I got to see a side of PartnerCon that many of you didn’t see.
A side that makes me believe that what happened the first week in November was not just a photography convention, but the start of a movement. As I drove home Thursday night, six and half hours up Highway 61 to the Mississippi Delta, I brought a little bit of the week home with me — both literally and figuratively.
Photo by Spencer Clark.
Five photographers from all over the country converged on three Delta towns to photograph three different weddings, and to bask in the glow of the previous week. We chatted about what we’d experienced. We laughed. We spoke of our inspirations. We shared our fears.
We learned from each other.
At it’s core, that’s what New Orleans was for all of us — a chance to learn from each other. From the most grizzled veterans to the photographers just entering the business. From the “art” folks to the “business” folks. We all learned from each other.
Photo by Andry Sander.
But here’s what I saw first hand, and maybe some of you saw it too. We also learned from the city, and the city learned from us.
I watched a group of photographers unpack the images that would be the Contrast show. I watched the gallery owner — tense as we arrived — loosen as we began to unwrap the work. I heard this man ask, “So you guys are all wedding photographers?” , and then saw him examine a print and raise his eyebrows approvingly as we answered, “Yes.” I watched him engage in the work, and make this show as much his as it was ours.
Then, a few hours later, all of you filled the gallery with inquisitive, thoughtful conversation. You broke down a huge wall coated with the graffiti of wedding photography stereotypes. The wall that is decorated with the slander of self indulgence, lack of knowledge, and stunted creativity. We opened eyes with the work we hung, but much more importantly, you opened minds with the commanding and intelligent presence that you had. We all stood tall and proud as wedding photographers and showed that we are not what many assume us to be.
Photo by Chris Williams.
Photo by Carlton Phelps.
I watched a team of photographers cross the river to Gretna at 9 AM Thursday morning to begin unpacking backdrops and light stands and computers and hard drives and memory cards and batteries and camera gear — whew! I watched them sort out a way to make it work, only to fear that it would all come crashing down only 15 minutes before it was to begin. Then I felt the energy of a busload of volunteers emptying, and knew that together we would somehow find a way to honor the families we would meet that day.
Photo by Rick King.
Photo by Erin Saldana.
I wandered outside, exhausted and emotional and worried that the small space inside was not enough to allow all of you to have the experience that you wanted to have, and I saw Leonard. Then, I saw many of you. And you were smiling. And you were giving. And you were listening. And you were teaching. And you were learning. And I was so damn proud to be witnessing that.
Photo by Enna Grazier.
Photo by Chris Williams.
I visited many, many times — via email, via phone, via text, in person — with the Pictage crew that made this happen. And so on Tuesday morning, I not only saw Jim Collins give the perfect opening speech (aided, of course, by the brilliance of Ron Dawson), I saw weeks of pushing and prodding and encouraging and worrying all come together — at just the right moment — in just the right way. I saw a man validated in his journey to reconnect a community that had been drifting apart. I saw Scott Anderson, Lisa Allen, and Emily Engle marking their mental checklists everyday, fearing that at any moment the wheels would come off the wagon. When it was finally over, I saw three people proud that not only did their plans work out, but also proud that they successfully brought together a group searching for someone — someTHING — to follow. And they gave us that thing to follow.
Our dreams. Our hopes. Our passions. Each other.
I saw a gathering that was more than a photography convention. I saw a moment. An historical moment. A moment that years from now just might be seen as the start of a time where the walls of photographic misconceptions began to come crumbling down, and the statement “I’m a photographer” is all you’ll ever need to say. (That was spot on Jim Collins. Spot on.)
Photos by Spencer Clark.
I saw a week that I will never forget. A week where I learned more than I ever thought I could learn. A week in which I reconnected with old friends and made many new ones. Hugged more folks than any family reunion I’ve ever attended. Cried at least once a day. Laughed at least a thousand. Smiled until my cheeks hurt.
Now that I think about it, I bet you saw that side of PartnerCon, too.
So that makes us all lucky, I guess.
Photo by David Wittig.