Sunday, April 3, 2011

Photoshop World Boston

The first time I heard about Photoshop World was at a Graphic Design Student Association meeting at the University of Central Florida. It was a three day conference and expo centered around Photoshop, Photography, and Lighting (to name a few things) and it was going to be held in Boston. The Graphic Design Student Association was going to hold a drawing to see who would win one of the four spots available. As soon as I knew what it was I wanted to win the ticket. The day of the drawing came and I was the second person called. I could not believe it. I was going to Boston for Photoshop World.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I got there but I was blown away from day one. We were given an enormous book detailing every class and lesson. I was overwhelmed with all of the professional instructors and the variety of interesting classes to choose from. For three days I bounced from class to class soaking up knowledge like a sponge. I saw slide shows from wildlife photographers and people who had made arduous trips to Antarctica just to photograph the ice. I saw presentations of how make professional quality motion graphics and how to thrive when dealing with clients. I accidently found myself in a class being taught by Jay Maisel, a photographer who's work and philosophy forever changed the way I looked at photography. (See my previous blog post Boston Changed Everything)

After every beautifully exhausting day I found myself back in the hotel rereading notes and analyzing my photography. I'd fall asleep wondering what I was going to be lucky enough to learn the next day.

One thing I am eternally grateful for is Mariko's example. Mariko is the Creative Director and CEO of DRIP, the performance art company that I work for. A few years ago we ended up doing a show at the Create Chaos Conference in Orlando. After our show we would attend some of the conference classes together. What was surprising to me was that when ever a class was over Mariko would walk right up to the instructor, introduce herself, and begin to ask them questions and really try to pick their brains. I was so impressed with the way she saw an opportunity and was determined to make the most out of it. While other people had left the class and moved on, I was watching her make some meaningful connections and conversations. I never forgot that.

Months later when I ended up at Photoshop World, I found myself following her example. I stopped to ask instructors questions or what their opinions were. Sometimes I would simply introduce myself and thank them for everything I had learned. I was so blown away by how friendly and accessible everyone was. In most of my experience, when I would meet a professional they would be reticent or secretive about their work. Everyone I encountered was completely willing and excited to talk about what they did. I was always behind my group, staying to talk. I fell in love with the whole environment and experience. On the walk back to our hotel I was usually one of the last people, holding my Photoshop World book close to my chest, wondering how on earth I got so lucky.

The Photoshop World Conference was only Wednesday through Friday, but before I even booked my flight I had an epiphany. Why would I rush back to Orlando when I could just stay longer and have a weekend to myself in Boston? Opportunities like this don't come along very often and I decided to go for it. With the help of my best friend, Amber, I found another hotel in Boston to stay for the remainder of my trip. Of course my decision came along with ruffling some feathers. My group had some reservations about me staying by myself on what was essentially a university sponsored trip. And then there was my mother, who was terrified about her daughter being alone in a strange city. My mind was made up. I was spending the weekend in Boston. Alone.

When the conference was over I rode with my group on the subway until we were at the stop for my new hotel.

"Do you think you'll be okay without us?' someone asked me
"I hope so" I said with a laugh as I jumped off the subway.

The truth is I found being with a group somewhat oppressive. I like to wonder around and do my own thing. Having to wait for everyone all the time and "do what is best for the group" was exhausting and restrictive. I climbed up the stairs until I got to the street. The sunlight, the 30 degree weather, the uncertainty - It felt like freedom.

I found my hotel and settled in. I had my heart set on going back to the Boston Museum of Art so I headed back to the subway and got on the train.

I rode that subway about 20 minutes before I realized I was going in the wrong direction.

By the time I realized what had happened I knew that I wouldn't be able to make it to the Museum in time before they closed. I got on the train heading back to my hotel. Oh well, I thought as I looked out the window. I guess I'll just go back and have dinner.

I rode the subway until I got to the building where the Photoshop World Convention was held. I remembered that there were some nice restaurants in that area. I wondered around in some shops for while, bought a pair of earrings. I walked across the street to the plaza where the convention was held. I was walking past a sea food restaurant when I was spotted.

Robert Vanelli, a bear of a man who most people simply call Vanelli, waved at me. Vanelli is a crew member at Photoshop World. I remembered talking with him while our group was waiting to get into Midnight Madness, an after party for the Photoshop World attendees. Vanelli was very outgoing and full of energy which makes him hard to forget. I walked over to say hello. He was standing next to Rod Harlan, an instructor at Photoshop World.

I remember Rod already knowing me from my twitter account which blew me away since I was officially meeting him for the first time. I never thought that someone that professional would be interested in my twitter account, let alone recognize me. I remember hoping that the cold weather was hiding the fact that my cheeks were blushing. Vanelli asked me where the rest of my group was. I told him that they had left already and I had chosen to stay some extra days.

"So you are by yourself?"
"Why don't you have dinner with us?"
"Oh my God, are you serious?"

I tried to pick my jaw up off the floor and not sound so much like a kid.

"I'd love to!"

Dinner was blur of great food and great conversation. Vanelli never sat in one spot for very long. He made sure to visit everyone at the table. I sat next to Rod and a woman who told me a story about how when she went to Photoshop World when it was in Las Vegas she had saved up enough money for the conference but she didn't have enough for a hotel. She ended up sleeping in her car. When some of the people working the event found out they insisted that she stay in one of their hotel rooms. I remember listening to that story and thinking how amazing she was for going and how kind and down to earth these people are for helping her. I talked to Rod about twitter and we exchanged information. When dinner was over one of the girls took this shot of us.

A wonderful dinner!
Vanelli is on my left in the black shirt, and Rod is to my right in the jacket with brown sleeves.

I remember beaming. I could not believe that just happened. I had dinner with eleven industry professionals because I got on the wrong subway. I got to meet so many interesting people over dinner by a complete stroke of luck. I felt like a rock star. I must have thanked them a thousand times.

I walked out onto the street. My face was already starting to hurt from smiling too much. I called my mother to share the good news. At first it was hard to control my excitement and my mother couldn't understand what I was saying. Once I slowed down, and she knew that I was okay, she just listened to me ramble excitedly until I got to my hotel. 

That night I got some boston creme pie and ate it in my hotel room.  I sat on the bed waiting for all this excitement to settle. I was in Boston, by myself, just got done with the Photoshop World Conference, got lost, and ended up having one of the most amazing things happen to me purely by luck. I don't think I've ever been so dizzy and so happy all at once. I couldn't have asked for a better experience.

That was years ago, I still can't believe how much that happy accident has impacted my life.

1 comment:

  1. I'm reading this for the first time, and I can honestly say, whatever the amount was I gifted you with so that you could stay longer, was the best spent money in this century for me!

    What a time you had!