By Renee Dominguez
The second we drove into the Four Sisters Ranch, I knew this was going to be different than any other festival I had been to, and I wanted a way to capture the core of this festival. I knew I was going to come back from this festival coverage with some sort of photo gallery. What I didn’t know was what my gallery was going to focus on. I love taking concert photography and capturing the moment when someone is in pure passion mode on stage. As I walked around the festival and noticed all the simple beauties that surrounded me, I realized that I needed to showcase everything other than the music. Of course, I took a sizable number of photos of the bands. My focus, however became the people of UTOPiA Fest. What did the people that attended this festival look like? What did they sound like? What was their story? I wanted to share that with everyone who wasn’t there, and somehow, I had to do that through silent photographs of them. I hope that I was successful in capturing the carefree, generous and uplifting spirit that haunted the Four Sisters Ranch on that September weekend in the small town of Utopia, Texas.
These are some of the personalities I was honored to have met while I was there:
An unexpected surprise took stage during Wild Child’s set. Moments before I snapped this photo, I received a tap on my shoulder. “Excuse me, can I get by,” a man said. “My buddy is about to get engaged.”
Walking out of Radio Man’s dome, I managed to recognize Alan Eckert as the drummer of the transcendental Texas folk band, The Deer. He said the band has played for KTSW before and that we have probably seen him around, to which I replied, “No, because I would have remembered you.”
I liked going into the crowd sometimes just to see what I could capture. These two were getting down to CAPYAC on a sunny Friday afternoon.
As more and more people gathered inside the tent, I forgot for a moment that I was at a music festival with 2,000 strangers. This tent made everything seem so small.
Freddie of Camp Honky Tonk chills with some people in the Far Outpost tent amongst other pop up shops aligned along the sidelines of the festival ground. “I don’t come to music festivals for the music,” said Freddie. “I come for the people.”
This picture encompasses everything that UTOPiAns stand for. Diversity. Acceptance. Uniqueness. Creativity. Family. Happiness.
Carefree and enjoying life, this child is my new spirit animal. “I made that,” I heard a voice say. The goal of this game was to catch the bubbles flying through the air with a huge smile on your face apparently.
Ismael from Do512 was at UTOPiA Fest collecting photos for the company. We saw him earlier that morning at one of the only places in Utopia, Texas to have Wi-Fi. He didn’t have that killer peacock feather on his face at breakfast, though.
Just like a burst of energy, three little boys came running into the tent. “We’re back,” said one of the three. Laughter broke out when a relative came by to tell the boys where the family was sitting and one of the boys exclaimed, “Not in front of the strangers!”
As we were driving out of Four Sisters Ranch, we drove passed a man walking with a guitar. He was too close for me to get the guitar in the picture, but I think his smile makes up for it.
Joining along in the dance party going on at Matthew Logan Vasquez’s set, this little girl was jamming out on the air guitar.
As everyone was looking at the sky as a plane did a penny drop, I managed to snap a quick photo of this UTOPiAn complete with one single purple rhinestone on his chest.
Beautiful and happy, a young girl passed around tea as the tent got more and more crowded.
A couple with their adorable hippie-in-progress allowed us to share a bench with them as we enjoyed our veggie burger.
Decked out in rave gear, ironically, Tommy and Christina don’t attend raves too often. “This kind of music (UTOPiA Fest) is more of her thing,” said Tommy.
This little boy is a brave soul for climbing on the roof of this car. I was amazed at how adventurous the children at UTOPiA Fest were.
A group of girls were really getting into the music at Matthew Logan Vasquez’s set. So much so, that I had to stop taking pictures and video so that I could join in for a little bit.
The volunteers were some of the kindest people at the festival. They did a lot of the work with smiles and high fives ready to go.
I snapped this picture because I liked her headband. Little did I know that later that night I would run into her and her headband again inside a small tent where we enjoyed some tea.
Three-year-old Isabella looks at the camera with what I think could be a mixture of curiosity and confusion. This is her first and last time at UTOPiA Fest since the announcement that this is its last year in Utopia, Texas.
Running into someone who was broadcasting the festival live from a white dome in the artist’s camping area was too perfect. Radio Man’s uplifting personality was even more perfect.
This couple is used to being stopped and asked for a picture. Their pose only emphasizes that point.
Casually chilling in the Far Outpost tent, Kofi is encouraged by Freddie to get up and have his picture taken. “You can use some color in your gallery,” Freddie said. “We can all use some color.”
Visiting from Australia, Chris rocks a rainbow on his chest as Laura carries around a lobster on her head. This is their last time at UTOPiA Fest because Laura is moving back to California and Chris is going back to Australia.
My partner in crime for the weekend, the incredibly talented Lucero Trevino. For being a sophomore, she sure does make me jealous of her eye and skill in photography.
Yu Shan was passionate and endearing when he spoke about the practice of tea drinking. He steeped Ultraviolet tea for the small community that formed inside the “Tea Lounge.”
I catch these little boys off guard as they climb on top of a chalked-out car parked in the middle of the festival ground. They catch me more off guard by dabbing.
All images by Renee Dominguez.