Andy Hart has lived in the Hartford area his whole life and hasn't traveled much. "I went to Indianapolis once, for a funeral," Hart says.
Instead of traveling, the world has come to Hart. His job as a writer, editor and photographer at the weekly Hartford News has put him in the center of countless festivals, parades and celebrations where people of all the city's ethnicities gather to honor their heritages and cultures and have fun.
A photography exhibit at Real Art Ways, "Andy Hart's Hartford," is a heartwarming view of the capitol city at its most merry and colorful, as well as a chronicle of Hartford's impressive ethnic diversity.
Hart's entree into the world of photojournalism was a sneaky one. "I applied for a job [as a reporter] at the Glastonbury Citizen. They asked me, can you take photos, too? I said yes. I was lying. I got the job and they gave me a camera and I learned as I went along."
Over the years, he gravitated toward the jubilant street festivities held annually by various groups in the city, almost all of which are free.
"A lot of people don't realize how many communities there are," he says. "Bosnian, Guyanese, Karen. People may see black, white, Hispanic, but they don't see Peruvian, Mexican, Ecuadorean."
Photos in the gallery include snapshots of women preparing meals for hundreds at the Bosnian-American Islamic Cultural Center on Franklin Avenue; Laotian girls performing an elaborate dance with silver bowls at the Dragon Boat Festival; groups of Bhutanese refugees; African-American women dancing at the Charter Oak Cultural Center; a man portraying Jesus in the Puerto Rican community's annual Three Kings Day procession; an Italian-American man on Franklin Avenue celebrating Italy's success in the World Cup; two young dancers performing at Ukrainian National Home; white-veiled Turkish women at a refugee event sponsored by Hartford Areas Rally Together; a member of the Ebony Horsewomen in a flowing pink skirt; and a perfectly dressed little boy at a Portuguese festival.
"I think I overloaded my camera with cuteness on that one," Hart says.
The most moving photos juxtapose flags of nations of origin with American flags. All the photos were taken between 2005 and 2017.
Hart, who lives in the South End, says his favorite event is The Brotherhood of the Lord of Miracles, a procession held every October in Parkville by the city's Peruvian Catholics. "It's very moving to see how devoted the people are."
He's also fond of Incredible India. "You can't help but take a good picture there. Children are elaborately made up and clothed, to look like Hindu gods."
He mentions a time when one child looked more like he was from Hartford than India. "He comes out with a briefcase and in a suit and tie," Hart says. "He said 'I'm dressed as an insurance agent'."
ANDY HART'S HARTFORD is at Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor St. in Hartford, until Nov. 12. realartways.org.