I had the amazing opportunity to work for the Milwaukee Press Club as they held the city of MIlwaukee’s birthday party. They turned 167 this year on Thursday, January 31st! I had never really heard of a city having a birthday party before, so when the offer came for me to photograph it, I said Yes! But to be honest, I had no idea what I was getting into.
I went through all of the research of looking up the building where the event was being held (the Grain Exchange in downtown Milwaukee), googled how to get there so I didn’t get lost and found photos from last year’s 166th birthday party. From the information I gathered, I had a pretty good plan. I consulted with my contact at the Press Club for further details about the time, parking and anythign specific she thought I should know.
All of my preparation work was done and it was time for the event! I was nervous when I got there; nervous but confident. I had taken photographs like this before. I met with my contact and went over last minute details and went to set up my gear. I tested out my lights and flash and was set to start in only a few minutes. The room was grand, high ceilings, low lights, and tables covered in white cloth. In the middle of the room sat a three tiered birthday cake. Everything looked so fancy, even the guests who were starting to arrive.
I began shooting the cake first, as there was little interference from the small amount of people there at that time. I got a few shots of people walking in to the room and sitting and talking with each other; mainly candids. As the night progressed, there was a presentation with the planners, the Mayor, the Police Chief and all of the city’s Aldermen. The theme of the evening had been Milwaukee’s Hidden Riches Revealed. The public was asked which places were their favorites in the city of Milwaukee and there were many of them. The pressure was on for me to get a good shot. It was at this moment that all of the other photographers came out of the wood work as well. They all appeared with their equipment and came to stand by me to get that good shot.
After the presentation, everybody had sung ‘Happy Birthday’ and had gotten a piece of cake. Once their cake was finished the guests either stayed and networked or ducked out early. Being one of the bigger events of the year, most people stayed, got another drink or piece of cake and talked with each other. People were passing business cards back and forth and laughing and having a good time. I was there to capture it all.
For most of the night, I would feel like a fly on the wall. Just taking pictures of everyone. Occasionally, someone would come and talk to me to find out what company I was with and they all seemed surprised that I was still a student in school. I had a few people try to give me their business cards to e-mail them a photo I had taken even though they are all posted on the Milwaukee Press Club’s Flickr account. As the night ended, I packed up my gear and was headed out when Mayor Tom Barrett said ‘good night’ to me and waved as he passed by.
I learned a lot by jumping into a new situation and going with the flow of an event. I was confident and professional and made a few contacts of my own for future networking.
Check out some of the photos below!
MKE Press Club Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=Milwaukee%20Press%20Club