The storm cleared last night and today was a beautiful late winter day in Austin, Texas — sunny and 70 degrees. I headed downtown for some street portraits and to check out what’s happening this year at SXSW Interactive.
I don’t have a long history of going to these things so I can only compare this to what I saw last year. It seems like this year, there are more storefronts rented out, for several days, as promotional showrooms. I saw big splashes by Microsoft, Warner Brothers and Samsung. It was also nice that these places were open to regular people, like me, who did not have a SXSW badge. Some of them even served drinks and food. It’s my birthday today so I gladly partook in some free, mid-day alcoholic beverages. Combined with taking candid and posed portraits, it was a fine way to spend the afternoon. The family celebration was later in the evening so I had several hours to photographically explore.
As usual, I travelled light, opting this time to take my Olympus E-P3 with the 25mm f1.4 and my Olympus XZ-1. My most often used (these days) E-PM2 and 14mm was left at home. I will use it tomorrow at the giant SXSW Photowalk being organized by Trey Ratcliff. Today, I was planning to concentrate more on people instead of architecture. The 25mm (50mm equivalent) lens strikes a nice balance for candid photography as well as portraits. The XZ-1 point in shoot was going to fill the gaps with its 28mm to 112mm equivalent zoom lens.
As usual, people found creative ways to showcase their products and services. Nicely decked out showrooms are always popular especially when they have tchotchkes. But organizations with smaller budgets also had their own unique style. There was a colorful, 80’s leotard wearing troupe, dancing through 6th street, which gave me Olivia Newton-John flashbacks (Let’s get Physical, anyone?). The only problem was that I didn’t know what they were promoting.
Props for impromptu photographs were also popular, both Flickr (Yahoo) and Phunware used them. Think about this. Only several years ago, photo props wouldn’t work unless you supplied a camera and a photographer. These days of course, with the advent of smartphones, almost everyone has a camera with them. Common place now but it would’ve been unheard of just 1/2 decade ago.
One more change SXSW made this year was to separate the Games Conference into a free, publicly accessible venue south of the river. I took my boys to see it yesterday. And although the older, 14-year-old is too cool to be excited by this, the younger one was really blow away. It’s nice that the organizers and the sponsors have opened up some of these events to the people beyond the badge holders. SXSW has gotten so large that it has a big, sometimes negative, impact on Austin. It’s fantastic that everything is not just a badge accessed, walled garden. It certainly makes it more fun for me, at least. Let’s see what 2014 brings.
Click on the photographs to see a larger image and hover over the photos to see the exposure detail.