Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Meeting Bill Eppridge

I'm taking a break from writing personal statements to post a thread about meeting Bill Eppridge. Last weekend, the huge PDN Photo Expo took place over in midtown. I met up with a few friends Friday afternoon and wandered around the huge trade show. I was feeling pretty uninspired by all the gear and gadgets, but loved the feeling of being in a warehouse full of photographers.

I decided to leave my group with the gadgets and go check-out the free lecture by Bill Eppridge. I started my journey by asking a few people where he would be speaking. No one seemed to know. I ended up two levels down in the wrong part of the expo hall. I headed back to the exhibit area and found where the lecture would be taking place, which was almost exactly where I started.

Bill's stories began after a wonderful introduction by a Pulitzer Prize-winning anchorman. Now, some of you might know the name "Bill Eppridge" but if you don't, I guarantee that you are familiar his work. Bill was one of the first photographers to shoot the Beatles and also worked extensively with a young Barbara Streisand. He was at Woodstock, went to Vietnam, and featured one of the first stories in Life on a couple addicted to Heroin.

While all of these photographs are amazing, Bill is probably most well-known for his pictures of Robert Kennedy. Bill told story after story about the events he witnessed, while a slideshow of his pictures was projected above him. He was in the room, and actually right next to, Bobby when he was assassinated. To hear the story of Bobby's assassination from a first-hand witness was beyond powerful. I felt as though I was listening to a living, breathing, walking history book.

Bill spoke for well over an hour and only stopped because they needed everyone out of the room we were using. After the talk, Bill stuck around and spoke to anyone and everyone that approached the stage. I instantly made my way to the front. I wouldn't say I was star-struck by Bill, but I was in awe of this man. I was completely taken back to have the honor and privilege to shake the hand of a man who had experienced so much of our nation's history. I didn't have any questions for him. I simply told him how honored I was to meet him and that I hope to achieve a fraction of what he's accomplished. His response: "have a good editor." Of course, he can say that; Bill married his editor.

I left the expo completely elated. I couldn't go home, I was too excited. I found the nearest cafe, grabbed some coffee, and wrote. I reflected on what I want to accomplish as a photographer and why I want to pursue a career in social service. I felt empowered, excited, and inspired all by one man's life stories. It has been a long time since I have had the feeling of complete euphoria, but last Friday broke that dry spell. Meeting Bill Eppridge will be something I remember for the rest of my life.

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