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the life of m

There are some people in our field that act as though they are the leaders of the industry. They are arrogant, obnoxious and self-serving photographers that may not realize how often they are the butt of people’s jokes.

I’ve found that those that boast about their achievements are never leaders. It’s the quiet, humble ones that are truly pioneers.

Melissa Lyttle is a pioneer.


I was reminded about this last week in St. Pete. For the past 8 years, Melissa has hosted an annual photographic retreat called Geekfest. In one word, Geekfest is about inspiration.

Dozens of crazy cool, passionate photographers will descend on a city each year and, well, get their Geek On. Melissa, with her nutty digital Rolodex, brings in veteran photographers to speak and share their photographs and experiences.

This year in St. P, there were two Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers (Damon Winter and Pat Farrell) and a National Geographic super star (Sam Abell). But you can’t tell me a single person on the 3-day lineup didn’t have something invaluable to share.

Perhaps the greatest tribute to this weekend and Melissa’s mission was how excited and inspired the speakers were. I heard Damon, Pat and Sam all say how grateful they were to be included in Geekfest. You kiddin’ me? The speakers didn’t just speak. They, like everyone else, participated and learned. How cool is that?

Personally, Geekfest changed my life, changed the way I look at photography and myself.

At my first GF, in 2005 in sweaty Austin with TBrown, I rediscovered why I love photography. I was reminded to take photos for myself, first and foremost. What am I trying to say with my photography? It’s a simple message that’s easy to forget while getting bogged down in the newspaper biz.

Every time I fly out to a nutty sporting event to take photos – on my own dime and time – it’s because I remember the message from Austin: follow your passion and never slow down.

At 32, Melissa, the founder of APAD, has already achieved more in uniting and inspiring photographers than anyone else I can think of. But like a true leader, she’d never say so.

I’m honored to know her. And to call her friend.

  • Angel Valentin - September 20, 2009 - 2:12 pm

    Amen Sol, amen. Thanks M.


  • J. Perez-Mesa aka "Pepe" - September 20, 2009 - 3:47 pm

    Sol’s words speak by all of us. Thanks Melissa.


  • trent - September 20, 2009 - 5:05 pm

    so true


  • Tim Galloway - September 20, 2009 - 6:48 pm

    I’m kinda’ sad that this year was my first. But happy to know that there will be next year.

    Thanks to M.


  • Scott Strazzante - September 21, 2009 - 12:20 pm

    You are correct sir! Go M go!


  • The Visual Student » Road Trip: Geekfest - September 30, 2009 - 10:13 am

    […] out, elegant piece on Melissa than Sol Neelman recently did so I would just recommend visiting his blog post. I do want to say how thankful I am for all of her work, mentoring, and friendship. She is […]


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