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The Story Behind The Story

This is the view of a TEDx event organizer, TEDx speaker coach, TEDx event producer, TEDx volunteer, TEDx event photographer.

I remember taking this photo of Michel Seang during the "Growing Up" event at TEDx Singapore. He is sitting in a chair with a frontal view of the stage where a speaker is delivering an invitation to take a journey into the realms of curiosity, discovery, and wisdom. The audience doesn't know it, but for the TEDx team, this exact moment is the culmination of endless hours of diligent preparation and expert curation. As soon as the speaker takes the stage, the production team, the coaches, the volunteers, PR, marketing, partnerships, all can take a seat, their job is done. Yes, taking a seat and enjoying the view is well deserved.

The untold pains and tribulations of producing an event of such magnitude and significance as a TEDx event can always be found behind the stage or on the sidelines. That is the story this image is trying to convey.

Michel Seang | TEDx Singapore / TEDxParis

A TEDx event is organized by volunteers from the local community, and just like TED events, it lacks any commercial, religious or political agenda. You can find this sentence on the website. We, volunteers, co-creators, mentors, coaches, all of us know this by heart. Just like attending a TEDx event can be a fulfilling, and in my case, a life-changing experience, so it is to help produce and curate it. Otherwise, why would so many of us volunteer so much time and effort to this endeavor?

Wei Tian Tan preparing to go on stage during TEDxSingapore "Growing Up" 2017

When I was photographing the behind the scenes event at TEDx Singapore, I understood the big WHY fueling our volunteer efforts; we believe in the power of stories worth sharing. We believe in the collective desire to tell, celebrate, understand, and amplify stories of inclusivity, authenticity, resilience, and purpose. I saw this community of support behind Wei Tian Tan as she prepared to go on stage. This image speaks to who we are, as a TEDx community, and a team, and it is this same effort, passion, and commitment that can be found wherever a TEDx event is produced, including here in Seattle.

TEDx Youth@Seattle Team

I wanted to share some of the moments that have stood out to me since I joined the TEDxYouth@Seattle team early this year. Working primarily with youth, this TEDx experience has been unlike any other. From listening to the first story pitches, to welcoming and saying goodbye to new and old members, there has been a tremendous sense of excitement and learning. Our future is in good hands - that much I can tell you.

New words, new ways of thinking and co-creating, and leading significant change is what I kept hearing in meetings, in emails, in the way we, as a team, adapted to each other. Working in collaboration with such a diverse group of people, both in age and gender, has brought a new sense of understanding of the word inclusivity in community. This, perhaps, is the most valuable lesson I am taking away from this TEDx experience; when we share a common goal, we will always find ways to mix the old with the new and work together.

Olivia Brandon pitching her story to the speaker team.

Team potluck and meet and greet event.

Speaker team listening to potential stories via video conference call.

Doing our first walk through at Seattle Academy. Picture by @Itzel Luccas

The Youth Storytellers

Most TEDx events have a production structure that allows for different volunteers to lead a particular effort; speakers, partners, marketing, volunteer management, production, operations, etc. This year, a select group of visual storytellers were invited to join the team as the official photographers for the event. To help them prepare for the task of photographing the show, a visual storytelling workshop was created for the sole purpose of teaching intentional photography. I designed, curated, and lead this mentorship program.

We started the workshop with these questions;

Is your smile on that selfie real. Is the happiness you brag about on social media real. Are you real or faking it?

We've become experts at posing for a selfie, we style and photograph our food, and we add color saturating filters to our version of reality. Our social media feed never shows our sadness, frustrations, confusion, anger, our NORMAL.

WHY do we share a curated version of reality but conveniently forget to talk about what is normal? Is sharing emotions other than happiness or cool accepted on social media?  What would happen if you stop creating content? 

If I could see with their eyes, what would I see?

In the next couple of days, I will be telling you the behind the scenes story of our I AM WHAT I SEE / I SEE WHAT I AM visual storytelling workshop and exhibition. For now, let me introduce you to Itzel Luccas, Mary Scisente, and Banna Kanuteh. In addition to producing an exhibition that is thought provoking and inspiring, they are also the official photographers for the "It's Time" event on Sunday, October 27th.

Itzel Luccas, Mary Scisente, Banna Kanuteh

I think it's time we focus on the value and purpose of intentional storytelling so that we fully take advantage and harness the power and reach of social media platforms.

What do you think It's Time for?

Mary Gomez Camba

Founder, The Think Visual Project

TEDx Speaker

TEDx Youth Mentor

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