I recently had the great privilege/terror of speaking at Photographer’s Ignite. Again. I did this for the first time in 2011, when I spoke on the tiny topic of The Meaning of Life (when I barely had my voice left after a week of teaching in Vegas) and then I did it a second time this past Spring, again in Las Vegas, when I weighed in on The Fascinating Truth About Lying. As much as I speak publicly with little issue, there is something about this format, this 5-minute-exactly, slides-will-move-forward-no-matter-what, memorized format that is just a bit breathtaking. Like, omgicannotbreathe. Long, complicated story short, I actually had very little time to come up with a presentation this time, so I decided to simply speak about something I feel rather passionately about, “How to Know Someone in Under 5 Minutes”. It was possibly a bit of a mixed title, as I was speaking on how to know someone, anyone – the one thing to look for – and I had 5 minutes to present it. So I just crammed all that together as a title and crossed my fingers. This Photographer’s Ignite was also going to be broadcast live, via creativeLIVE, which was new – aaaand I had to go first. Aaack. Warmer Upper. A whole new kind of nerves. Once I started really thinking about what I wrote (see below), which is what I care about a great deal, everything kinda just fell into place. Sidenote: Definitely check out the Photographer’s Ignite page for all the other great 5-minute talks given that evening – there were 12 of us altogether, many delivering seriously great talks. Sidenote II: Crazily enough, the online audience for this wasn’t small. #IgniteLIVE actually ended up trending #1 globally on twitter that night. Bejeebus craziness. Of course I’m very glad I didn’t know that when I got up to speak. This is was my talk: ____ Good to see many of you I know. And also many of you I don’t know but will hopefully get to meet, where we’ll exchange factual, identifying information … name, what we do, where we’re from, BLAH. And during that experience, I will have the opportunity to either genuinely try to know you or slip into autopilot and do a quick snap assessment. With very little need for further identifying information. You will have the same choice I had – that is, of course, if meeting me even REGISTERS with you at all. There are a lot of people and experiences vying for your attention. And you don’t have a lot of time or a lot of mental bandwidth, either. So, we have been trained, you and I, to make snap assessments. We have been trained to judge in this world. And, if comments on YouTube are any indication, we’re actually trained to judge rather harshly. We meet people and as a way of “knowing” them, we hold them against this standard of constant perfection that WE haven’t even reached. And it’s pretty simple to know someone whose truth doesn’t match yours, right? He votes for so & so? He prays to so & so? … yeah, that’s enough. I know what I need to know. Or we hear something about someone and omgah, how could she DO something like that? That thing I just learned about her. (Or read on facebook). Without knowing the entire story, I WOULD NEVER. Even as I HAVE NEVER been in the situation she’s in or faced exactly what’s she facing. It’s as if we look at people and often take measure of their shortcomings first. We focus on what they get wrong. What they do wrong, what they say wrong. It’s like all these reality TV shows have finally sunk into our brains and we think that WE are all the judging panel. We’re all Randy, from American Idol, cocking our heads at people, meeting them and saying … yeahhh, I dunno … she seems pitchy. But But. (And this is when it gets SO GOOD). We lift that camera to our face, we look through the lens, and our job – like, nearly OUR WHOLE JOB at that point – is to look for beauty. To find something of impact. To look for something compelling, emotional. Some connection. And we do. Time and time again we do. We know what the job is, and we do it so well. We have galleries and portfolios and museums and websites and libraries and books and films and songs and hard drives FULL of the beauty we found in people we had never met before. So why should that change when we put the camera down? It wasn’t the gear that saw all that in other people. We GET to meet people every day. And the truth about people is that there’s a light in them. There really is. That’s the miracle of the human spirit. (And I don’t use that word a lot) but the MIRACLE is that it truly exists within all of us. For some it shines. It is easy to see. They are working every day to TURN IT UP. Passionately. Profoundly. They are the bringers of light. For others, yeah – i know what some of you may be thinking… you must not have MET some of the bleepers I know. Well, I’ll tell you, I have met and gotten to know MANY, MANY people through my travels, through my work, through my experience of living in a suburb. And I tell you, I have met YOUR bleepers. I have spent time with YOUR bleepers. …And I hear you in that it’s not always so apparent, this spark in the human spirit. For some it may simply have dimmed with fatigue, relentless routine, pain. Especially with those sharpest of hurts, the ones that hit us so hard it makes everything around us (ourselves included), GO and STAY rather dim. BUT we are born shiny little things. And we RADIATE as children. We are not meant to just give this up, or grow out of it, or have it ground out of us. Sometimes all we need to RE-IGNITE US is just one person, one SINGLE SOLITARY SOUL to look at us long enough to see it … to say, “Nah, that’s not all there is to you.” You want to know someone as soon as possible? Put down the camera and do what it is that artists are trained to do. LOOK FOR THE LIGHT.