I’m revisiting some older work of mine and wanted to share this just ‘cause I’m proud of the experience and would enjoy more speaking engagements like this one. Here it is again, this time with transcription.

This short, five-minute talk was shared in front of thousands of my colleagues at the Wedding and Portrait Photographer International (WPPI) Conference. It was WPPI’s and Kevin Kubota’s first year hosting an event like this. Photographers were invited to submit proposals for a 5-minute TED talk-like speech for sharing innovative ideas with our industry. I jumped at the chance, hoping this was the way that I could do something with all the ideas running through my little brain, and landed a spot as one of 20 speakers. I think there were 1000-2000 photographers in attendance with a big screen behind me of me projecting my image to those back row seats…an amazing experience…

Here’s my The Living Legacy talk transcribed:
Kevin Kubota: “Carolyn Wells is coming up next. Carolyn is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Phoenix, Arizona. She gained her taste for photography as a child and gained her skills in a high school photojournalism class, a lot of us start in photojournalism, I think, shooting for the yearbook. In college, she loved perfecting her darkroom printing skills but gained degrees in biochemistry and environmental science. Wow. She loves connections and feeling connected to everyone, including our earth. She was quick to adopt digital but slow to adopt Photoshop. She prefers to capture the movement, connection, emotion, and composition on location. Sounds beautiful. Carolyn, welcome to the stage…!”

Me: “Hi, I’m here to talk about A Living Legacy and what that means to me – a life history of a person. What we do today is we’re capturing present moments, we’re recording a moment in time as we see it, but we’re missing the stories behind those people, and that defines who we are now – that history behind the person. We’re wedding and portrait photographers, we can tell a story with that photo, but unless it’s a storytelling image, we may not ever…it’s not timeless necessarily. We have tools…

“Living Legacy is about making a DVD, an oral history, recording them with video, recording their audio, but it’s not about getting good at video. We all have iPhones. We just need iPhones, we just need to talk to people, get them to talk, transcribe it, write it down, add it to our portrait sessions, add it to our weddings. This boy here [photo of young boy in his grandma’s arms], if his grandma was to pass away tomorrow, he would adore this picture, but he’s not going to know the stories behind his grandma. If we could do that [capture oral history interviews], as we’re shooting portrait sessions, offer this- it’s just an extension of what we do as photographers. We’re in the perfect position to do it using the tools that we have, the multimedia that we’re learning about that’s just coming at us so quickly, and we’re all integrating it all already. It’s just going to be an amazing opportunity for all of us to add back the stories, the oral history that we really lost. We don’t do a lot of that. [“The present moment defines who we will be; the past defines who we are now.” ~Carolyn Bentley]

“[Photo of bride with both parents on her wedding day.] Not an artistic image, but this bride lost both her parents within a year, so this photo becomes an invaluable photo to her, but it’s not as invaluable a hundred years from now because it’s just a photo of people we don’t really know. If we want our images to be timeless, what if we added stories to the people behind it? Because we pass down the stories.

“I kind of got this idea in high school [slide: The Oral History: My Grandpa. -tipped over an outhouse with a woman inside, -managed to get a horse into the backseat of a car, – knows all the stories, farmers, and families behind the street and community names in once-rural Arizona]. as a history class assignment. I learned that he tipped over an outhouse with a woman inside of it…I would have never have known that about my grandpa, he managed to get a horse into the back of a car.

“So to do this we have products that are totally ready to go. We can transcribe, we can put it into beautiful text with our images, with their images. We can help them gather it, put it in there, give them a DVD, full story. We can condense it into an audio, music of their best quotes. It’s about really seeing your clients a little bit more than what we do… or doing what we already do but just taking it a step further. We already have still images, just up our audio input, figure out a little bit more there, video, create that multimedia slideshow. Be a storyteller. We’re already storytellers, it’s just taking it a step further, at least doing it for your family, I mean, can you imagine what you would learn just about your family?

“This is my grandma. She’s like a third parent to me. I lived with her for a year in high school. This all goes back to high school for me. This image was taken about a week ago. She’s running a carpet installation business…my sponsor: Betty Bentley Carpet Installation, and I cannot wait until I interview her. I have not done this. She has an amazing story to tell, I know some of it, but I’m sure there’s just so much more.

“Just the imagine the treasures that we can uncover. [Picture of basement full of memorabilia.] This is a basement, a 70s basement with orange shag carpet with slides in there. People don’t touch this stuff. Let’s give them a reason to touch it again. So, everybody has a story. Let’s help them start telling it. Let’s start telling our own, getting it into words as just one more piece of the pie of what we do.

I think that’s it, so, thank you.”