This will probably be my last year attending the Whole Life Expo.
Last year, I had a lot of fun, took some great photos, tried some foods (some great; some not-so great) and learned a lot about the field of alternative health and its practitioners. This year, if I had to sum up my experience in one word, it would be “disappointed”. I was harassed and threatened by the organizers and had to endure Julia Woodford, the woman responsible for organizing the expo, explain to me how my photography was illegal, lacked integrity, and constituted slander (ironic, given the accusations she was flinging around). From the very second we stepped foot in the expo’s main exhibit hall, it was made abundantly clear that we were persona non grata.
But all of this was largely irrelevant. I can handle being yelled at, verbally abused, and being told I lack integrity. Even the clearly threatening demeanor of the expo’s volunteers didn’t bother me too much. What really irked me was the veil of secrecy that was thrown over this year’s expo, in the form of a policy that prohibited any non-approved photography, videography, or audio recordings of the event — a policy that was not in place last year. As an amateur photographer, I enjoy taking photos and last year, I was able to produce a fairly extensive collection of photos from the expo that are still used and referenced on a fairly regular basis.
This year, we could barely speak to anybody, given the level of paranoia created by a combination of the expo’s new recording policies, the overly-aggressive event staff, and the two public announcements that were made to specifically tell everyone to watch out for the skeptics in black [context]. Stephen, a man who ran a chakra-balancing booth at the expo, was awesome for being the only person this weekend who spoke to Julia Woodford on our behalf and granted us permission to take photos of him and his booth. Thanks, Stephen!
Julia Woodford, the organizer of the expo, accused me of taking “illegal” photographs and “lacking integrity” as a photographer. I suppose this sort of reaction was to be expected when my (fully legal) photography demonstrated that ear candling took place at the expo last year, despite her statements to the contrary. Prohibiting photography was probably the best tactic they could come up with when it became obvious that no attempt had been made to either stop ear candling treatments, or to prohibit the sale of ear candles, contrary to Julia Woodford’s public assurance.
It would be dishonest for me to say that I didn’t go to the Whole Life Expo with some pretty strong pre-conceived notions of the validity of many of the products and practices sold there. What I did not do was go with the intent to confront, harass or ridicule the expo’s other attendees or their beliefs, which is more than can be said about the expo’s organizers. Last year’s Whole Life Expo was an eye-opening experience where I was exposed to many different health products and viewpoints. Even though my mind remained unchanged, I still felt that the experience was a productive and enlightening one. This year, that was not the case.