Tamara Lackey: You have been hosting the
very popular Photo Ignite at WPPI for years
now. What draws you most to the unique
format of this program?
Kevin Kubota: Ah!
As one of the most
veteran speakers at
you should be able to
answer these questions
for me! But wait, this
is all about me, I forgot. I love the format
because it is deceptively difficult to do a
good 5-minute presentation versus a longer
one. You have to really think hard about
what your core message is—no fluff. When
you strip the fat, you get to the meat of your
presentation very quickly (sorry for that
analogy Mrs. Vegan) and I think it becomes
a more powerful message. As a bonus, if
the speaker happens to suck, it’s over pretty
quickly. Fortunately, we haven’t had any
sucky speakers. The format is immensely
entertaining and diverse. I love that I get
to expose new people to the audiences.
Everyone has a poignant message to
share—not only the famous speakers. I can’t
remember a Photographers Ignite yet that I
haven’t been moved to tears at some point.
TL: You are very well known and have
maintained a long career by standing out in a
crowded industry. What’s one thing about you
that most people would find surprising?
KK: I think most people would find it
surprising that I’m quite an introvert. I didn’t
even realize it myself until a few years ago
when I saw a TED Talk from Susan Cain called
“The Power of Introverts.” I always thought I
was anti-social because I’d prefer to sit and
have an intimate dinner with a good friend
than attend a big, hip party. Extroverts refuel
from the energy of others; introverts refuel
from quiet time alone. Once my batteries
are full, I can get out there and party, but
I definitely need my chill time and always
prefer intimacy to large gatherings.
TL: What question do you hate to answer
KK: Hate is such a harsh word. I don’t think
I’ve ever heard that out of your sweet mouth.
So, let’s say I reluctantly answer the common
question, “What’s the one piece of advice you
can give to new photographers about…” I
am reluctant to answer this because it seems
everyone wants a simple shortcut to success.
I really don’t believe that anyone is successful
because of any one big thing or secret they
know. Success comes from doing many little
things well. You are a sum of your parts. One
of my favorite quotes is from Mother Teresa:
“We can do no great things, only small things
with great love.” I think this applies well to
growing a business, or growing ourselves and
the world we live in. Even being successful
as a photographer involves working on all
the aspects of your life, not just your pretty
picture-taking abilities. I study body language
to help me understand and read my clients
better. I use prayer and visualization to
have more enjoyable and successful photo
sessions. I donate my photography services
to help me value my work for those that can
pay more. Every little thing we do to improve
ourselves becomes part of our success story.
TL: What one thing do you most look forward
to in life that you haven’t experienced yet?
KK: I can’t say there is one big “bucket list”
kind of thing that is constantly on my plate.
I definitely look forward to experiencing
grandkids—although I hope that is not any
time soon. On a grander scale, I guess I really
look forward to a day when all people learn to
really, truly, see and hear each other. (I think
this is slated for September 29, 2035.) I’ve
been really working on this myself, trying to be
open and truly hear what someone is sharing
with me, and to be able to see them for who
they deeply are, without judgment. When I’m
successful, I find I like more people—and I like
people I already like even more.
TL: Anne Frank once said that in spite of
everything, she believed people were
basically good. Agree or disagree, and why?
KK: I actually had this very conversation with a
dear friend not long ago where we discussed
several aspects of religion and spirituality. One
area where we disagreed was that he believes
that people are inherently evil and needed
to be saved. I believe we are born good
and are inherently good, but learn or tend
toward “evil” things out of a lack of nurture,
environmental influence, desperation or even
mental instability. Most people are “basically”
good, even if they do naughty things here and
there. So, yes, basically good, but not perfect.
Even though we have a world at war, there are
still more people living in peace and doing
extraordinary acts of kindness, even if they
aren’t making the headline news. I believe if
you asked anyone, and they were to answer
honestly without qualifying how it would be
done, they’d rather live in a world of peace and
kindness than one of war and hate. And that
tells me that we are basically good.
Tamara Lackey is a photographer, author,
program host (of Adorama’s reDefine show),
Nikon USA Ambassador, and founder of
Beautiful Together and Lush Albums.
Kevin Kubota began Kubota Photo Design Inc.
in 1990 as a wedding and portrait studio, and
it is now the umbrella company for Kubota
Image Tools, Asuka Book USA and Red Boot
Design. Go online to find out how to submit a
speaking proposal: photographersignite.com
DEPTH OF FIELD
Did you know Kevin Kubota is an introvert?
INTERVIEW BY TAMARA LACKEY
ABOVE: A recent Photo Ignite event at WPPI in
Las Vegas, including Kevin Kubota (kneeling in
front) and Tamara Lackey (standing beside him).