ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque residents can expect to see a large group of cosplayers and photographers, wandering around Old Town on Saturday. For the first time in over a year, the Albuquerque Street Meet is returning to Duke City. It’s the city’s largest gathering of photographers, videographers, makeup artists, and cosplayers.

Megan Kamauoha said it all started because she was complaining to her friends about feeling isolated back in 2018. She was feeling frustrated at the lack of opportunities to meet other creatives. That’s when her friend encouraged her to be the one to create that opportunity for herself and others.

“I created the event and decided to make it big, let’s make it so that way everyone is included. That’s how it started, was me complaining that I wasn’t feeling included, and I just wanted to change the way the creative culture in Albuquerque was at the time,” Kamauoha said.

The culture at the time, Kamauoha said, felt very competitive because photographers were hesitant to share helpful information with each other; like photo locations, makeup artists, or models. This led to the first-ever street meet event that had about 50 attendees.

Stephany Taylor came across one of the street meet events through social media and decided to check it out. At the time, she was wanting to practice her photography skills, but she too felt excluded by many prominent photographers at the time. “None of them were interested in helping me as being an assistant or anything. I felt like they were gatekeeping a lot of the information about how to book clients, or even how to pose or what time of day would be better,” Taylor said.

She noticed an entirely different experience when she came to one of the events early on. “It was exciting. I was shocked to meet people who were more than willing to help me learn and share their knowledge,” Taylor said.

Kamauoha said the events are meant to be a jumping-off point for local artists to network and collaborate, but the goal is always to create a safe space to help people find collaborators for their own personal projects. “You need people to bounce ideas off of and have those people say, ‘I like that idea, here’s what I can bring to the table,'” Kamauoha said.

Jose Casias has been part of Albuquerque Street Meet as a photographer since its inception and has seen firsthand the good things that come from networking with other local artists. “After my first Street Meet, I booked my first jewelry shoot. I was able to get into a jewelry catalog. So it just really helps you launch your career and portfolio,” Casias said. “And if you’re looking to photography either as a hobby or even as a profession, it really helps you meet a lot of people that can get that ball rolling.”

Celine Kamauoha began participating in the street meet events because of her sister but continued because she found her new passions–modeling and special effects makeup. She said ever since her sister picked up a camera, she was always on the other side of it.

The first Albuquerque Street Meet in June of 2018. Courtesy of Megan Kamauoha.

“The progression of Street Meet is like the progression of my adult life and you get to see that in a sense,” Celine said. “Street Meet is so cool because even if you come in as a person who wants to be involved, you’re able to get involved and integrated very easily and very quickly.”

Abril Storms is part of the administrative team that keeps the event and overall group running. They come up with ideas for events or help problem-solve when there’s a hiccup in the planning. Initially, she felt intimidated joining the community as a newcomer. “I was so scared and I didn’t really know what to do, but everyone was so welcoming. The whole experience felt so uplifting,” Storms said.

Megan says she wants the community to know hat that everyone is welcome. “Not everyone believes in the arts. I was lucky because my parents encouraged me in that, but not everyone has that. I want people to know that they’re valuable. The goal of the meets is to push creatives forward and give them the support we all need,” Kamauoha said

The fourth annual Albuquerque Street Meet will be held on Saturday. Everyone will meet at Tiguex Park and walk through Old Town beginning at 6 p.m. For more information, visit the ABQ Street Meet Instagram page.