Bentonville O.G. ;)

Bentonville is a tiny little spot of heaven in the middle of nowhere. Undiscovered in its charm and small town uniqueness, a place I have always been honored to call home. In the last decade or so Bentonville has drastically changed! Northwest Arkansas’s metropolitan area is one of the fasted growing economies in the U.S. and it doesn’t show any signs of stopping!!!

It comes as no surprise to me that other people have noticed and love our beautiful little town. Located in such a lovely part of our country it’s so appealing in rich history and southern charm, what’s there not to love?! We’re so blessed with the benefits provided to our community by the many corporate headquarters located here. They help keep our country’s commerce running and fuel innovation throughout different industries for the future of the world! In turn making our community even more diverse and expansive as we move forward.

I recently had a friend, I’ve known most of my life, tell me she is coming to visit and wants to know what to do when they come! I was so happy to tell her about everything there’s to do here now! With all the growth and excitement I feel like sometimes I can’t even keep up with what all is happening! I got to the end of the conversation and realized I sounded like a travel agent for Northwest Arkansas! I get excited about sharing!!!

Most people leave their hometown wanting to seek bigger and better things. I feel like the bigger and better things have coming to me! I went to art school and then the art came here! How much luckier can I get?!

From the beautiful recently developed walking and biking trails that wind from Bella Vista all the way to Fayetteville to local breweries there is so much to experience in Northwest Arkansas! Pinnacle Hills, in Rogers, Ar has a beautiful sprawling outdoor mall that can keep you shopping until your hearts content…or your pockets empty! 😉 Bentonville’s 8th St. Market and the Art District is constantly evolving with innovative new businesses enriching our community with fine art, amazing food, and custom shops. Bentonville isn’t the only amazing little town here either! All of Northwest Arkansas is expanding at an astounding rate! Fayetteville Ar. is one of the top 5 best places in America to live, according to U.S. News & World Report in its annual “Best Places to Live” report. Every industry here is seeing a massive boom, adding to our ever growing Arkansas based businesses and communities!

What does that mean to the O.G.’s?! When I say O.G., being that I’m only 31 I can only go back so far, I know there are much more legit O.G’s! If any want to chime in please feel free to add a comment! I’d love to hear your stories! Locals have loved Bentonville before it started to evolve and become “cool”. We’ve watched how beautifully our sleepy little town has become a hub of new culture and interest from people around the world.

Growing up on Main St. and having relatives living all around downtown my entire life I have countless memories that make the Bentonville Square my favorite place! As a kid I remember spending time around the fountian downtown where only a few lawn chairs and a couple good ol’ boys playing folk music on Saturday nights filled the square. The farmers market was only about 10 booths and they only sold vegetables! When the coolest thing to do was walk around the Wal-Mart on Walton Blvd. and see ALL your friends doing the same!

Spending afternoons with my siblings at Bentonville Public Library, which at the time was located in the old Massey Hotel that is now Phat Tires Bike Shop, was my favorite space to pass time. The same place that sparked my love for art. Seeing a 3D model of Crystal Bridges with stars in my eyes. When I was just 11 years old, Crystal Bridges was just a concept living in the lobby of the library. I would see it every week and daydream about what it would be like. How it would open up my eyes to the world of art! I never imagined that I would get to experience it with my children! Literally puts the biggest a smile on my face! My love for Bentonville and the pride I have living here is grandiose! I absolutely love it and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

But, with this excitement and huge growth I also wonder how it will change our identity. There are locals opposed to the growth. They don’t like all the “newness” and change. I do not see change as a bad thing, uncomfortable at times-yes but, always an opportunity to become better in a new direction! That being said I wonder if we will lose our small town charm along the way? What will we become when there are 100’s of thousands of people living here….or even millions?! Will we get that big?! What will Bentonville look like? Will we lose our charm we are so dearly loved for?

All questions I am anxious to see play out. One thing’s for sure change is here and I am one to embrace it! ❤

*all photos are taken and copyrighted by Courtney Kitterman

ROOTS

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I am very much someone who snaps as many photos as the device I am using allows, sometimes to the point that it begs me to STOP! My cameras SD card cannot process the images fast enough or the app on my phone just completely shuts down….at which point I curse the ‘faulty’ equipment and decide I need a faster, more capable device that can keep up!!……Of course, I realize I just need to chill…(something I tell myself way too often).

I was a freshman at the University of Arkansas when my interest in photography sparked. I started with nature photography. Being here in the south, specially in the natural state, it’s quite easy to understand why I was most drawn to it! This was before cell phones had state-of-the-art cameras and digital photography was not something I was able to afford. I wanted to take photographs to stop time, preserve a moment, an emotional connection that I could create within an image. Studying classical art as my major, photography allowed me to be creative and expressive in a more direct way.

I had a class in black and white film photography that required me to buy a 35mm film camera. I needed to understand the basics, be at the heart of where photography originated. I wanted to develop the film and understand every aspect of it. Every step must be executed perfectly or you ruin it…and I did many, many times. I learned to love the process and how important the details are in creating a beautiful photograph. It’s such a beautiful art form from start to finish.

Landscapes, architecture, and things that would not change in the blink of an eye were my initial interests. I focused on stillness, lighting conditions, and composition. I was not confident enough to photograph people. I was either too shy or too worried that they wouldn’t like it.  I have since gained the confidence to photograph people and learned that the photos I am most drawn are when the subject is most natural and candid. Capturing real moments and expressions in people’s lives, that is what I really love.

Now, nearly every person has access to a device that can immediately create gorgeous images and print them without a thought to how it works. Even with my love for film photography I take full advantage of this technology. I love that I can take as many photos of my children as I want and capture them perfectly, instantly sharing it! I don’t have to wait to finish a roll of film, go to the dark room, and spend hours developing the photos to see if what I captured was beautiful or not.

That being said, I know I would not be as good if I hadn’t started on that old 35mm. I do appreciate the history of photography and the process a great deal but, I also really REALLY love what it has become! I am a self-proclaimed photo hoarder! I always have a camera on me ready to snap a photo at any second. I take photos every day. I document most of my life. I love photographing my children. I love watching them grow. I love sharing. I love sunsets…sunrise…street photography. I love photographing beautiful food….mainly just to show the people who take blurry washed-out photos of their over-cooked dinner every night what a real photo of beautifully cooked food looks like! Lol! I love constantly becoming a better photographer and growing as an artist.

What got me thinking and made me want to share the why behind my love for photography is a photo contest I recently entered. All the photos must be taken on a mobile device and there are 3 categories. This contest comes with the chance to win a newer, more ‘capable’ phone, further continuing my obsession!! (as she says with an evil grin).

For me, having my camera out capturing what I find beautiful enhances my experience. It doesn’t take away from my ‘moments’ or distracts me from enjoying it. I love being able to share the beauty I see.  I can’t imagine it not being part of my everyday life. Being creative grounds me and lets me express myself.

As I began to look through all the photos I have stored on my phone I realized I have over 10,000 images…remembering that I’ve only had this phone for about a year, I panicked a little and though “Never-mind, maybe I don’t really want a new phone after all!”

Luckily, I have a folder of only the best photos coming to a grand total of 2307 images. A number that is a bit easier to manage scanning through than a staggering 10,000. I decided to delete the rest! I should only keep the best ones anyway, right!? Why keep the others…but, I must say it was hard!! When you have endless storage and countless memories it’s real damn hard! But, if I’m not even willing to go through them it’s a sign I never will and don’t need them. Remembering that editing down is good and you don’t have to keep every image. A lesson I am constantly reminding myself. In a world of excess I want to only keep the best – the rest can go! As for the massive amount of photos stored on my computer……one mountain at a time!!! 😉

I love how photography has grown by leaps and bounds and I can’t wait to see where it goes next! I can’t wait to discover new ways of expressing myself and sharing the beauty of my southern world with others!