SXSW: The Experience

Ok, this will be my last post about SXSW. I promise. But I did want to take a minute to talk about the experience of all of it because it was really amazing. I know that probably sounds cheesy, but I really can’t explain how much fun I had and how excited I am to do it all again next year!

First off, the energy was awesome. I was working my butt off at times, scheduling my day, mapping out where I needed to be and when, and trying to find time somewhere in there to eat. Yet none of it felt like work at all. Which is why I think that a career in photography excites me. Granted it wouldn’t all be fun and games, but there’s something about capturing an amazing photo that gets me so pumped.

So the photography aspect was definitely the highlight of the experience, but there was so much more. I loved the days that I rode the train downtown.

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*That was actually on my 30 x 30 list. It didn’t happen before I turned 30, but since I’m still currently 30, I’m counting it!*

I loved the days that I drove downtown, saw the trees lit up,

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parked at Nathan’s office, and walked across the Congress Avenue bridge in the early morning sunlight.

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I loved walking the streets downtown and trying to view things as a visitor would. Trying to “re-see” things as if I were seeing them for the first time. I loved looking at the buildings that I see all the time and finding new beauty in them.

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And I realize that most of this has nothing to do with SXSW, really. Just being downtown. But actually it was more than that. It was being down there among such an energetic vibe. Feeling like I was in the middle of all of the action. And let me tell you, there was a lot of action!

I really, really loved the interactive and film portion of the festival. I was assigned to photograph a lot of panels that I wouldn’t necessarily haven chosen to attend on my own and most of them ended up being really fascinating, even when they didn’t relate to me at all. I particularly loved photographing and sitting in on a “Meet the Insiders” panel with the Co-President of Sony Pictures Classic.

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Obviously the method in which Sony Pictures selects which films to distribute has no real relevance in my life, but I still found it to be an interesting discussion. And that’s kind of how most of it went. When I wasn’t on assignment, I would attend events that interested me personally, but even when I was on assignment, I enjoyed most of the panels. And if I didn’t, then I would take a few shots at the beginning and use the remainder of the time until I needed ending photos to read a book on my phone. For someone with very little time to herself to read, that was awesome!

One of the best aspects of the whole festival for me was all of the interaction with other people. I think some people might have found doing it all alone a little daunting, but I had no problems with it. I think my job has really helped me to feel comfortable talking with strangers, so I used every opportunity to network and chat with people from all over the world! On one occasion, I found myself in a car with a guy from New York, a guy from Denver, a woman from Ohio, and another woman from Australia. As we sat in traffic making our way back to the convention center, we ended up having the most amazing conversation. At one point the woman from Australia hands me her business card and proceeds to tell me about the absolutely amazing website that she runs pooling resources to reverse gender stereotyping, particularly for little girls. As the mother of a young girl, this has been on my mind a lot lately and I was blown away by our chance meeting.

Then there was the time I started talking to a guy who is self-employed doing some really cool stuff. I started asking questions and next thing I know he’s listing all of the companies that he’s contracted with and telling me how I can get involved. Again, I felt this chance encounter was perfect timing since I’m looking to make some changes to my work situation.

And then there were the lines.

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I’m sure most people wouldn’t view lines as a favorable thing, but I learned that they were a great opportunity to talk with people. When I went to the screening of Don Jon, I happened to find myself in line between an RTF (Radio-TV-Film) student at UT and a high school student, both of whom were really into photography. So of course we talked photography. And as a college admission counselor, I also had the opportunity to talk with the high school student about where she plans to go to college, what she wants to major in and why. Perfect. I just really love experiences like that, and there were plenty to be had during my time at SXSW as long as I embraced them.

And last but certainly not least, I would be lying if I didn’t say how much I loved all of the free stuff! Free food, free t-shirts, free bags, free giant post-it notes, free books, free hand soap.

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I even got two free printed photos! There was a booth were you could select any image from thousands and have it printed on poster-sized photo paper. Of course I went with trees.

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Now.

Have I rambled on enough?! Yeah, sorry about that. I’ll leave you with this: if you ever have the opportunity to be involved with SXSW, I strongly encourage you to take it! You won’t regret it.

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