Blessed to cover Islamic Speakers Bureau’s Change Makers Award, Gala

The Islamic Speakers Bureau gives Sally Yates the Courage Award during their Change Makers Award Gala held at the Cobb Galleria on November 4, 2017, in Atlanta, Georgia. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/200]

I had the pleasure of photographing  The Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta Gala, where they gave four Awards to those who have impacted Atlanta. The ISB seeks to build bridges between Muslims and the wider community.

The thing about my job is sometimes; I want to pinch myself to see if it is really what I am experiencing. Photographing the award honorees was a special honor.

Sally Yates is a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Justice Department and formerly served as a federal prosecutor in Atlanta. Most recently, she was the acting Attorney General who refused to enforce President Donald Trump’s first ban on travel from several majority-Muslim nations earlier this year, calling the order “unlawful.” Trump fired her for her decision.

The Islamic Speakers Bureau gave Arthur Blank a Lifetime achievement award during their Change Makers Award Gala held at the Cobb Galleria on November 4, 2017, in Atlanta, Georgia. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 9000, ƒ/5.6, 1/200]

Arthur Blank has given more than 300 million dollars to charity. Most recently, he has helped with the Westside neighborhood, including Vine City. The English Avenue/Vine City area has some of the highest poverty and crime rates in the city, with the Carter St. area surrounding the Vine City MARTA station ranking in 2010 as the #1 most dangerous neighborhood in Atlanta and #5 in the United States.

Blank said his family foundation would contribute $15 million, bringing the Westside Neighborhood Prosperity Fund’s total to $30 million. The fund goes towards housing, education, health, entrepreneurship, workforce development, and youth leadership.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 8000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]

I must admit attending this was the most diverse crowd I have been a part of in Atlanta. People from all faiths were in the room and of different nationalities.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.8, 1/25]

While there were Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the room within each group, there was even more diversity. Muslims from India, Arab Countries, and many whose roots are from diverse American blend backgrounds. There was also a mix of Christians from many different denominations.

Bishop Robert. The Islamic Speakers Bureau gives C. Wright of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta the Building Bridges Award during their Change Makers Award Gala held at the Cobb Galleria on November 4, 2017, in Atlanta, Georgia. [Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.5, 1/75]

Besides covering the stage, I am also covering the VIP room with donors getting time to meet the Award Winners one-on-one and get their photos.

Sally Yates and her husband with some of those in the VIP room.

The volunteer working the VIP room and I spent some time talking before people arrived. She was super excited to meet Sally Yates, maybe. The volunteer was star-struck when Yates walked into the room. I just asked Sally Yates and her husband to get their photo made with her. The rest of the night, that volunteer thanked me.

The emcee for the Gala was Mr. Bill Nigut, Senior Executive Producer at Georgia Public Broadcasting. [Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/4.8, 1/100]

I enjoyed talking with Bill Nigut. My wife Dorie told me he was what we listened to on our way to see our daughter in Columbus, GA. I told him I often listen to him and Greg Bluestein on his news show.

Dr. Mokhtar Bazaraa, business leader and former Georgia Tech professor. [Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/4.2, 1/100]

Years ago, while on staff at Georgia Tech, I photographed Mokhtar Bazaraa. Bazaraa, Executive Vice President of LogicBlox and former professor at Georgia Tech, was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award. It was good to make this connection as well.

If you get the chance to cover an event, read up on who you photograph. Sometimes you may need some “insider information” to help you with ice breakers and talk with people at the event.

I talked with Bishop Robert. C. Wright’s kids. We are both preacher kids, and I found out about their passions. The connection I used later with the Bishop was that our daughter and his were both Thespians.

My ice breaker with Mokhtar Bazaraa was some of our connections at Georgia Tech.

Ice breakers are ways you show your interest in the person.

Another tip is to arrive early and set your white balance for the lighting on the stage. Test your lighting in different rooms. It also makes the rooms your rooms after a while. You are there first, which will help you feel like the host rather than the guest. This can also help you to be more proactive with people.