An Unplanned Meeting

I recently attended the AAJA Convention to be part of their student newsroom.

Prior to the convention’s opening ceremony, I got permission from one of the mentors to take photos at the event. It was one of my few chances to use the lovely Canon 6D, so I couldn’t help but ask.

Now that’s not to say I’m a great photographer or anything. I enjoy photography because it’s incredibly creative and gives me control of what others can see. But I always get very nervous with a DSLR. In other words, why are there so many buttons?! That said, I’m a strong believer of the ‘fake it till you make it’ mantra. So I grabbed the camera, played around with it for a bit, and just (made mistakes and) learned on the go.

At the opening ceremony, I took photos of everything from performances to close-up shots of people’s faces and their food.

This was a very important shot, because um…quality cheese.

Then this short, elderly Asian woman who was sitting down called me over.

“You might want to shoot the shadows on the AAJA banner. The people’s silhouettes would make for a great shot.”

It was sweet of her to point that out and the shadows DID make for a great shot. I thanked her, introduced myself, and scurried away. By the end of the night, I found her again and thanked her. I showed her the shots and she gave me some more tips.

“By the way, I’m Marilynn. I’m a photographer for the New York Times. But I’m retired now.”

As she handed me her business card, she said, “Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about photography.” I was so humbled that she even bothered to call me out in the crowd and give me tips on shooting.

After the conference, I was eager to learn more about Marilynn, so I did a quick google search. What I found really surprised me. A recent article by the New York Times featured her journey in photography not only as a successful woman, but as a successful Asian American woman. Reading about her journey, her struggles, and her triumphs inspired me. It gave me hope for my future.

Marilynn as an intern for SF Examiner (photo stolen from NYT article)

“I was painfully shy,” she told the New York Times. “Photography would help me get out of that. To take pictures, you have to get close to people. You have to talk to people to make them feel comfortable.”

Her story is amazing. So incredibly grateful to have met the best of the best, that too, by sheer coincidence. Thank you, AAJA VOICES. Thank you, Marilynn.

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