CeBIT 2017 with Ray Kurzweil, Nolan Bushnell, Angela Merkel, and Shinzō Abe
CeBIT. A combination of trade show and conference (and this year, festival), CeBIT’s history runs deep. Not a “regular” on the tech-conference circuit, it’s one that if you ask anyone about it, they might have been in the past, or they at know of it and often ask me about it.
I suspect all of that is going to change this year, as the group has moved the dates to June, and undergone a massive rebranding. With that in mind, I’m REALLY looking forward to see what they’ve got planned.
The big names come out
Being an official German entity, CeBIT has some pretty heavy weight behind it. I can’t name another single event where state figures gather and present at an opening ceremony.
In 2017, CeBIT’s partner country was Japan, and I had the honour of sitting (ok, kneeling in a photo line) just metres away from the Japanese Prime Minister and the German Chancellor. Needless to say, a choice spot, and one that the entire media fights for. I got as close as I could seconds before, and the minute the pair sat down. Pounce!
The Art of the Performance
Every year, CeBIT produces an eye popping opening ceremony that features the partner country. 2017 was no different, and audiences were treated to a visual spectacle courtesy of a number of talented Japanese performers.
And naturally, there’s a full compliment of welcome and opening remarks, from both sides, Germany and Japan
I will admit, with this much political power in one building, there are a number of protocols to be observed. … and if you’ve ever met me in person, you can probably guess that protocol isn’t my natural state of being.
Having been physically escorted out of the building a few years prior by Fr. Merkel’s personal security detail (I guess I got just a biiiiiiit too close), this year I kept my distance, and everything worked out just fine.
In fact, hanging back a bit was a good lesson in seeing the whole scene, and not just the focus. Case in point:
The Main Event
After an evening of welcomes and hand shakes and toasts, it’s time to get down to business. The Deutsche Messe (translated … German Convention Centre) in Hannover is a massive complex. And when I say massive, I mean on a German scale.
When one exhibitor is in Hall A, and you’re in Hall G, you’re going to want to find the shuttle, as the walk would consume most of the time you’ve allotted to that meeting.
Thankfully, CeBIT brings me in to cover the conference side of things, and I have the luxury of working with one of the nicest, closest, tight knit, backend families every year.
In 2017, one of the highlight speakers was Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer at the Microsoft Corporation. Needless to say, a kinda big deal. Maybe, just sorta. Read: whoa!
What I still find remarkable to this day is that the higher up in the hierarchy you go, the more approachable and amicable I find these people. I guess, you could say that they’ve done their time, and worked hard, and arrived at a position where they know they’re respected for their talent and the work they’ve produced.
To this end, Brad was standing around backstage with my friend and MC for the day, Peter Hopwood. As I’m never shy to go in for the deadpan “got a minute for a quick headshot?”, I hovered, found the right time to jump into the conversation, and minutes later, had the president smiling.
Backstage in Black and White
I tend to do this at most events that I cover, but it was born at CeBIT, the backstage in Black and White.
For one, lighting backstage can be, let’s be generous and say “minimal” at best. This light can often be a mixture of stage lights, lamps, and the often abysmal overhead lighting. Meaning, it can be any range of colours. Overhead lighting can sometimes be fluorescent, table lamps incandescent, and stage lights, especially if they’re LED based, any range of “white”.
What this translates into photographically is that if I colour correct for incandescent, the fluorescent hue of green becomes overly apparent, where as if I correct for LED, the incandescent can produce overly yellow tones, with a fun haze of green from the fluorescent lighting.
The quick and easy fix? Black and white it is. Now enough of the technical speak, another great aspect of black and white photography in general is that when you remove the element of colour, the composition tends to dominate the image. … at least in my not-so-humble opinion.
And one of my favourite production families never fails to provide me with some outstanding moments to capture. In black and white.
Seeing into the future with Ray Kurzweil
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, a quick introduction to a man who (probably) needs no introduction:
Raymond “Ray” Kurzweil (/ˈkɜːrzwaɪl/ KURZ-wyl; born February 12, 1948) is an American author, computer scientist, inventor and futurist. Aside from futurism, he is involved in fields such as optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition technology, and electronic keyboard instruments. He has written books on health, artificial intelligence (AI), transhumanism, the technological singularity, and futurism. Kurzweil is a public advocate for the futurist and transhumanist movements, and gives public talks to share his optimistic outlook on life extension technologies and the future of nanotechnology, robotics, and biotechnology.
While I’d heard many things about Mr. Kurzweil, it’s a completely different thing to be in his presence. He’s one of those types of figures that when he walks in the room, you know he’s there.
And on and on
The following few days at CeBIT are filled with a wide variety of talks, stands, and genuinely interested (and interesting) attendees. … and not to mention a rollicking party. Always a treat to see the conversion from conference by day, nightclub by night.
Again, with the massive rebranding and moving of dates, it should be a real treat to see what CeBIT cooks up this year.
Oh, and there’s one more thing
Having enjoyed the setup and outcome of Peter’s shot above, I asked if he’d do me the favour of repeating the shot with me as the subject.
A quick learner, a few, “this moves that. Put that focal point just about here. Wait for it to turn green. ..” banters et voilà: