I spent this last week at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for the University Photographers Association of America’s annual symposium. This year, WFU was hosting (the location changes every year. The last symposium I went to was a few years back at Michigan).
A full week-long, the event is fun, informative and exhausting with lectures, presentations, demonstrations, and lots of meeting new people.
I was honored this year to be asked to participate in the Triple Play. I received an email from the UPAA president a few weeks back inviting me to participate, explaining that it is an exercise to “simulate an impromptu photo assignment that we all experience weekly maybe daily.” Three photographers would be put into a room together after having fifteen minutes to scope out the same building on campus. We would then be pulled from the room one at a time, introduced to the subject, and given fifteen minutes to take a portrait.
Since a video producer would follow us around and make a video of us working which would then be shared with all those in attendance at the symposium a few days later, I decided to skip it.
A few days after getting the first email, the president contacted me again and asked if I was interested. It was at this point that i realized it was not a group email calling for volunteers as I’d first thought. So I agreed, flattered that I was picked out of about 110 people.
The symposium started Monday night, the Triple Play shooting would take place Wednesday afternoon, and we three photographers would present our work from the shoot Friday morning. I didn’t sleep well Tuesday night and although I wasn’t consciously thinking about the challenge, I’m sure it was the reason. I was nervous all day Wednesday too, and when it came time to shoot, the skies opened up and it began to pour. I felt for Patrick, who went first, because he got the bulk of the rain hindering him. By the time his fifteen minutes were up, the rain had passed and I had clear(ish) skies.
I shot my pictures with the amiable professor who was chosen. I really felt for him. It was humid and pushing 90 for sure there in North Carolina. And he had to do this three times!
As I edited my work back in the hotel later on, I was interested to find a few things I would have done differently. This is something I think I’ll try to do more regularly in my day-to-day work. Typically, I just choose the best images with no “Monday morning quarterbacking”. This situation had me thinking a bit more though, and that could help me improve.
So a few days later I presented to maybe 80 people (some people had left the symposium at this point). Having lots of practice presenting to the MarCom department at BU twice a year was good practice, but this was different considering the audience!
It went fine and I received some good questions, including one about this photo, at right, which was my favorite. Now admittedly, when this one came on the screen, everyone laughed, so it’s obviously not the most flattering (so interesting to hear other’s gut reaction to a photo I didn’t think was funny, by the way)
“But I think that photo isn’t very flattering” one member said after I menitoned that it was my favorite
“Yeah, it may not be flattering but it’s still my favorite. I don’t remember taking the picture. I like the body language and the fact that he was caught off guard. not grinning widely”
“But it’s just not the best one”
“It may not be. And for the assignment – which was to take a photo of a professor who won an award – it doesn’t work. He should have a smile on his face for winning an award. But this does work if a more serious shot is needed at some point”
“But he just has a strange expression on his face”
“And I’m not the only eyes who would see this before it got sent to layout. There are other pictures of him that are serious and if I thought this one was unflattering, or my photo editor was concerned about that, I would remove it from circulation so it wouldn’t get used. I’m just saying this one is my favorite.”
“but his lip looks strange…” she continues on for a little bit and it was clear that this member has been basically saying she doesn’t like the photo. That’s OK, but since I had gotten to a point where I didn’t know what else to say to her, I thought for a moment, looking at her, and sort of shrugged before saying “I can’t fix his face”. My response was received with a roar of laughter and a round of applause.
So even if my photos sucked, which I don’t feel they did (I got a lot of nice compliments later on, including a few people appreciating me explaining my thought process and how I work – I’m glad to be helpful!) at least I made everyone laugh.
Here are the other photos I presented.
And here’s what I like to call the Relieved The Triple Play Is Over Selfie with Patrick (center) and Chris