundred dollars because she was able to find so many people along the way that would give her a place to stay and some food to eat. "It was the most inexpensive trip I've ever taken," she says.
Perkins will be showing her work at her exhibition, "Falling Asleep Behind the Lens," at Studio 204 (1330 Quincy Ave. NE, Minneapolis). The opening reception takes place on Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. Admission is free and at 8 p.m. the Seattle band Grand Hallway, which was Perkins's first road trip soundtrack, will be performing.