In the fall of 2009, I had the opportunity to photograph a lively auction/fundraiser for Stamford's Bartlett Arboretum entitled, "Arboreating." The evening centered around the recognition of beloved actor, Gene Wilder, and his wife, Karen Boyer Wilder for their contributions and support of the Arboretum's programs and cause. Photographing this event came as a result of an innocent conversation at the front desk of the Stamford Marriott Hotel and Spa:
I was working one afternoon, checking in guests and a woman by the name of Kate Urbank was ready to check-in. While going through the motions of a check-in, I would ask the guests questions about their business or where they were from to find commonality. In this instance, with Ms. Urbank, I eventually revealed to her that I had recently discovered a passion for Photography.
She quickly asked, "Do you do event photography?"
"No, but I'm interested in it."
She followed with, "Do you know the Bartlett Arboretum?"
She continued, "I work with them regularly and I know they're holding an event in a couple of weeks. I'm sure they'll need a photographer. If you're interested, I can recommend you. Let me get your information and I'll be in touch." At that point, I had made some business cards and this was clearly the moment to hand her one, but for some reason…I didn’t have any on me. I didn't panic or skip a beat, I just looked for something to write on. I eventually handed her a yellow post-it note that read:
Likewise, I jotted her name and information on a post-it, folded it and placed it in my pocket. (Btw, that telephone number above was my old number. Current contact info here). I honestly didn't expect anything to come of the interaction. I thought she was just being polite. At the time, I didn't even own an external flash. Without a flash, it would have been very difficult to produce good images given that most of the event would take place after dark. I was incredibly surprised one week later when Kate Urbank left me a voicemail:
"...just following up to see if you are still available to photograph the event for the Bartlett Arboretum."
My first stop - Camera Wholesalers for a flash. I quickly purchased a used SB-800. The night arrived and I found myself in my car learning as much as I could about my flash, and I had a really great moment of appreciating how life changes. Five months prior I did not own any camera/Nikon equipment and here I was ready to photograph an event for a well respected organization in my city in a matter of weeks. I felt thankful. I exited my car walked towards the Arboretum and event set up and I quickly found Barbara Rossi, the event coordinator. She did a great job of giving me a rundown for the afternoon/evening. She was about to set me free to start photographing when she remembered one last detail...
"Oh, come with me. Let me introduce you to, Gene (Wilder)."
I thought I was only going to photograph him during the event, which would have been amazing enough, let alone meet him. But we found him, and waited patiently until he finished a conversation with a guest. He turned around and Barbara introduced me:
"Gene, this is, Mallury. He's our photographer for the afternoon."
We shook hands and he peacefully replied, "Hi, Mallury. It's nice to meet you." I don't even remember what I said back to him. All I remember is that it was one of the coolest moments of my life and that he had very soft hands. Afterward, I got to work photographing the event.
As the event's name would suggest, it was well catered. Many local restaurants set up a table in the tent and provided great dishes, including:
The evening contained a silent auction as well as remarks and appearances by many distinguished guests including:
The evening’s honorees, Gene Wilder and wife Karen Moyer
Stamford Mayor at the date of the event (2009) and current Connecticut Governor (2011-) Dannel Malloy
Previously a Stamford Board of Representatives President (2009) and current Stamford mayor (2013-) David Martin
Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut (2009), Michael Fidele
Co-chairs for the evening, Patricia Eggert and Robin Selden of Marcia Selden Catering. These ladies would later serve as co-chairs for the Bartlett Arboretum's Bamboo Benefit in 2012
Bartlett Arboretum Board President 2009), Kenneth DellaRocco
Jimmy Romaniello, founder of James Daniel Enertainment
President of Bartlett Tree Experts, Robert Bartlett, and wife, Kate Bartlett