Photographing the AHS launch

Last week I photographed the BHA’s Darwin Day lecture, and I’ve just seen they’ve published the resulting photos onto their site – yay! This morning I was back at the same hall for the launch of the AHS – an umbrella group of university atheist, secular and humanist groups, and it was excellent fun.

The launch was to consist of a few talks from guest speakers (all of whom I admire tremendously), as well as general mingling amongst the tables of the BHA, NSS and various other organisations. I had free reign to wander with my camera, and to say hello to the speakers, which was great. At one point I was on the upper balcony when an enterprising student photographer grabbed said speakers for a pleasing pose, so a few minutes later I headed over and asked if he’d send me a copy. He said yes and that I should email him – I wrote down his address, noting with some surprise the domain ‘independent.co.uk’. Not a student photographer then; actually a newspaper professional. I must have seemed pretty cheeky, and I backtracked rather quickly, but he was most friendly and kindly sent the image within minutes of my asking. So that was nice.

Towards the end of the event we decided to take a group shot. Everybody gathered in front of the stage, with me directing them from the upper balcony. I haven’t done a lot of large-group photography, but I had a gameplan. Ish. I pulled out a few of Damian‘s tips for arranging people, which worked very well, but I realised that the moment of taking the photo would be more problematic – I had nothing.

Traditionally, you get everyone to say ‘cheese’. This is stupid. ‘Cheese’ forces people’s mouths into unnatural smiles, and it’s just a cringeworthy thing to do. I’ve never seen a professional photographer ask people to say anything at all, but I couldn’t for the life of me think what they did instead.

The best I could come up with was a “3…2…1…”. That was, until someone jokingly shouted up that I make everyone say ‘orgy’. And I thought, screw it, and bellowed that, indeed, on my count of 3 everyone should shout ‘ORGY’.

It’s not every day you say that to Richard Dawkins.

On 3 they all dutifully yelled, and – I have to say – every one of the ~60 people is open-eyed and smiling, which doesn’t happen often. I can’t claim any credit for this one, but I’ll certainly store it for future appropriate occasions. If, er, there are any.

I sent the images over to the BHA this afternoon, and haven’t heard back yet. Hopefully they’re ok, and they’ll go onto the website soonish. It was a great event to attend – the talks (what I heard of them, anyway) were worthy, and the people interesting to chat with. A memorable day.