Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd and nothing attracts photographers like a photography show.
So, with that Zen-like philosophical moment over, walk with me through the all-things-photographic festooned halls of Birmingham’s National Exhibition Center for a visit to the 2014 The Photography Show.
My choice of day to visit was a Sunday – the show is on between Saturday the 1st of march and Tuesday the 4th – as getting there means driving down the M1 and West on the M42 for me, so less traffic on a Sunday. I consequently arrived 15 minutes early. Parked up – took a photo of the car park number (N5) because my sense of direction is atrocious, and wanted to be able to find my car again – and jumped on the shuttle bus serving the NEC halls.
Arriving early meant I had to stand in the already lengthy queues that had formed. This was kind of interesting as it gave me a snap-shot of the demographic of the attendees – more on that later. I struck up a conversation with a man and wife couple – both toting cameras – and we joked about having taken the same ‘precaution’ of leaving our credit cards at home. Only I wasn’t joking. So much I wanted but so very little that I actually needed. A few minutes later at 10am they let us in to the halls where we all proceeded to behave like the proverbial kiddie in the sweet shop; drooling (some people literally) at the sumptuous and often ridiculously priced goodies on offer.
I’ve been to this show every year for the last few years and until this year it was called ‘Focus on Imaging‘. Last year the organisers – Mary Walker Exhibitions - announced that the show would not ‘go on’. This came as quite a shock to many people and worried many more as this was the biggest show of its kind in Europe.
When the dust had cleared the consensus was that Focus hadn’t faced any financial difficulties, rather it seems the event may have merely become harder and harder to organise and presumably the reward to effort ratio less and less appealing. It is possible the organisers became frustrated with last-minute bookings by exhibitors, which had reportedly become a trend in recent times, and this meant additional pressure to fill the large exhibition space at the NEC. The show had been going for over 20 years so Mary probably deserves a huge pat on the back for sticking with it for that long.
Enter The Photography Show, stage left. With a fanfare!
This new show, looking remarkably like the old show, is now being organised by Future (Future, the international media group and photography publisher) and at first glance things do seem to have continued as normal. But on closer examination there seems to be a subtle shift in direction. This year’s show felt a little more ‘professional’ and with the introduction of the Super Stage; for an additional £10 one could hear from, and see the works of, international super stars of photography like Joe McNally, Rankin and McCurry.
Enough waffle – I’ll tell you more of what I thought of the show in words and pictures below. Thank you for reading my take on The photography Show 2014:
‘Would You Credit Card It?’ – What hasn’t changed is the presence of Canon. Friendly as ever their stand was continually crowded with prospective customers being invited to get their sticky paws all over the merchandise. There was the usual queue up the stairs to gain access to the Telephoto balcony and Canon’s big guns – notice, if you will how oddly half of the photographers up their had their eyes on me and looked very guilty – maybe they had brought their credit cards!
‘I Am A Huge Bloody Box!’ – Nikon was there, and at full throttle. I think they sell cameras too, I’m not sure.
‘I’d Have Gotten away With It If It Weren’t For You Meddling Kids!’ – Olympus had this kinda spooky ‘amusement arcade’ booth that people entered but never came out of again! Where’s Scooby Doo and the gang when you need them?
‘Watcom in the Pink!’ – Wacom, those wonderful tablet people, were there and in the Pink with their stand. Gotta love those seats. And writing this now I suddenly realise that this was the one stand that I wanted to spend some time and….. and possibly buy a replacement pen……. and some nibs, and ……. maybe a new tablet…..!
‘A Sigma of the Times?’ – Pretty much anybody that was anybody in the photographic retailing world was in attendance as you can image, and this included the third party lens manufactures. Sigma had their big guns on show. Look at that tiny camera dangling off the end of that lens. Apparently you can see the end of the world with this lens, or at least the end of your healthy bank balance.
‘Classically Classical.’ – As usual at this show there are always lots of dioramas and models on various stages and catwalks to photograph. This was one of the more creative set-ups. The car was to die for. These brave models were posing pretty much all day long (8 hours) and at the end of the day looked like they had. Whatever they were being paid – it wasn’t enough.
‘The Lady in Red.’ – No idea who this was at the time but she was had a beautifully enigmatic look. She was on the Hasselblad stand. As with most of the show that day I tried to get a few shots from ‘behind the scenes’ and this is one of them. More of this young lady later.
‘Okay Lightroom ….. and 1, 2, 3 … Go! – This was a common scene pretty much wherever a model appeared on the catwalk or stage or exhibitors stand; tens of attendees with their cameras shooting the model who was being lit by on stage flash. The model in question on this platform was Elesha Eden, somebody I’ve worked with in the past. She was on the Live Stage working with fashion photographer Wayne Johns. Poor Wayne had to contend with Lightroom crashing at the start of his talk which meant none of the images he was shooting tethered appeared on the big screens either side of the stage. Undeterred they both carried on like troopers.
The demographic (mentioned earlier) as demonstrated here, was in the region of 75% in the 35-65 age bracket with 25% in the 18-35 age bracket. Don’t quote me on this, it was just my opinion on the day. But for that day I’d say it was fairly accurate.
‘Up the Orinoco Without a Paddle!’ – The Societies were in attendance. Very friendly staff and a great stand with give-away copies of Professional Imagemaker (ya can see ‘em on the tables look!). Their organisation brings together and provides for the needs of the professional photographer. Not just for those working in the fields of weddings and portraiture though, but it also serves as the umbrella organisation overseeing several other partner societies that cater for those involved in sectors as varied as commercial, press and sport through to travel, wildlife, event and glamour photography.
And if the Societies sorted out their disaster of a website, which is akin to navigating the Orinoco in a coracle whilst being jabbed in the ribs with a sharp stick, they could probably double their membership.
‘Siren Song’. – Ah right – then I realised this young lady, who was a siren song for my camera, was working with Karl Taylor the internationally famous ozzie photographer. I like karl and his online resources and he has that wonderful way about him when he presents information – concise, funny and just great to listen to.
‘Karl Taylor.’ – This is Karl Taylor the man, the legend. Along with Scott Kelby one of the finest providers of on-line teaching resources.
‘Get orf my laand!’ – I wandered back to the Canon stand again – to see if the queue for the monster Canon L lenses had diminished. It hadn’t. I love the facial expression of the guy above here – its like he’s determined to defend his strategic position and will ‘open fire’ on anybody approaching his bunker! “Getouttahere – this thing fires 14 frames a second!”
Marylin? Is that you? – I don’t know, I think that was the look she was going for. Boo-boop-de-doop!
‘I see no ships!’ – Okay, now what the hell is this? Seriously! It’s that Canon L lens colour so I’m presuming it’s a canon lens…. but its so damn long! Its like a 400mm that’s had ‘puppet warp’ and a diet administered. You have no idea how hard it was for me to resist shouting ‘Thar she blows!’.
‘Props’ – a terrific little ‘props’ stand. So many things I wanted to buy on here, but I had a sneaky suspicion that eBay might have the same goodies at a lesser price.
‘Colour My World…Flock!’ – Colorworld (spelled incorrectly but we’ll forgive them) – and my favourite stand at the show. Lots of oldie worlde flock wallpaper motifs and scrolls galore. Gotta love those renaissance digital albums. Digital is now officially renaissance.
‘Photo Training for Less of You!’ – This is Mark Cleghorn and his ‘The Photographer Academy’ stand (formally ‘Photo Training 4 you’ or PT4U for short. Yikes what were they thinking?). He seems to have been one of the losers in the shake up from last year. Every year I’ve been to the show Mark has had some serious real estate at the NEC which included a stage and front of house seating upon which he conducted many excellent talks and demonstrations throughout each day, every day. Mark was a natural showman with a ‘barrow boy’ spiel. It was rather sad to see him reduced to this.
‘Different Points of View’ - I shall entitle this little morsel thus and leave it at that.
‘Get ya camera gear here – get ‘em while they’re hot!’ – CameraWorld doing good business. There stand and the two or three others like it seemed to do great business from start to finish. Although I must have taken this shot at a quiet moment generally speaking you had to queue to buy anything. They were running discounts from between 10%-30% on almost everything – show discount prices folks.
These were the seriously dangerous stands – not Canon or Nikon but these ‘market stalls’ by comparison. Dangerous because there was so much to hang your nose over and at so close to internet prices that it made no difference. ‘So, tell me again, Mr salesman, how much that 64gb Lexar flash card is that I don’t actually ‘need’?’
‘Girl in a Box!’ – I think she was one of Panasonic’s give-aways!
Oh no, wait! She was a contortionist and on the Olympus stand. And no Olympus – that’s not strange at all.
‘Preaching to the Converted’ – A Nikon guy talking about Nikon stuff to Nikon fans. If you look carefully at his shoes you can see that his shoelaces have been tied together. This was done by a Canon representative. They were both at it all day long.
‘Re-imagine our new business model!’ – Adobe with their collective heads in the creative Cloud. Where would we be without the ability to put hats on dogs that weren’t wearing hats when you took the picture?
‘I’m Too Sexy For My Massage’ – yup, the guy on the right had absolutely no idea I was taking this picture. Despite the fact I shouted ‘smile please’ and had shoulder barged an elderly couple out of the shot, he really honestly didn’t know.
‘Whom, me?’ – despite the fact it may look like she was turning to look at me as if I’d shouted ‘Hey – are you Karl Taylor’s daughter’, I in fact had not. Nope. Promise. I was just standing there admiring the Broncolour softbox when she must have felt my presence.
‘Call me!’ – I do not know whom this person is. He was giving a talk on the Nikon stand as I stood to take his picture and he suddenly turn to look directly at me and gave me the internationally recognised sign language for ‘call me’. *Shrugs shoulders. I’m not going to call him though. Nope.
‘Doing the Dishes’ – I had to offer to do the dishes to get this shot.
‘And Finally…..’ – this is how we all felt at the end of the day. The quick and lively step that sped us along the many aisles at the show had long since gone to be replaced by the uncertain ‘plod’ of the encumbered zombie, as we trudged with our stuffed goodies bag back to the shuttle buses and the futile attempts to find our vehicles in the parking lot. All except me that was – for I knew I was parked in N5….. wait, was it N5 or was it L5? Crap – where’s my mobile phone…!