Monday, March 13, 2017

SWPJC 25 years

Left to Right: Jim Veneman, Bob Carey, Morris Abernathy, Louis Deluca, Ron London, & [Me] Stanley Leary
We just wrapped up our 25th Anniversary for the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference and this is the original crew. When we started I am not sure how long we thought this would go on, but all of us feel like it was just yesterday when we started this adventure.

I apologize for the rambling below. It is a stream of consciousness of some of what I experienced this past weekend at the conference.

Jim & Carol Veneman are having facetime with their grand children
Twenty five years ago we didn't have the ability to FaceTime with each other. We also didn't have the ability back in 1992 to shoot photos and share them instantaneously with each other.

A CBU student with Garrett Hubbard reviewing her environmental portrait.
The student workshop that we added many years ago has turned into a huge success. One of the main reasons is the ability of the students to shoot and show the instructors their work immediately for some feedback and the ability to go and reshoot if necessary.



I want to talk here about my journey through the years. When we started the SWPJC I had not really come to terms with my Autism. When I was in third grade I was tested and fell on the spectrum, but back then they didn't give me the label.

I would slowly understand through many different events that I fit the Aspergers Syndrome perspective on the Autism Spectrum. Through the years I have been taking steps like speech therapy and studying social work which all helped me greatly improve in my deficiencies.

This past weekend when I was teaching I was reminded of my Autism.

I asked everyone in the class I was leading to take a picture. When asked what they took a picture of I had people talk about taking a picture of me with a scowl on my face. Then a couple minutes later someone talked again about my body language as being negative.

This is me with my dad and sister.
I could have just crawled up into a ball and just cried. I realized that while I had done a great deal through the years to pay attention to others I had not done much to work on my face expressions.
Autism is a developmental disorder involving qualitative impairments in social interaction. One source of those impairments are difficulties creating facial expressions of emotion. Difficulties with facial expressions may arise from deficits in a motivation to express positive emotions with others. The difficulties may also stem from physiological problems in physically creating expressions that are due to damage to areas of the brain that control the facial nerve (which produces those expressions). 
I know my family has really given me a hard time through the years when they take photos of me. I just don't look happy. I guess there are moments when a glimpse of my enthusiasm does come through, but I cannot consciously bring the emotions I feel to my face.

I can tell you that I am always thinking and observing others. I do not take lightly those around me. I am always trying to figure out how to be of service. Can I help them or what is their problem they might need help with. I am often trying to connect people with a need with a person I know that could be the solution. So my face expressions are I guess some what accurate. I am thinking which can produce a scowl or tense brow.

I want to be Helpful and Not Hurtful ...
So that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. – Hebrews 6:12
I can tell you that God isn't finished with me yet. I have a lot of work to do with my face expressions. The good news is I kind of know what I need to work on going forward.
... LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. – Psalm 4:6

Morris Abernathy my good friend for more than 30 years
The Southwestern Photojournalism Conference all started because Morris Abernathy called Jim Veneman and mentioned we had an opportunity to take over a photo workshop that Don Rutledge had held at the Seminary for years.

Morris' vision was to expand the conference and make it an event that more people would feel welcomed. Morris has one of the biggest hearts for people that I know. He is also the one person who has had me doubled over in laughter where tears are flowing so many times. My wife and I think of the times we both have enjoyed his humor.

What a joy Morris has been not just to me, but to all who come into contact with him. We were blessed that he invested so much of his life into the conference.
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. – Proverbs 27:17

Akili Ramsess with Jim Veneman 
Morris is the person who was leading all the rest of us to include everyone. This photo of Jim Veneman putting his arm around Akili Ramsess just after he met her is indicative of the purpose of the conference. We were about welcoming everyone to the table.

While this was the purpose of the original group I can tell you that through the years it hasn't gone well every time. You see I know from personal experience that there are many other people out their like me. Their face expressions and body language doesn't always match their hearts.

I believe those who started the conference want to return to our core values and put into place some changes that will make this conference more like Morris Abernathy had envisioned.

Brad Smith having a great time with Brien Aho during the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference
We are planning on getting our committee together to do a planning retreat for the conference. We have not done this before and believe this is what is needed to go forward for the conference to be successful.

Twenty five years ago Ron London was the first speaker. He was our last speaker on Sunday and revisited his talking points from 1992. 
Ron London reminded us at the conference to never stop being an amateur photographer. He went on to explain what the word amateur came from and means.
An amateur (French amateur "lover of", from Old French and ultimately from Latin amatorem nom. amator, "lover") is generally considered a person attached to a particular pursuit, study, or science in a non-professional or unpaid manner. Amateurs often have little or no formal training in their pursuits, and many are autodidacts (self-taught).
Garrett Hubbard started the conference with asking us to examine our identity
"The most powerful words ever said to you are your own," said Garrett Hubbard. The self talk we do can be the most damaging or up lifting. We are in charge of which that will be.

Garrett also talked about how we often limit our identity to what our job title is and encouraged us to see our whole selves.

Akili Ramsess reviews a students photos
Akili Ramsess, NPPA executive director, spent her presentation and every other opportunity to talk about our success is all about relationships. She also helped us to see that is what NPPA is trying to do for photographers is help them have relationships throughout the industry.

Patrick Murphy-Racey was wanting to help equip photographers with the gear they need to help their work to connect more effectively with audiences.
Patrick Murphy-Racey thinks more like me than most any of my other friends when it comes to photography. The biggest difference between us is Pat's enthusiasm and excitement is written all over his face.

If there is one photographer I am extremely jealous of it would be Pat. I am jealous of how he exudes excitement to others.

While I am thinking and really looking for ways to serve even more than I do now, Pat is buzzing by me like a Energizer Bunny in the commercial. He is beating his drum and pulling as many as he can behind him in his parade. Pat is the pied piper of photojournalism.


Before you know it Pat has a group of students and teaching them all about lighting.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." – John 13:35 
The cornerstone of the conference is Jesus Christ. The thing that we try to do each year is very similar to what a mason call the "Holding Bond" – maintaining a plumb-aligned bond or brick pattern. To do this a mason creates the "Hanging the line" – attaching a mason’s line to the leads at opposite ends of a wall.

The committee that produces the conference each year is taking the time to meet soon to retool the conference. We will be "Hanging the Line" so that we can be "Holding Bond" so that when people look at our conference they will see the love we have for one another.

Stay tuned through our website SWPJC.org.

Brad Smith and Brien Aho with the Chick-fil-A Cow.
Brad Smith shared his tips on how to make connections and showing your portfolio. Besides having strong and unique images Brad pointed out how important it is to be a likable person. 
Nikon, Canon and Sony were at the conference showing off their gear, but also let students borrow cameras and lenses for the Student Workshop. This is Brien Aho, the Nikon representative working with student on borrowing a camera. I consider Brien more than a camera rep. He is a friend and someone we all enjoying hanging around.
Brien Aho is helping one of the students with his Nikon 5300. The student was asking me, but I knew Brien was more familiar with the camera as a Nikon representative. Every time I turned around I saw Brien helping people with their cameras.
Brien was a Navy combat photographer, which you wouldn't know right away in his role as a Nikon representative. Once everyone realized his background he quickly had people lining up to show him their portfolio and ask for his critique.
Thought I would end this on a sunrise photo of student taking a photo at the Fort Worth Mounted Police horse stables.

3 comments:

Patrick Murphy-Racey said...

Great Post Stanley!!!! Thanks for all you do and have done for SWPJC... And now on to SWPJCREBOOT2018!!!!

I can't wait to see you all again there, wherever that happens to be :)

pm-r

Gil said...

Great! Article! Glad to hear you are continuing to learn about how to interact with people by sharing the struggles & hoops Autism has put in your path. You are doing a wonderful job of communicating both your struggles & your Passion for photography and for People!
Aslo, glad to hear that SWPJC is continuing to re-vamp themselves, to help photographers, and to stay relevant to the changes in then industry.

Morris Abernathy said...

Wow what a great post Stanley. I met you almost 30 years ago in Las Vegas at a SBC. Who is this guy? You were a whirlwind of energy and knowledge and you were a Nikon guy. I loved you from the start. Over these years when I have gone through the tough times you have always been there with words of love and support, never wavering in your confidence in me. In the words of another dear friend Jim Veneman one of my forever friends. In the early years before face time and chat we got together to share love and support each other. That is still vital for this generation of storytellers. To reach out and touch each other and hug one another and speaks words of encouragement. A body of believers who count on each other. We have your back. Love you Stanley, Mo