Beautiful Moments: Photos Inspire 37th Annual Natchez Balloon Festival Artwork
Released at 5:00 am on Saturday, August 20, 2022
NATCHEZ — Beautiful moments in the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic inspired 37 artworksth Annual Natchez Balloon Festival.
Ben Hillyer has covered 21 balloon festivals Natchez Democrat Since joining the newspaper company as a photographer in 2000,
The Natchez Balloon Festival will still be held, but without the festival portion.
Instead, more than 30 hot air balloons were scattered across Miss Lugh, giving off a night balloon glow. One night it was so windy that many pilots did not inflate their balloons to light up, but a few did. One was Curt his Vitense, the Pig on Broadway Street, who joined the glow on the grassy field next to his outhouse.
Hillier saw the silhouette of a masked man standing alone on the front porch of Bontura, one of Natchez’s many historic homes, with balloons lighting up the night sky behind him.
Hillier saw an opportunity and waited for the perfect shot.
“I got a lot of positive response from it,” Hillier said. “A lot of people were like, ‘I could make that into a balloon race poster.’ The next year came and I decided that’s what I was going to do. I took a picture of it and made a poster for it.” I wanted to do it.”
In 2022, Hillier said no one wants to be reminded of COVID-19. He made some changes to his original photo and pieced the ideas together like a jigsaw puzzle. He fiddled with silhouettes on the balcony, swapping the masked man for his father and son at first, alone. Then he completely removed the silhouette, leaving only the balcony.
Although Bontura’s poster didn’t win the 2021 art contest, Hillyer used the same idea for the 2022 contest with some tweaks.
He added a raw oak tree branch that stretches to the top of the scene. Something was missing from those branches. Maybe a bird? Birds aren’t big enough for that space, so Hillier decided the cat could sit there and watch the balloons fly in the distance.
“The Natchez Balloon Festival is delighted to announce Ben Hillier as the winner of this year’s artwork competition,” said Carter Burns, Executive Director of the Historic Natchez Foundation. “The Natchez Balloon Festival Committee was impressed with the creativity of all the submissions received and would like to thank everyone who participated in the competition.”
Hillier’s artwork is available for purchase on posters or t-shirts at this year’s Balloon Festival in Rosalie, October 14-16. Barnes said the T-shirts and posters will be available to order by mid-September.
This is Hillyer’s third win in the Balloon Festival art competition. He entered the contest for the first time in his 2013 and won Clifton with a balloon-inspired piece flying over the cliffs of his Avenue. Hillier, who won his second championship in 2017, put together a colorful scene with flying balloons in the shape of famous buildings in his skyline, including St. Mary’s Basilica.
Alabama native, Hillier said he first became interested in photography when he was six or seven years old. His grandparents gave him his first camera, his KODAK with a 110 film cartridge and removable flash bulb on top.
“My grandparents were creative, artistic people,” Hillier said. “My grandmother was a weaver, my grandfather was a woodworker, and they exhibited their work in galleries in North Carolina.”
He graduated from Mississippi State University’s School of Architecture and worked in the field for nearly a decade before joining the Democratic Party in 2000 as a staff photographer.
Since then, he has held various positions at the newspaper, including creative director and news editor, and in 2020, he took on a new role as Digital Engagement Leader at The Democrat’s parent company, Boone Newspapers Inc.
Hillyer has won numerous state and local awards for photography, design and writing.
In addition to his newspaper work, he is also an accomplished artist and photographer, and his work has been featured in galleries around the country. and regularly participates in photography festivals in Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama.