Thursday, April 6, 2017

Event photography: The conference

I've been shooting events for decades - weddings, sports, concerts, conferences - and enjoy it every time I have the opportunity to do it. Having a clearly defined role among a group of people puts me at ease and I, in turn, am able to put the others at ease.
In February I was asked to document the first meeting of the Forum Agile Verwaltung conference in Stuttgart, Germany, at which 42 various administrators learned how to work more efficiently within their structures and how to create more effective structures.

The keynote speech was given by Ard Leferink (above), who started a network of nurses in the Netherlands who work in small teams and are in charge of their own schedules and billing. In just 10 years the network has taken over 25% of the Dutch home care.
Afterwards, the participants met in workshops to explore various methods of teamwork.

Now I'll say a bit about shooting the event since this is my photoblog! It is essential to get a feel for the primary message and purpose of the event before planning the shots. Sometimes you can do it beforehand, for example, by asking the people in charge what they want photos of and where they will be used. Otherwise, you need to observe closely and move quickly.
Light is, of course, important. I chose to use only available light here, though I did have a flash in my bag in case they wanted a formal group shot. This venue had large windows and the day was bright enough that I didn't have problems with the amount of light. In the first workshop I attended the participants played Ubongo in teams, each time adhering to a different set of rules. In the first sequence, they had to wait for the first person to finish his/her specific job before the second could continue. Eventually, they all became multi-taskers and were able to finish the job in much less time. Lesson learned.

Here I was looking for the best way to capture the teamwork. The shot above is from the first round; you see folded, inactive hands in the background and the job description of the active participant in the foreground.

Here you can see how three people are working simultaneously.

Finally, everyone is working together actively and the task is completed much more quickly. With all the action I really had no other choice but to shoot from above. Because all four groups were in similar states of activity at this point, the bird's-eye view best represented this workshop's goals because it was about the task and not the people in this case.
The next workshop was fascinating! Using the same small set of Lego blocks, participants portrayed various abstract terms by building what they believed best represented it. The Lego Serious Play method then has the person explain the figure. The moderator or others can ask questions about the person's figure or the story that accompanied it. Sometimes they may have not explained a certain figure or set of blocks, an omission that might be meaningful for that person's (in)ability to explain his or her needs or ideas.

As the stories are told one-by-one, the blocks take on a life of their own in the listeners' minds. The figures thus stay in one's mind even after the conference is over - as do the stories or explanations. Creating something concrete from an abstract idea (an essential element of art and, it seems, of human communication) helps transport levels of meaning on a metaphorical plane that is not possible through other means. Thus, the following picture best (re)presents this workshop for me.

Throughout the day a very gifted man took notes in comic form and presented them as a summing up at the end of the conference. I wanted a picture of him at work, especially since most people were too busy to notice what he was doing. Only afterward would they notice how special his contribution was.

At the end of the day he was ready to show his roll via iPad and projector.

 Then the question for me was how to best capture his presentation. From the front?

From behind with the message in focus?

Or with him in focus?

In the end I settled on the side view with the participants enjoying the finale. If only I had captured a shot where they were all smiling! Next time!

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