Saturday, August 17th was a day I will never forget. In the morning, I met one of the photographers who has inspired me the most in the world of photography, Syd London. She is an amazing photo journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. I've been following her work for the last couple of years and it has influenced mine in so many ways. Story telling through photographs is such a powerful tool.
After meeting Syd, I had the honor of helping her during the shoot of her life. I can't go in to details about it just yet because it's a secret that won't be revealed for another couple of weeks, but it's huge. Being a part of that shoot and watching Syd work was an incredible honor.
Prior to the weekend, Syd emailed me to ask if I would assist her with the shoot. As we were heading back to the hotel after the shoot, Syd told me that she hasn't ever asked someone whom she hasn't ever met to assist her on a shoot. The energy of the people involved in the shoot has to be just right in order to get the shot, so it's important that you know who is helping you and what sort of energy they're bringing to the space. She said she never questioned whether or not I would bring the right energy and that if I wasn't available, there wasn't anyone else she would ask. I can't even begin to explain how much that meant to me.
In the afternoon, we both sat on a panel of photographers at the Butch Voices conference. There were four of us there and I have to say, I felt like the “youngest” in terms of experience. It was good to hear that some of the other photographers don't have a scholarly background in photography, though. I think a lot of us are self taught and those of us with the passion for it have the craving to learn it on our own. Besides, an education in photography is incredibly expensive. It's very rare that a photographer does well enough to be able to afford all of the loans associated with school. But, I digress. There was a question I answered that the moderator imposed that made me feel very “young” amongst the others. She asked me what other major projects I've done. I was honest and said this was my first. I think that, in a way, that answer surprised me as well as others. But, really, when it comes down to it, everyone has to start somewhere.
After the panel I received some really good feedback from people in the audience and from Syd. All of them said I did a good job and was articulate. I even handled a couple of situations that may have shut me down in the past. I simply refused to give that person any power over me and continued as if it didn't affect me. I won't go into details because, well, I still refuse to allow that person to have any power over me.
This day was also incredibly special and unforgettable because I had the honor of not only meeting two of my community elders who were there when our fight for equality began at Stonewall, I also got to hear them talk about those days. I listened to our history as told by the experiences of Jay Toole and Miss Major and it as incredible. If you don't know who these amazing LGBTQI elders are, please click on their names and do some research. Miss Major was at Stonewall that night when the fight began. Jay was 4 blocks away but made her way down to help with the fight. They have been leaders in the fight for transgender rights and economic justice for the people in our community for over 40 years. Their stories are stories of those forgotten in our movement.
The experiences of the day were life changing for me. Meeting one of my inspirations as a photographer, assisting her on a shoot, speaking with her on a panel, hearing her tell me that my work is good and meeting two of my community elders who were there, at Stonewall, when it all began were all amazing gifts. My heart is so full of gratitude.