I had the honor of assisting a friend of my mom’s, Fran McMullen, shoot a gala event for the Africa-America Institute. The night began with a silent auction and cocktail hour in the hallway outside the dining room, where I was left to photograph the items up for auction, the bar, and candid shots of the attendees mingling, while Fran was ushered around to photograph various VIPs. This is my favorite part of event photography, getting to document everything as it happens naturally even if it’s not the ‘main event’. I hate posing people for shots, so I was happy that Fran was taking care of that. I bounced my flash off the ceiling for most of these shots.
Towards the end of the auction, Russell Simmons walked in and henceforth always seemed to be socializing with different people. He signed some autographs as well. I honestly wasn’t sure what he looked like, but I recognized him with the Yankees cap on. Julianne Moore was another celebrity on the guest list, and one of the first people we tracked down in the dining room to photograph. She politely posed, but it was obvious she preferred to be left alone after that.
The second part of the night took place in the dining room, starting with dinner and then the awards ceremony and a few performances. We quickly lapped around the room, looking for people on our list to photograph. Only problem was that we had no idea who was who! We had a seating chart where we were able to pinpoint which tables held our VIPs, but no real way of determining who they were. My method was to try and guess, and if it wasn’t obvious then I’d snap shots of everyone and quickly move on. All of my shots here were horrible because I had to use direct flash without any sort of modifier or diffuser. So bad! I’ve been meaning to get one of these things, I just haven’t decided which yet.
Luckily I had a much better time photographing people on stage. I snagged a prime spot right in front of the stage, to the left of the podium and right in front of the performers. I didn’t even need to use a flash, which made me happy. I always prefer to use natural/ambient light whenever possible. We snapped all the speakers and award recipients, then got to see some amazing African dancers and a band perform. Very entertaining.
In-between speakers, performers, and VIP captures, we were able to sample a bit of the gourmet meal. I had the fanciest looking salad I’ve ever seen, along with other unidentifiable albeit delicious foods.
By the end of the night I was exhausted yet energized, which is how I typically feel after a day with my camera. It’s such a satisfying feeling, which I think is how I know that this is what I’m meant to do with my life.