Talks At Google
I was recently invited to the fabulous, futuristic Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California to present a program on photography. This was part of their rather awesome Talks At Google series, so I felt ridiculously honored – and not just a wee bit (okay, a lot bit) nervous.
Before the talk even began, we went to lunch and, wow, walking around Google’s campus was a thrill in and of itself. I loved the free Google bike system, the major slides connecting floors, the massive, multi-screen Google Earth display, the wonderful life-sized Google and Android statues scatted throughout the buildings and – honestly, mostly – all the delicious free food and drinks. Seriously, with over 250 cafes on campus, I don’t know how all the googlers are not constantly snacking. Good, good stuff.
When I was first invited, I was asked to speak on whatever I preferred, and it struck me that I’d never done a full talk before on the theme of self-consciousness. I’ve spoken on so many aspects of photography, and I’ve done whole multi-day programs on business, relationships, health & energy, work-life balance and more – but I’d never built a program from scratch about the ever-present thereness of self-consciousness.
And suddenly I knew I wanted to build a talk around this topic because, in eleven years of professional portrait photography, after shooting literally thousands of portraits, I’d never encountered one shoot where self-consciousness wasn’t there in one way or another. And when I say one way or another, I mean on the part of my subject or on my part, which I go into some detail on in my talk.
And if I was going to speak to self-consciousness, then I would be speaking about self-awareness, too. Because although there’s a big gap between self-consciousness and self-awareness, the two often need to go hand in hand when it comes to eliciting, and then photographing, authentic expression in portraits.
I’ve always believed that managing social discomfort is a significant part of the portrait photographer’s role, and the key to doing so often lies in increased awareness of not only one’s subject, but of one’s self. This is something I’ve spoken on quite a lot – how our thoughts have everything to do with our actions, our behaviors and, eventually, what we come to think of as our personality. I don’t think our personality always naturally appears. In fact, I think what we believe it is can simply evolve through a series of unconscious agreements we make about who we think we are. Better understanding who we genuinely are is often one of the more difficult types of work we can ever take on – and, of course, one of the most rewarding.
Big thanks to Laurie Rubin for managing the entirety of the Photographer’s Talks At Google, for introducing me at the beginning of my presentation, and for sending me this photograph afterwards – great new and old friends here, from Laurie to Karen Hutton (who interviewed me for her show, The Chat, releasing soon) to Brian Matiash to Barry Blanchard to my very own Steve Lackey, not just my husband but also an entrepreneur with his own three businesses (Endurance Magazine, Sport Often, and Endurance Productions)! He was sweet enough to accompany me on this rather lovely trip, and I’m quite grateful to him for the unique way we make these experiences work for each other.
Not pictured are two other friends who came out to Google for the talk, as well, Joy Bianchi Brown, Lori Fuller, and Google News Man & impromptu tour-guide extraordinaire Paul Moody. It was lovely to look out at this very cool auditorium, decked out with plush Google-colored seats – all blue, green, red, and yellow – and see some seriously friendly faces. (You’ll also see a lot of Google Glass represented in this photo, and it was my first time trying out this particular wearable tech. Pretty interesting stuff, and you can see some immense potential here for what this may become.)
So! Without further ado, here is my presentation for Talks At Google: