Desert Companion

Tradition in Sight

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Christopher Smith

My usual response to the word “tradition” is a whiplashy gag of nausea and dread at its connotations of unthinking obedience and ritualized conformity but, no lie, I actually love the way it sounds when applied to our Focus on Nevada photo contest. I’m rolling with it: Now in its 10th year, Focus on Nevada isn’t just an annual magazine feature, or a fun contest, or a cool party, or an awesome touring exhibit — though it is all of those things. But in the way those distinct components snap together to Voltron into something bigger, it’s truly become a community tradition — and I mean tradition in the best way, one that connects and inspires people, and recognizes them as the source of the tradition, not as subjects of it. What I’m thinking of specifically as I philosophize flailingly at the keyboard is the gushing volcano of giddy excitement that explodes in the room whenever we announce a winner at our annual Focus on Nevada showcase bash. I’m always down for that kind of tradition! (If you missed the party, no biggie: You can celebrate by clicking over to our showcase of winners and wooting heartily at your discretion.)

Another thing I love about the party is less obvious: The eager chatter among our honorees as they nerd out and congenially trade intel on craft and technique — in other words, hearing visual artists talk shop about how they got the shot, percolating ideas and inspiration on the fly. This is culture happening in real time, and it’s as precious as any prize. As valley home prices continue to soar and rents continue to tick greedily upward — slowly transforming Vegas into something decidedly different than the town whose cost of living has made it historically friendly to working-class artists and creatives — I certainly hope our radiant city isn’t bled of the crazy color our artists bring. Some traditions, after all, should be preserved.

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