H OUR TO hour, on a day with blue skies, green grass and wildflowers, it’s not especially difficult to find reasons to love this state—spring days, fog blankets on early mornings, silhouettes of hawks wheeling overhead, that beautiful exchange of the life we see giving life right back. And then there are days like March 7, 2019: gray, gloomy and waterlogged the whole state over. And while you might think such a day would’ve been less than ideal for an ambitious photo-driven project—a day on which 14 photographers all across Arkansas had been tasked with capturing reasons why they love this state—the results couldn’t have been any better. When the submissions came in, the iconic mainstays of Arkansas’ natural beauty were mostly lacking; instead, what we found were intimate moments, more personal vignettes, imagery that we suspect would’ve been less prevalent on a fairer-weathered, blue-skied day. With these images, we got the truest heart of our state—and honestly, that’s reason enough for us.


 

 

7:42 A.M.

ARSHIA KHAN

Resides in: Little Rock

Photographed: On the base trail at Pinnacle Mountain State Park

As my husband runs the trails at the foot of Pinnacle Mountain, he always pauses to bring home a few perfect, tiny wildflowers for me. Depending on the season, these beauties range from lilac bird’s foot violets to bright-pink downy phlox and yellowy Lance-leaved coreopsis. I’m enamored with these small wonders—a tiny flower, a patch of sunlight, a feather in the breeze. And it’s these tiny, seemingly insignificant things that make life so overwhelmingly beautiful.

 

 

 


8:08 A.M.

TERRA FONDRIEST

Resides in: Harrison

Photographed: At Norton Family Farm

I’d told fourth-generation cattle farmer Will Norton that I wanted to photograph his “everyday” for the “Reasons I love Arkansas” article. I have a deep respect and interest in people who work with the land and their reasons why. Pointing to his feet standing on the dirt in a pasture next to his home, he says, “because my great-grandfather worked cattle and lived on this same soil.” Any person with sense could feel the passion in Will’s voice about his family and land as he talked about them. He, his cow dog Gypsy and I go around feeding, checking cattle and sometimes corralling, as he does 365 days a year. It’s fun and interesting for me to see his daily routine, but for him, it runs deep on a whole different level. This is his everyday, whether rain or shine, in below-freezing temps, in sweltering heat or below perfect blue skies. It’s about the relationship between the land and him. “This is what I know how to do, and this is all I want to do.”


 

10:31 A.M.

DANIELLE GREEN

Resides in: Springdale

Photographed: At her kitchen table

Social media has changed how we perceive ourselves and others. All my images on my professional and personal Instagrams are highly curated and digitally rendered. I’m a visual artist, so that is part of my playground. But the reason I love Arkansas is that it is home. It is where I have met and grown with the people I love. It’s where I’ve created organic memories over the years. Before I ever became a photographer, my mother captured me with a Polaroid, and I captured my infant son with Polaroids. Even after becoming a professional, I never stopped using them just for my family and close friends. I kept this tradition because it was separate from my work. I didn’t have to edit them, so that gave me true freedom to be present in each moment. It is raw. Even my kitchen table is a bit dirty from breakfast this morning. So this is an honest depiction of my Arkansas life, made up of moments when I was truly present. And those moments leave me deeply fulfilled.

 


11:39 A.M.

JOHN DAVID PITTMAN

Resides in: Little Rock

Photographed: In his late grandfather’s kitchen in Hackett

My list of reasons to love Arkansas is easily consolidated into a single point. It’s home. I was raised in the tiny town of Hackett, near the state’s western border. It’s a place at least four generations of Pittmans before me called home as well. Today, I choose to make Little Rock home. I travel a lot, and there are always opportunities to move away, but I don’t because I think, deep down, I believe that if you want to change the world, start at home. This photograph is of my late grandfather’s chair at the kitchen table in his home in Hackett.


12:53 P.M.

BRANDON MARKIN

Resides in: Little Rock

Photographed: Near Scott

It’s a cold, rainy morning, but a good one. The sound of the train wheels click on the tracks as a heavy drizzle smears an impressionist masterpiece on my windshield. Uphill, I see where the river bends and drive down a country road. Geese glide across a plate-glass lake toward a live-oak horizon. Soul food for lunch. It feels like home.


2:05 P.M.

LACORA WHITE

Resides in: Pine Bluff

Photographed: At Coretta Scott King Center park in Pine Bluff

I chose the lake because it brings back so many of my childhood memories—when my dad used to take me and my brothers fishing, when I caught my first fish, when we used to camp out, when my brothers and my friends and I used to go swimming in the lake. Like literally, the lake has always been there. And as I’ve gotten older—I’m in college now—the lake for me is a getaway. So I can just go to any lake, it doesn’t really matter which one, and just get away, clear my mind.


2:39 P.M.

BEVERLY BUYS

Resides in: Hot Springs

Photographed: On the shoreline of Lake Ouachita at Tompkins Bend

Thursday was chilly and damp. It rained early, but for most of the day, it was cloudy with brief periods of drizzle. It is still winter, but signs of spring are everywhere, with the earliest flowers beginning to bloom. I had lunch at the Shangri-La Resort Restaurant, then decided to go check on my favorite campsite at Tompkins Bend. Where water meets land is a dynamic place. Washed pebbles and beach litter offered up an organically arranged still life of sorts. Whether focused on the broad landscape or on the macro view, I always feel renewed when I am near the water.


4:24 P.M.

DANNY FIGUEROA

Resides in: De Queen

Photographed: At Taqueria El Paisano in downtown De Queen

It wasn’t until 2016 that I was able to finally figure out why a central force of Hispanic families was food. That year, I was finally able to walk the streets of my city, where every sidewalk was proudly hosting a traditional Mexican dish, from tacos to quesadillas, pambazos and delicious aguas frescas. My city was alive—alive with lights, smells and sounds that resembled those of my birthplace, Mexico City. De Queen felt so oddly, but satisfyingly, like the streets I had walked in Mexico. The taco stand I photographed means home to me. It means that in a place thousands of miles from home, I am home. I am a proud Mexican Arkansan, and our diversity is just one more reason I love Arkansas.


5:40 P.M.

SABINE SCHMIDT

Resides in: Hazel Valley

Photographed: Outside the Fenix Gallery in Fayetteville

Artists Cindy Arsaga and Don House came to Fayetteville decades ago. One started a coffeehouse empire, the other a career as a fine-art photographer. Both have been shaping the city (and parts beyond) ever since. Here, they are revealing their first artistic collaboration: an encaustic by Cindy that incorporates a photo by Don. Their dedication to their community, their boundless creativity and their long friendship are true Arkansas.


 

 

6:30 P.M.

MATT WHITE

Resides in: Little Rock

Photographed: Upstairs at Little Rock’s White Water Tavern

From the hills of the Ozarks to the expanse of the Delta, superb music abounds in The Natural State. I shot this portrait of the hip-hop and blues artist Rah Howard upstairs at the White Water Tavern, where he was sitting in on his father’s weekly performance. Rah’s is a style which melds the region’s deep musical roots with an ear to the future. He is a shining example of the countless hardworking artists whose work and talent make Arkansas a better place to live.

 

 

 


6:37 P.M.

CHRISTIE KLEPPER

Resides in: Maumelle

Photographed: In her backyard in Maumelle

I had grand plans to go to a few different places with the kids, but the plans fell through. We tried getting out for a little while in the cold and ended up back at our home and decided to have a little fire in the backyard. And that brings me to the fact that my favorite thing about Arkansas is that it just feels like home. Our home. We love all of the nature that we can live among, and we love our home.


8:17 P.M.

BENJAMIN KRAIN

Resides in: Little Rock

Photographed: At the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock

Working as a photojournalist for over 20 years has enabled me to meet thousands of people from all over Arkansas and experience so many amazing cultural and community events. Sports in particular is a major part of many Arkansans’ lives, despite the state not having any professional teams. Athletes, parents and fans here are dedicated to all aspects of recreational and competitive sports. This assignment comes in a month when basketball is the king of all sports as the March Madness Tournament kicks off. The photograph here is from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock men’s final basketball game of the season. They will not make it to the tournament. The women’s team, which made it last year, had a great chance of making it again. (Editor’s note: The women’s team indeed made the tournament, but unfortunately fell to Gonzaga in the first round on March 23.)


8:28 P.M.

AARON TURNER

Resides in: Fayetteville

Photographed: In downtown Fayetteville

You said it could literally be anything. I kept trying to figure out what to shoot, but I don’t really have a connection to this part of the state that says “why I love Arkansas” (I grew up in the Arkansas Delta, but haven’t lived in Arkansas since about the age of 13). But I remembered how nighttime felt and how I enjoyed it when I was younger here—and that’s something I think is indicative of living in Arkansas, how easygoing and comforting it can be. Now returning to live in Northwest Arkansas at age 28, the nighttime still feels the same.


9:30−11:41 P.M.

ERRICK JACKSON

Resides in: Little Rock

Photographed: In downtown Little Rock

As a portrait photographer and a resident of downtown Little Rock, this state is all about the energy of the people moving around in it. I initially wanted to catch the morning movement around sunrise and midday, but as it happens, the weather wasn’t on our side. I decided to come back out at night when I knew the city would certainly be active. The beautiful thing about this city is that it has whatever energy you want to bring to it. Whether you prefer the still, silent ambiance of a relaxed populace or the friendly, adventurous spirit of explorative friends, you can find it here—any day, any night.