It is pro bono week! I really love photographing events to help promote a good cause. I also really love working with organizations that make a positive impact locally, nationally or beyond.
Breakthrough Collaborative is an amazing organization that simultaneously mentors teaching fellows and prepares them for successful careers in education while giving highly motivated, high-need students a summer program that prepares them for success in college and beyond. My wife is the Chief Communications Officer at Breakthrough’s national office in San Francisco. She only gave me a few ‘notes’ about the sentences above.
Breakthrough held the event in the Merchants Exchange Building in downtown San Francisco. This building, built in 1904, is really remarkable. The building was one of the tallest in San Francisco at the time of the 1906 earthquake. It survived but sustained major damage. Civic leaders thought that it would be good to get the building back in shape quickly to signify that the city was literally rising from the ashes. Julia Morgan was early in her career as a architect and worked with the original architect, Willis Polk, to design key aspects of the renovation notably the lobby and and great hall. She moved her offices to the thirteenth floor of the building in 1907 and kept them there the rest of her career.
The fifteenth floor of the Merchants Exchange Building is now the home of the Julia Morgan Ballroom. This space has seen many important gatherings over the years including fund raising events for the 1915 Pan Pacific Exhibition. In the photo above you can see the ballroom’s ceiling and relatively dark interior. There were large windows on one wall, which helped light the room some. But this was a challenging spot to photograph. The light falloff from one side of the room to the other had to be considered. The light next to the windows was perfect though. The windows were almost floor to ceiling with shear curtains that made them into giant soft-boxes.
Luckily, I had the great honor to shoot with one of the best photographers in San Francisco. This really took the pressure off me so I could relax and learn from a master. His name is Alessandro Desogos. Click here for a link to his site; then hire him; you won’t be sorry. I learned several important things watching him shoot the event. We were able to share notes about how to get all the shots on the shot list. Having two photographers was necessary especially because of the tight schedule and the number of shots we needed to get before the main event. I was a happy second shooter.
The event was a luncheon for 150 people. There was a short reception before the lunch. This reception was a bit chaotic from a photographer’s point of view. Watching Alessandro here was great. Seeing how he was able to swoop in a take a shot at just the right moment was impressive. He also is expert at quickly getting group of people together for a shot, getting the shot and moving on. It is important to guide the subjects without being bossy and maintaining the energy level and the fun of the event. I noticed that smiling, and having an Italian accent can really help. That is something I’ll have to work on.
Carol Dweck, a researcher currently working at Stanford, was the guest speaker. Ms. Dweck gave a presentation on her work related to ’implicit theories of intelligence’ specifically about fixed mindset, growth mindset and how these concepts relate to educating the current and future generations. It was a really great event that perfectly complimented Breakthrough’s work related to integrating the most relevant research with their state of art teaching program.