Hi Gang: Sorry for the late post today —- I got in off a red-eye and I’m still blurry-eyed this morning, but I wanted to share some images from the conference out in San Francisco this week.
What an incredible event! The sold-out conference had an energy and vibe perhaps even beyond that of Photoshop World, and the photographers there were engaged at a level that had a smile on everybody’s face the whole time.
My thanks to everyone at Google who made the event happen (big shout out to Francois, Jenny, Mike, Brian and Vincent), to all the incredible instructors who gave their time, expertise and heart; to my crew here at Kelby Media Group (high-fives to Dave, Kathy, Julie, Tom, the Photoshop Guys, and a special thanks to my wife Kalebra who came up with a lot of the ideas for the conference, but sadly didn’t get to be there to see the “birth” of this new conference (even though she wasn’t there, her presence was felt throughout). Here’s why she couldn’t be there.
Also, thanks to Google co-founder Sergey Brin who make a surprise appearance at the conference to publicly show the much talked about “Google Glass” project (see the photos below) which totally blew everybody away. Amazing technology!
Here’s a few photos (courtesy of our own RC Concepcion — thanks man!) from the event to give you a glimpse of the going’s on. Lot smote info to come, but for now, here’s a quick peek:
Above:Here’s a shot of the main theater during the opening keynote
Above:Here’s a shot taken during my live “Crush The Composition” class.
Above:Google VP Bradley Horowitz during his opening keynote presentation
Above:Here I’m fielding live questions for Bradley from the audience via an iPad
Above:We had three training rooms, and here’s a panel from the “Forum” classroom. From L to R: Catherine Hall, Nicole Young, Brian Matiash, Colby Brown (holding cute baby), and Matt Kloskowski.
Above:Jeremy Cowart in one of our “one-on-one” portfolio reviews. By the way; we did an after-hours session called “An evening with Jeremy Cowart” that just blew everybody away. It was the talk of the conference!
Above:Here’s a shot of the Registration desk during calmer times. From L to R: Dianne Brisson, Paul Wilder, Victor Garcia, Kathy Siler and hidden is 1/2 of our Conference Director’s head, Julie Stephenson.
Above:Matt Kloskowski on stage during one of his sessions in the Forum.
Above:Guy Kawasaki, an avid photographer himself, during his session on branding in the main theater. Guy rocked it!!!!
Above:A view of the crew backstage.
Above:That’s Frederick Van and the gang from Pixel Corps who were handling the live streaming duties backstage.
Above:Peter Hurley and Catherine Hall hanging out in the audience.
Above:That’s Peter Hurley during his “Art of the Headshot” presentation.
Above:Guy on-stage with a live panel joining him via a Google+ Hangout.
Above:Guy after his sessions talking with Dave Gales and yours truly.
Above:Alex Kolosov during his live product shoot.
Above:From my live “Crush the Composition” class.
Above:The panel from our live “Blind Critiques” session. From L to R: Trey Ratcliff, Jeremy Cowart, Me, and Matt Kloskowski.
Above:Erik Valind absolutely killed in his live shoot sessions!
Above:Google co-founder Sergey Brin makes a surprise guest appearance at the Conference to demonstrate the Google Glass project. The crowd was just blown away! (Photo by Brad Moore).
Above:Brad snapped a photo of Sergey and me after his presentation (note Sergey’s Google Glass). Photo by Brad Moore.
Above:Sergey invited a group of conference attendees and instructors to join him for an impromptu Photo Walk and everybody got to try out the Google Glass for themselves. Serious, how cool is that!
I have so much more to share, and I will in the coming days, but I want to once again thank Google for sponsoring the event as a whole, and to thank our participating sponsors whose support make a huge difference, including Peachpit Press, B&H Photo, Smugmug, MPIX, Adobe, Wacom, FJ Westcott, Adorama, BorrowLenses.com, OnOne Software, Bay Photo, and Nik Software. We couldn’t have done it without you!
Last night I was seeing tons of great comments posted on Google+ and on Twitter from people who attended the conference, and I thought I’d share a few with you here, as it really gives you a feel for the amazing vibe of the conference and how it affected the attendees.
“The G+ Photographer’s Conference was a HUGE success!! Truly like a festival of great ideas, inspiration, warmth and good will.”
“I can’t really describe how much fun I had at the +Google+ Photographer’s Conference this week. I met so many amazing people and learned SO much about G+ and how I can use it better. It was kind of sad when I deleted the conference app off my phone earlier tonight… But I’ll be back next year for sure.”
“…Before the show had even started I was having the time of my life. Then it continued as I met and connected with even more people and got to hear people like +Trey Ratcliff, +Colby Brown, +Scott Kelby and +Brian Matiash speak about yourselves and how you move this this photographic world we live in. This will definitely be a highlight in my life for sure.”
“I really am at a loss for words for the experiences I have had over the last 2 days.”
“Whether you are a Google+ fan boy/girl or a Google+ hater, there is no denying that +Scott Kelby, his team, and the amazing panelists at the +Google+ Photographer’s Conference worked so tirelessly to make this conference absolute success.”
“I learned so much on these last two days than I ever anticipated I would. I stepped out of comfort zone ant tried things I wouldn’t have been offered the opportunity to do without…”
“Thank you +Scott Kelby for these last few days at the +Google+ Photographer’s Conference. I’m thrilled to have been a part, and I’m even more thrilled for the inspiration to get back to what I love doing.”
“I took a few hours this morning and worked on my Google+ Photographer’s Conference story. I want to share this so you can see the power of this community and of social media in general. When used to their fullest potential. these platforms can be used to facilitate life-changing events. I know Google+ and this event changed mine.”
“The +Google+ Photographer’s Conference was a blast! Day one started with a Photo walk around the Castro with +Matt Kloskowski. The next two days were filled with fun and interesting information not only about photography, but about using Google Plus more effectively. On the final Day, we did a live photo Shoot with Matt, and +Scott Kelby. Overall, the conference was a deluge of information, but very much worth the time.”
“Too many favorites! The +Google+ Photographer’s Conference was a hit. Great thanks!”
”Favorite part: having so many inspiring photographers around and willing to help.”
”Day one was amazing, i cannot wait for day 2.”
”This conference has been more than I’ve paid for!!!”
”Thanks for all the time and effort spent planning and organizing. It was appreciated :)”
”As I stand in line at the Oakland airport waiting to be frisked I want to thank +Scott Kelby +RC Concepcion +Trey Ratcliff +Lindsay Adler and the many others for the wonderful experience at the google plus photographers conference. Thank You!!!”
“Great event, Scott! I learned tons.”
“I’m not an attendee, but thanks for producing this event. I got to participate by watching some of the public replays of panel discussions.”
“Awesome conference! Look forward to day 2 tomorrow!”
“I must say I will be following people like +RC Concepcion +Trey Ratcliff and +Scott Kelby a lot more after those two days! I met some great people that really have a passion for creating great photos and got some really honest feedback that I appreciated.”
“After spending as much time as I could watching live webcasts and participating in comment streams, I wanted to take a minute to congratulate +Scott Kelby, +Darth [Dave] Moser and everyone involved with the +Google+ Photographer’s Conference for successfully putting on such an incredible event.”
”After seeing some of the Google+ Photographers Conference broadcasts I’m inspired…”
“I had such a productive and inspirational two days here thanks to +Scott Kelby and everyone involved in the +Google+ Photographer’s Conference.”
“Leaving San Francisco early this morning after a great +Google+ Photographer’s Conference I was treated to this wonderful sight at SFO Airport awaiting my flight. Thanks again to +Scott Kelby +RC Concepcion +Peter Hurley +Colby Brown +Guy Kawasaki and the entire +Google+ crew for a wonderful conference! “
“Congrats on a spectacular conference. Everyone did a brilliant job. Kudos!”
“Headed bk east from an amazing #GplusPC Thanks @Google and the entire @ScottKelby team. Great job!”
“Thanks to all the presenters and organizers (+Peter Adams +Peter Hurley +Daniel Milnor +Matt Kloskowski +Guy Kawasaki +Brian Matiash +Trey Ratcliff +Jeremy Cowart +Scott Kelby … and others) for spending your time on shot talk, portfolio reviews, and great great content!!!”
Thanks to every one who took a moment to share your experiences. Putting on a conference like this takes a lot of hard work and dedication from a lot of great people, and hearing comments like these makes it all worthwhile.
Once a year, on the anniversary of Guest Blog Wednesday, Scott generously affords me the opportunity to write another guest blog post. The gift of this yearly moment of expression means more to me than the words “thank you” will ever convey.
I believe there is a certain point in any lifetime creative endeavor when you can look at your work and know what is good and what is bad. There is also a point in your life when come to beleive you know who you are as good as, you know who you are better than, and you know who is better than you. You can look at your work and say, “That’s crap.” Or, “That’s okay.” Or, “This is really good.” You can look at what you have done and be able to see it for what it is. You can see without ego.
But this is just part of the story I want to discuss. What I want to talk about is my last trip to Burma—the journey that led me there and the place in which I now find myself.
In April 2011 I was in New York for work. I was there on my birthday, and Anthony Ruotolo and Scott Alexander—the Associate Publisher and new Editor in Chief of American Photo, respectively—took me out to lunch. During the course of the meal, which was also a working lunch to discuss my Alaska project, the conversation turned, as it frequently does, to where was my most favorite place to shoot, what is my favorite type of photography, color or black-and-white, and am I working on any new projects?. The answers, for me, are: the country of Burma (Myanmar), black-and-white digital infrared, and the project I was working on was a self-assignment that I had titled In the Heat of the Light, which was a collection of infrared black-and-white images that I had taken while teaching workshops and on assignments over the past six years. When I showed Scott and Anthony some of the images, Scott asked if I would be interested in doing a feature for AP on Burma and, specifically, in digital infrared. It took me a few moments to answer, not because I had to think about it, but because I had just been offered my dream assignment for the magazine I have always dreamed of being asked to do a feature for.
What wound up happening is that my Alaska assignment for American Photo—one in which I spent two weeks by myself just shooting a Princess Cruise land and sea excursion—ended 36 hours before I had to be in Burma. The Alaska assignment marked the first time that I had gone out shooting in an environment like that, without a small army of either students or crew; it was just me and the camera. Then, 36 hours later I was on a plane. So I went from freezing cold to boiling hot. From nothing but landscapes, snow, and cold rain to people, monsoons, and humidity. Just me, a guide, and my camera.
Through the course of negotiating the logistics of the Burma shoot, one of the things I decided for this article was that I needed to photograph Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Medal of Freedom recipient, who was at the time just released from 20 years of imprisonment, Aung San Suu Kyi. I figured, what was the worst that could happen? I’d be told “No.” If that was the case, I was no worse off than I would be if I did not ask. So I sent out an email talking about how I would love to do this formal portrait of “the Lady” (as she is referred to by the Burmese people), for this article. What I got back was, “I do not see myself as a movie star or a model.” Which, when I looked back at the email that I wrote, was basically what I was telling her I was going to do for the portrait. So her response back was a polite “no.”
“No” has never really stopped me before. So I kept writing back and forth and back and forth. Eventually what I got back was, “Informal access can be granted if you promise to do right with the pictures.” “Right” was however that manifested itself for me. What I believed at that moment what “right” was, was to do right by her and tell the story. To tell the story as I was taken by the experience of being there.
So I landed in Yangon. As I left the airport, I was informed that we were going to photograph the Lady (Aung San Suu Kyi) at the home of her father’s best friend. It was his birthday. Now, I have been flying for 27 hours. I’m not all in Burma just yet.
I showed up on time, but she was two and a half hours late to the birthday party. It was 107 degrees, 98% humidity, and I was rained on twice through monsoons. When she finally arrived, I experienced something I had never seen. I’ve photographed a lot of people in my career that have the “it” quality but I have never experienced in my life the ability to take the “it” quality and put that quality in the other person. To make that other person become the person that has the “it” quality.
Whenever someone was talking to her and she was talking to them, that person in front of her became the “it” person. And the more that they tried to put her on a pedestal, the more humble and more open and more receptive she became to connect with them.
One of the great advantages of being a photographer is that you are allowed to see a world that many people walk by. You are allowed the privilege to bear witness. I believe, as the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said, “an interesting plainness is the most difficult thing to achieve.” I have really worked in my career to make my job to be about finding interesting plainnesses. From a flower to the steps you walk by, I see my job as to bear witness to the world and to say with my images, “Stop for a second, check this out, take pause.”
To say that I have led and lead a blessed life is an understatement by anyone’s measure.
In the course of my life I felt a prayer be heard, witnessed a prayer answered, and have felt something greater than myself move through me. I have seen people have the power to do extraordinary things, and have seen the force of greatness move through someone and touch others. What I know from these experiences is that I am just a small part of a bigger thing.
I need to go a little way out to come back to the point of this piece. So bear with me.
In addition to having gone to film school, I am also a conservatory-trained actor. It is that training that is the core of my skill set as a photographer. One of the major parts of my training was in Behavioral Effector Patterning, which is the study of the biomechanics of emotion. The training is about understanding how you physically feel individual emotions. One of the outcomes of the training is that you are very aware of the feeling of emotions and the physicality that they cause. One of the things that I have frequently felt as I shoot is something greater than me move through me. Which is the only way I can explain what it feels like to take a picture; it is also why I don’t think that whatever credit I get assigned for images I have taken has much to do with me. It has to do with connecting into something greater. Some images express greater connection than others. Another way to express this: being completely present in the moment. When I witnessed the experience of Aung San Suu Kyi with people and witnessed the way in which, no matter how many people came at her, she was always centered, present, and humble, it was always about the needs of those in front of her.
From all that I have read about her, the job of being the imprisoned ruler of Myanmar and the sprit and voice of her people is not a job she asked for. Prior to this she was the wife of an Oxford professor and was busy raising two children. Who would ask for the life she leads now? It’s a job that she has to do because she has to do it. It’s the right thing to do. And when I witnessed that, I started to realize what doing “right” meant and what she had asked of me in that simple request.
One of the great fears of being a photographer is to miss the shot. To be in the wrong place at the wrong time, to grab the wrong piece of gear or to be so wrapped up in the moment you forget what you are there to do. Each and every one of these fears was realized for me the first time I photographed her. Rarely if ever are you given a second chance, and rarely if ever does the second time around surpass the first. But two days later I found myself again going off to shoot “the Lady.”
It’s interesting how a small moment in time can have a lifetime of ramification. Or how long the journey to change is, but that the moment of change happens in an instant, which was a conversation I had with her, my guide, and her assistant.
Every time I have traveled to Burma, I have asked, “What is the word in Burmese for ‘please’?” No matter who I have asked, what I always get back is a polite but blank stare, and no one knows what to say.
So here I am at the second Aung San Suu Kyi shoot; this time it is at a luncheon for the dedication of a library in her father’s honor. So I ask once again, “What is the word in Burmese for ‘please’?” After a moment she says something in Burmese to her assistant, her assistant says something in Burmese to my guide, and the guide then says to me, “We don’t have a word for ‘please’.” I say, “You don’t have a word for please?” Again, after a moment she says something in Burmese to her assistant, her assistant says something in Burmese to my guide, and the guide then says to me, “Well, no, nor do we say ‘thank you’ as much as you do. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ in our society are implied in everything we do. The only time we say ‘thank you’ is when a person does something that is so life-changing, so profound, that it warrants comment above and beyond what you should do, which is right. And then the response is basically something to the effect of, ‘Why are you thanking me? I’m just doing what I’m supposed to.’”
And so, again, after a moment she says something in Burmese to her assistant, her assistant says something in Burmese to my guide, and the guide says to me, “You might want to consider doing that for a day. Have ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ implied in every action and to try and do right with everything you do.” While this is being said to me with the kindest of smiles without malice or ego, she looks at me. In that moment I have never felt so heard or been so present.
In that moment, I realized that it was not “right by her” that she was asking me to do; I was asked to do right, always. Since then, I go out of my way to try and have “please” and “thank you” implied in everything I do. I try to have “please” and “thank you” implied in my pictures, and to recognize that my job now is to do right by everything I photograph.
And that really changes the way you spin things. It started with that moment, and I was damned if I was going to let this person down—this person who I doubt remembers me. All that, just from the experience of that energy, that presence.
It is like when an actor is on stage with an another, more talented actor; the more gifted actor pulls you up because you have to step up to the plate to be able to match their level. And when you are done, you have been changed. You are better for the experience, and that experience echoes through the rest of your career until the next time that you get pulled up to a different level.
What I try to do when I shoot is open myself up not to what it is that I think I should shoot, but to what it is that there is to shoot that will take me, which means slowing down and getting out of my head and having as little of my ego in the photograph as possible. I have never been accused of being a man of small ego, and I will not argue with that. But what I can promise you is that what you’ll never see in my photograph is that ego. Everything happens at the speed of life, and what I try to do is record the experience of life. The camera works in fractions of a second, life occurs in continuous time. So within that limitation, what I try to do is right by the moment as it unfolds in front of me.
Another thing that changed for me from my experience in Burma was the belief of knowing who you are as good as, who you are better than, and who is better than you. I know I will never be as good as Cartier-Bresson. I know I will never be as good as Josef Sudek. I know I will never be as good as Karsh. I know I will never be as good as Ansel Adams. I will only be as good as Vincent Versace. And that’s the only person that I need to compete with. Should I remove the Bresson qualities from my photographs, should I remove the Wynn Bullock qualities, the Sudek qualities? No, all of those things should exist and they exist as a harmonic. I’m only as good as the images that have moved me.
Will I ever be as good as them? No, and that should not matter. Everybody has something valid to say, and if you are so moved by a moment to have to take a picture of it, then that need in you is important enough to be seen and heard. It should be heard. What I ask all of you who read this post to consider is this: in everything you do, imply “please” and “thank you” in the doing. With everything you do, with every image you create, simply consider doing right.
Keep an eye on that page throughout the conference to ask questions for other sessions as well!
Also, make sure you download the Google+ Photographer’s Conference App (Android | iPhone) if you’re using your mobile device. That will be the most convenient way to keep up with everything that’s happening while you’re away from your computer.