June is the time of year when thousands of high school seniors gather in performing arts centers and auditoriums donning colorful caps and gowns. They anxiously listen to speeches and fidget in their seats waiting for the moment when their name is announced and the walk begins across the stage to get their diploma, shake hands with dignitaries, and revel to the cheers from family members. This year I attended a graduation and shot pictures from the upper level. Dark venues are always a challenge, but an ISO between 1000 and 3200, 1/80sec shutter speed, and my 70-300mm zoom lens gave me fairly good results. Memories were captured. This ceremony turned out to be only the beginning of an experience never to be forgotten.
I had the opportunity to attend five ceremonies this year, one as a spectator and four others on stage to congratulate each student on their accomplishments. Being on stage and shaking over a thousand hands had to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I watched the young women and men parade to their seats as their families cheered and camera flashes fired. Memories of my own High School Class of '78 graduation at the Dania Jai Alai Fronton started flooding my consciousness. Memories of my college graduation, and the ceremonies of my children. I now consider these graduations as being singular. My focus was on me or my child walking across the stage. I didn't really see anyone else. Once the single name was called and I cheered, the graduation was basically over. As I sat on the stage this year I was able to see the faces of many of the students. The faces were intent on listening to every word being spoken, I could feel their energy.
The speeches I heard had much more meaning, especially listening to the young adults. The Valedictorians and Salutatorians were good but nothing would have prepared me when I listened to the students from a unique school speak about the hardships they encountered in their lives and how determined they were to graduate. As the evenings progressed, I had the opportunity to shake hands with every student and say congratulations on their efforts. Every student was bright eyed with big smiles. I could individually see the confidence in each as they looked into my eyes and said thank you to my congratulatory comments. Some thanked me for caring enough to attend. I had sitting beside me elementary and middle school principals that showed elation when they recognized their previous students and hugs were given for helping them reach this milestone in their lives. Following the last handshake and the turning of the tassels, I was energized and finally understood why I am an advocate for education.
Some of these young women and men will go to college, some into the military, some straight into the workforce. I heard some say that their interest was in the arts and photography. I hope for those that choose to pursue photography as a career or as a hobby, elicit the same excitement and confidence I observed at these graduations. Attending and being on stage was a new perspective that only a few experience, I was truly fortunate. Next time I am going to try and bring my camera, It should be fun and different. And by all means, if asked again, I am more than willing to shake a thousand or more hands.
Have you had a similar experience, I'd like to hear about it.
Enjoy and remember,
"Moments in time are lived once. Images of those moments live forever."