As we have for the past several years, Melody and I went to the annual Seattle Times 2015 Pictures of the Year presentation, which continues to be a fun event.
We learned early on that one needs to arrive early, so we ended up arriving at the central library about a half hour before the doors opened, and we weren't the first ones in line. It didn't take long before the line to get pretty long, so we were happy with our timing.
There was another line which got admitted before we did; we were guessing they were either library patrons or guests of the Times, but we were still able to score seats only a few rows back.
We're behind the tripod, so you can't see our faces, but we're there.
The event follows a regular format, starting with introductory comments by Marcellus Turner, the City Librarian. Next up the paper's deputy managing editor, Michele Matassa Flores, who in turn turned to Danny Gawlowski, the photo and video editor.
With opening comments done, it was time to introduce this year's featured photographers.
If you've looked at the Times with any regularity, you've seen the work of Greg Gilbert. The recent image I most associate with him is from the Ride the Ducks accident on the Aurora Bridge last September. He showed video that he captured, and included the end of the clip where he was asked to leave by an officer.
Gilbert also takes photos of the hydroplane races and Blue Angels during Seafair. For the planes, he’s often in a chase plane; he joked that he did a double-take when he was handed a parachute to wear.
Having started with the Times in 1967, Gilbert has seen many changes, both in the city and in how he does his work. He still gives the impression of an old-time newspaper photojournalist, going in, doing his work, and going on to the next assignment. He’ll go to great lengths to get an image, climbing around on catwalks or moving around for a great angle.
Erika Schultz participated in the Pictures of the Year event a couple years ago, and it was interesting to see her echo themes from then as well as talking about her newer work.
One story she did was about wildfires in Eastern Washington. She didn’t get a lot of sleep, and in addition to getting photos of the fires themselves, she used her ability to connect with people to help tell stories of families who were in the fires’ path
Another set of photos was about Klickitat County ranchers. She overcame the preconceived notion that she was going to sensationalize the act of branding and was able to tell their story.
Several interesting topics came out through the question and answer period. One question was about giving out assignments, and being the photo editor, Danny Gawlowski chose to answer himself. In addition to the usual aspects of who's available or closest to a breaking story, he also likes to have people work out of their comfort zone, such as when he had a videographer do still photos at a Seahawks game.
There are always gear questions, and this year someone asked how much gear gets carried. Gilbert said he normally has a couple bodies with different lenses so he can cover wide to telephoto. When he shot film, he'd have Tri-X (black and white) loaded in the cameras, and would sometimes carry a couple more cameras with Ektachrome (color). Schultz would sometimes also carry a couple cameras, but would try to get away with one camera and lens, if possible, to work as lightly as possible.
When asked about how long it takes to gain the trust of subjects, Gilbert said that the nature of his work is he doesn't have the opportunity to create long-term relationships. Schultz, however, sometimes works the long game, cultivating trust over several visits over weeks or even months.
In the past years, the Q&A section ended with a drawing to give away a couple autographed prints, but this year the prize was a camera and lens. People got really excited; if word gets out, next year will be even more crowded.