Stopping Time: Photographer shares ‘quiet’ images in T2 exhibit

Stopping Time: Photographer shares ‘quiet’ images in T2 exhibit
LARA JO HIGHTOWER/Special to the Free Weekly

On June 2 and 3, a huge field on the outskirts of Prairie Grove will hold the largest selection of open-air flea market booths in the Northwest Arkansas area. From polished antiques to funky vintage treasures to rusty farm finds, shoppers should be rewarded with just about anything they’re looking for at the Junk Ranch, which boasts 150 vendors and more than 200 booths.

We asked a few vendors what they’re bringing to the event, how they got involved in junking, and what their best find ever was.

Don Wilkinson

Don Wilkinson found his way to junking the way a lot of vendors do: he kept finding great stuff while shopping for his own collection of vintage Speas Vinegar bottles. So when he retired in his mid-50s after 35 years with the Arkansas Highway Department, he threw his hat into the flea market ring and got a booth at one of the largest flea markets in the country in Canton, Texas. After 10 years of selling at Canton, he moved up to an even bigger venue — Round Top, Texas, the Holy Grail of flea markets.

“It was a lot of work on my part,” he says. “We would haul seven or eight trailer loads down between shows, store them, and then we’d go down and set up and stay two weeks, selling. We sold to people from everywhere — California and everywhere. They got to buying from me, and they actually got to buying too much. It became too much of a job, and age took over.”

Wilkinson is 85 now, and he was thrilled when the Junk Ranch opened up so near his home in Mountainburg. Though the main product he sells are chicken laying houses — he estimates he’s sold around 30,000 over the course of his junking career — the booth he runs with his son is an eclectic mix of auction, estate and farm sale finds.

Wilkinson’s best find ever was deceptively simple: a box full of old bottle caps.

“I told my wife, ‘I found the Holy Grail,’” he remembers. “They were unused, cork-lined Dr Pepper bottle caps from 1907. The first bottle caps ever used on a Dr Pepper bottle.”

When he put them on eBay, he says, “people went crazy.”

Stacey Murphy

The Weathered Pearl

Stacey Murphy’s relationship with the Junk Ranch started off as a shopper.

“I loved the eclectic mix of old, used, collectible items and the vendor inspired pieces! I thought to myself, ‘I could do this,’” she recalls. “I applied the next year, and junk has been my livelihood ever since.”

Murphy advises yard sale shoppers to look for the signs with a torn piece of cardboard with the word “sale” scribbled across it as a marker.

“Often these sales are not advertised on social media, so it increases your chances of finding a hidden treasure,” she says.

She also hits the widely advertised sales, like the Oklahoma 100-mile Yard Sale. That’s where she found her favorite find: a 13-foot late 1800s banquet table discovered in a barn in Cleveland, Okla.

“I have done several shows all over Oklahoma and Arkansas, and I would say what sets the Junk Ranch apart from the others is the venue itself, the friendly vendors, the amazing shoppers, but most of all how well [Junk Ranch founders] Amy [Daniels] and Julie [Speed] have it organized,” Murphy says.

Tracy Davis

Rusty Heart Relics

“I have always loved old things as long as I can remember,” says Tracy Davis of Rusty Heart Relics. “My mama had an eye for the ornate and passed it along to me. We spent many a weekend traveling the roads for that elusive treasure.”

For her booth, she stocks a wide variety of items.

“I love vintage and antique garden items, primitive and antique furniture, and holiday decor,” she says. “I loved MCM before it was cool.”

Her favorite find is an antique child’s bedroom suite she found at the famed Texas flea market Round Top.

“It is a beautiful faded robin’s egg blue with a painted design, and it’s to die for,” she says.

Davis has had a love affair with the Junk Ranch since the first year.

“From the live music and food trucks to the mountains of treasures and lovely vendors, I knew this was the show that I wanted to be a part of,” she says. “Amy and Julie are the best and treat us like family.”



Junk Ranch

WHEN — 9 a.m.-3 pm. June 2; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. June 3; tickets go on sale at 8 a.m.

WHERE — 11195 Centerpoint Church Road in Prairie Grove

COST — $10


Photographer Wesley Hitt calls himself an introvert. That’s OK — his work speaks plenty loud enough for him. Since he was 22 years old, the prolific Hitt has been making a living doing what he loves to do; photography, he says, is his hobby as well as his career. He has a diverse roster of clients that includes professional sports organizations like the NFL, the NBA and NASCAR; iconic Arkansas institutions and businesses like the University of Arkansas, Walmart, Tyson Foods, J.B. Hunt, TheatreSquared and a bevy of Arkansas hospitals; and national organizations and publications like Getty Images, Discovery Channel, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Yet the photography exhibit currently at TheatreSquared is the first time his body of work has been on display.

Hitt says the exhibit shows off a side of his work that isn’t always seen — “pretty pictures” of quiet scenes taken in Arkansas and around the country. (Photo by Wesley Hitt)

“When all of this all came about, I had to sit down and look at my work and think, ‘Well, what do I want to show?’” says Hitt. “I wanted to show something that not everybody sees.” He made his choices and, when he saw the complete exhibit, he noticed a pattern: There were plenty of photos that showed his skill in sports photography and other dynamic situations, but he had chosen a lot of “still” photos, as well. “I started looking at the pictures that are in the exhibit, and, I thought, ‘Holy cow, my whole career has been running up and down the sidelines or photographing people in motion, and everything that I wanted to show were just these quiet, simple moments.’ And that’s the opposite of what I do for a living. I think when I’m out on my own — I call it ‘seeing,’ driving around or on vacation — that’s where my mind goes, to that ‘simple.’ It’s just so easy for me to look at those kinds of scenes and see it. Pretty pictures, I like taking pretty pictures, I think.”

Hitt received a camera for a high school graduation present, and he was hooked. He attended a photography school in Massachusetts that emphasized business skills for artists.

“I think that helped more than anything,” says Hitt. “Their philosophy was that ‘We can only teach you so much about photography — you’re going to learn by doing. But if we can give you the knowledge about how business works and how to run a business, then you can make a career out of it.’”

Hitt’s first foray into sports photography was through a friend’s passion for motocross.

“I’m definitely an introvert and was very shy back then,” he says. “It was kind of a way to go along and have something to do at motocross [races]. When I’m taking pictures, I kind of hit a zone, and I don’t think about anything else. And it just kind of took off from there. This will be my 23rd or 24th year as an NFL photographer. I was the Razorback photographer for 10 years, Houston through Petrino, and so I’m known more for sports. But I’ve mostly done commercial and advertising work. I started in Little Rock, working with ad agencies and people like that.”

Hitt hasn’t limited his career to one photographic specialty but, instead, has found that his skills are ideal for a wide range of assignments.

“I’ve shot the [Walmart] shareholders meeting for 10 years,” he says. “I shoot down front, and one of the people that works there said they’ve noticed that I’m really good at capturing moments on stage. That’s why they like hiring me. And, again, that’s sports, too.”

It’s also what makes him good at shooting theater. He’s been photographing moments on stage for TheatreSquared for many seasons now.

“Theatre is ephemeral, it exists live, and for just that moment. Representing it in photos is so challenging,” says Martin Miller, T2 Executive Director. “We are so fortunate to work with a world-class photographer like Wesley Hitt who can capture that moment where light and movement make magic for our audiences.”

“We are so excited to celebrate Wesley’s work in The Commons this month,” says T2’s Director of Marketing and Communications Joanna Sheehan Bell. “Wesley brings an ability to almost stop time with his camera. I love that, in the exhibition, we get to see that skill in the remarkable work he does to capture amazing moments on our stages and also the gorgeous vistas and vignettes he’s captured from all over Arkansas.”

Wesley Hitt is known for his sports photography — his clients include the NBA, NFL and NASCAR — but in the span of his nearly four decade career, he has also found success in the fields of photojournalism and commercial and theatrical photography. A exhibit of his work at TheatreSquared gives a comprehensive look at his photographic achievements. (Courtesy Photo)


‘Light Moments’:

Wesley Hitt Photography

WHEN — Through Aug. 14

WHERE — TheatreSquared, 477 W. Spring St., Fayetteville

COST — Free


Categories: Galleries