Dulles' Going the Extra Mile (or GEM) customer service initiative kicked off with a bang in 2011, and happened to be the first major airport event I've had the privilege of photographing. I still remember shooting that GEM Pep Rally; I had just upgraded to a 5D Mark II and 24-70mm f/2.8L USM, using my poor Rebel XT with Tamron 18-270mm as a secondary - it was the beginning of moving my photography and my gear forward professionally.
Flash forward to the end of 2013: Thinking about how far the GEM Program has come, and how my photography has followed it so closely since its beginnings, the juxtaposition I felt while shooting 2013's GEM of the Year Award Ceremony and Luncheon was so easily defined simply by looking at the gear in my hands; the same 5D Mark II and 24-70 from three years ago (though looking VERY battleworn), and a 1D X now taking the role of main camera body. These two camera bodies have seen and immortalized every single GEM Awardee since the beginning of the Program, and the event I was about to shoot brought every GEM from the past year together to the same place.
It was great seeing all the GEMs together at the same time - they've all had portrait sessions with me, and it was fun hearing them all remember the antics at each session; that time we kept getting photobombed, or the other time my light got bumped over.
Things got started with lunch, and some remarks from Dulles' Customer Service Manager, who administers the GEM Program, Dennis Hazell, and Airport Manager, Chris Browne. First up for recognition was MWAA Sign Shop's very own Vince Young for his integral role in designing graphics and other program material that has made Dulles GEM possible.
Next were the Runner-Up, and 2013's GEM of the Year. First Nery Padilla of 5 Star Parking won 2013 Runner-Up for his good deed of covering up a passenger's forgotten rolled-down car window to protect the interior during their trip. Finally, 2013's GEM of the Year was awarded to Ojulu "OJ" Lero of Washington Flyer Taxi for taking his service above and beyond, driving over 60 miles at no charge to return a purse accidentally left in his cab.
Those stories are exceptional, but the room was filled with GEMs who had also equally impressive tales of their own, and the luncheon was a final recognition to close out 2013 and begin anew in 2014.
As the GEMs departed, I photographed one awardee whom was previously unable to attend her recognition, and Dennis then explained how the graphic overlay will look once printed. Here's that portrait before graphic design: