Hundreds of photos over four memorable nights.
BLINK, the spectacular art and light festival that took over the city (and blew my mind) in October of 2017, returned for its sophomore effort over the last four days. This time, instead of being localized to Downtown and Over-the-Rhine, BLINK crossed the river to light up various street corners of Covington as well. What resulted was over 20 blocks of light projections, interactive art installations, and new murals.
To kick things off, the BLINK parade took place at 7:30 PM on Thursday, October 10th. Illuminated creatures and people were staged in both halves of Piatt Park. I got there at 6:30 to scope things out. After arriving, I met with the other outlet photographers at the intersection to exchange words of wisdom and game plans for how to capture the parade. Steve May, my long-time friend and a videographer for RESLV, was busy recording the action. All of us were excited.
At 7:30, Jean-Robert de Cavel and the BLINK crew cut the ribbon just a few steps from Jean Robert’s Table. Confetti pops were drowned out by cheering, camera flashes illuminated the action with white light, and the parade entered the route behind the group.
Myself and the others walked backward with our viewfinders raised to our eyes, snapping incessantly between 8000 and 128000 ISO at roughly 1/100th of a second. Having little other option, I resolved to accept the grainy price that comes with crisp imagery in low light.
Thousands lined either side of the street with glow sticks and various light-up wands. The parade moved slowly, but I never stayed in one position; I didn’t want to block anyone’s view for more than 10 seconds at a time. To get as much as I could, I (literally) ran up and down Vine Street from 8th to 2nd and back several times. When I didn’t have a camera in front of my face, a handkerchief was pressed against my brow to keep sweat out of my eyes. Despite it being early October, the humidity was heavy.
As the natural light faded, so too did the street lights. Thankfully, 4th and Vine still had its on full-blast. That was a good spot for properly focused photos at a lower ISO. Needless to say, I was shooting on aperture priority at the widest aperture possible to ensure proper exposure. In retrospect, I wish I’d metered +1 to avoid having to bump up the exposure in Lightroom afterward.
The whole thing lasted about an hour and a half. Saw friends and shot alongside some of my favorite local photographers. I was hot, tired, and buzzing with adrenaline afterward. I met Ashley at the Banks, and we slowly made our way to the Roebling Bridge. That’s when we realized the bridge was completely full of pedestrians.
Hundreds, if not over a thousand people, were walking onto the middle of the bridge. Because traffic was shut down, everyone casually made their way onto the metal grating. A police officer realized what was happening and quickly started ordering people to get off the grating and prevented others from joining the rest. The private shuttle service, Oggo, was supposed to have exclusive rights to that corridor.
We used the sidewalk of the bridge to make our way to Covington. A large number of people were still on the metal grating in the middle corridor of the bridge. They were essentially “grandfathered” in because they were just beyond the police officer’s attention when he realized what was happening. As we made our way further onto the Roebling, I noticed I was having difficulty walking; the foot path beneath me was moving. I looked up at the cables and realized they were swaying back and forth in their sockets where they met the two stone pillars on either side. The slight buckling of the bridge was enough to make my stomach drop at least once.
It was like walking after having a few too many at the bar. We quickly made our way to the other side and were relieved to find solid footing after the whole ordeal.
From there, Ashley met up with friends and proceeded to go back Downtown while I photographed Covington’s BLINK installations. Below is a collection of those images.
During my Covington excursion, I randomly ran into my friends Mandy and Steve. Once we were ready to call it a night, we made our way back to the Roebling where things had stabilized. Because there wasn’t much of a line, we thought it might be fun to ride the Oggo back.
Night #1 was complete. The next night, Ashley and I decided to check out Court Street and OTR. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating and many of the installations didn’t turn on until 8 PM. As the night went on, the weather worsened, eventually pulling the plug on all of BLINK by 10 PM. As such, we couldn’t enjoy several of the animated murals and buildings, like Memorial Hall in Washington Park and a couple of murals along Liberty and Pleasant Streets. It wasn’t the optimal BLINK experience, but we made the best of it.
Crowds were noticeably smaller Friday night due to the rain. While it was personally nice not to sweat, the temperature had dropped so considerably by the end of the night that we were both physically uncomfortable.
COURT STREET & OTR
On night #3, we met up with friends and started at The Banks with the intention to move through the rest of Downtown. Unlike Friday, the weather was perfect and the crowds were substantially larger. Thousands of people swarmed the streets. On the streets where cars were permitted, the sidewalks overflowed with bodies and strollers. 6th and Walnut Street was a particularly popular place to be, as was Gano Alley across from the Aronoff.
RIVERFRONT & DOWNTOWN
We ended up going back into OTR the same night, so I was able to see a few animations I hadn’t gotten to see the previous day. The Ralph Steadman mural had a particularly good story to it.
Finally, on the final night, I went out by myself to catch a couple things I’d missed over the previous few days. I headed to Washington Park first so I could see the glowing toilets and the projections on Memorial Hall and Cincy Shakes. A pit stop at Court Street was inevitable.
ONE FINAL RUN-THROUGH
With OTR finished, I walked down Race Street toward the riverfront. I’m not a take-1,000-photos-of-the-Roebling-Bridge-every-month person, but I really wanted to capture it while it was lit up for BLINK. It’s not often that bridge glows different colors. To do that, I needed to go to Covington.
RIVERFRONT TRANSIT CENTER
On the way, though, I stopped by the Riverfront Transit Center, which the city was using as a temporary replacement for Government Square during BLINK. I’d only been down there a couple of times before, so it was nice to return to it without feeling like I wasn’t supposed to be there. It was cool to see it actually being used for its original, intended purpose. While it’s unlikely we’ll see daily use of the RTC going forward, I’m hopeful the city sees how smoothly the process went and makes use of this piece of infrastructure beyond just a four-day festival in the future.
After exiting the RTC, I walked across the Roebling Bridge to get photos before BLINK formally ended. I walked down to the riverfront on the Covington side and found Bill Rinehart sitting on a low wall admiring the bridge. We chatted for a bit, I got my photos, and I made the return trip back downtown.
i should’ve spent more time photographing the bridge, but I wanted to make sure the other photographers who’d come down to do the same thing got their shot without my dumb head in it.
BLINK wrapped up, I went home, and the massive art and light festival we’d enjoyed over the several previous days quietly powered down. As I walked straight up the middle of Main Street back to my home, I thought about how neat it was to see so many people Downtown over the last few days. While I’m glad it’s not that busy every weekend, it would certainly be amazing if more people hung out down here. Having all that positive energy in the inner city was refreshing.