Big Shot has always been about the people that come to participate. We estimate more than 10,000 people have participated in the 30 Big Shot photographs that we have produced. As we prepare for Big Shot No 31, it is exciting to know how the project has touched so many people in wonderful ways. We can only imagine the new fans that we will hopefully make in Louisville October 3, 2015 at Big Shot No 31 – Churchill Downs.
Staffan Larsson, a long time Big Shot groupie became interested in the project in 1998 and by 2003, we were making a photograph of the King’s Palace in 2003. The following is his story.
Michael Peres and I met at a medical photography workshop held in Rochester New York in 1992. I was able to attend the workshop because of a scholarship provided by the Biological Photographic Association, Kodak, and The Federation of Technical and Medical Photographers(Swedish). One of the sessions was a course in photomicrography. When at the workshop, I asked if I would be interested in helping his assistant Michael Peres workshop produce a workshop in Sweden. While in Rochester I also met Bill DuBois and Dawn Tower DuBois during their seminar on “painting with light” at that same workshop.
The first workshop in photomicrography was held in Stockholm at Karolinska Institutet in 1997 and has been run consecutively every year since that time. During the evenings after the workshop’s activities were concluded, we would spend time talking about everything and one constant topic was the next RIT Big Shot. I thought it was fascinating thing and I kept the idea in my mind that one day I would like to be in the event.
In 2001, Michael told me about a new project he was organizing entitled “Images from Science”. He invited me to be one of the judges for the project. At the same time several members of the FTMF and the Lennart Nilsson Foundation began planning the first international Lennart Nilsson Conference to be held in 2003. I went to Rochester on the 12th of October in 2002 to be at the opening of the Images from Science exhibition.
Everybody was very happy and excited about the Exhibition and after a “small shot” of wine, sometimes people get some new bright ideas, and of course I got one that evening. With my new idea, I felt brave and I went to meet former CIAS Dean Joan Stone. We talked about a collaboration between RIT, the Karolinska Institutet, and the Lennart Nilsson Award to be incorporated into the 2003 Lennart Nilsson Conference. And then without too much thought I asked, “Why not make a Big Shot of The Royal Palace in Stockholm as part of the Lennart Nilsson Conference?” Very intrigued, she said, “make a formal invitation to RIT and we shall see what we can do”.
When I returned to Stockholm, I asked Hans Wigzell, President of the Karolinska Institutet, and Lennart Nilsson to invite RIT to make a Big Shot of The Royal Palace in Stockholm. To make a Big Shot of The Royal Palace, we had to get the permission of Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustav, which took some time. He finally gave us his enthusiastic support. He is a very dedicated amateur photographer and thought it was an unusual and interesting idea. I did not realize how much work there is in planning a Big Shot and the number of people in media – TV, radio & press – that need to be constantly updated. I also needed to keep many of the King’s key staff at The Royal Palace updated with all the things we had to be completed before the Big Shot could be a reality. During the preparations and during our reconnaissance trips required to find the best view, we selected a small balcony located in a 200+ year-old, 5-story apartment building located across from the Palace. The owner of the apartment was an old lady and she became a little overwhelmed when the whole Big Shot team knocked at her door and tried to explain what we wanted to do. We turned on all of our charm and she agreed to allow us access to her balcony.
The three-day conference was a great success with participants visiting from all over the world. The Big Shot event was an exciting addition to the program for everybody and for Bill, Dawn and Michael, it was the first Big Shot abroad. We were also uncertain about how many citizens from Stockholm would show up to participate. We were confident that the participants from the conference would attend but how many others remained at concern.
On October 9, 2003, we all had a moment when it started to rain but in the end we had good luck. Just before the time of assembly, it stopped raining and 350 – 400 people enthusiastic people arrived with lights in hand. The wet paving stones were glistening like diamonds on the ground. In the end, the rain added an extra touch to the image. We got of a lot of attention and publicity in press, radio and TV the days before, during, and following the Big Shot. There were also many discussions amongst the photographer associations and various websites dedicated to photography in Stockholm. Interestingly, the most important outcome for me personally was that I was now a member of the “Secrets of the Big Shot Club”.
The King, Carl XVI Gustav was so very proud of the Big Shot image he asked for permission and used the photograph on his annual 2003 and 2004 Christmas & New Year’s cards. Then President Simone and the Big Shot team RIT each received a personally signed card. Another surprise was that, the King was very fond and impressed with the photograph and it became an important reason for him to construct an outside lighting system for the Royal Palace in 2008.
Sweden is not so far from Croatia and when I learned about RIT’s plans to make a Big Shot in Dubrovnik, I jumped at my chance to really be a Big Shot groupie. We had lovely weather and I met a whole bunch of nice RIT, U.S. and Croatian students and teachers. I was running around everywhere with my camera trying to document the whole event. You can see many of the pictures on the RIT Big Shot website and they were also used in several newsletters. On the Big Day, I got selected by the crew( Bill, Dawn and Michael) to be a group leader for a large and important section of the back wall. I have come to learn that the Big Shot event is like a big circus performance with a lot of adrenaline and happiness before you can see the final result. The photograph of the Pile Gate was excellent and I went home to Sweden as a real Big Shot groupie.
This essay was written in 2008 as part of the Big Shot Picture Book.