If you wonder what the state of photography is and where it is headed, PhotoPlus was the place to be last week. The annual show was held at the Jacob Javits convention center in New York City. It was not just huge, it was mammoth. Vendors of every major camera brand had large, walk-through display booths. Accessory makers had tables or even, in some cases, display booths themselves. Thousands of people streamed through the show.
There were several developments that impressed me. Of course, digital photography will continue to evolve, much to the consternation of pros, myself included, who see these cameras as supplanting some (but thankfully not all) of our work. What has happened is that our experience, with matters like controlling dynamic range, focus control and others, are now being reduced to masterful algorithms that are handled by the camera’s onboard computers. When people complain to me about the cost of these new engineering marvels I have to smile.
What impressed me the most was how the accessory market has evolved. I spent most of my convention floor time handling the new, sensuous print papers that have come on market. Classic names like Ilford, Museo, Hahnemuhle are producing incredible papers that bring out the best of inkjet printers. But newer names like Canson and Awagami Factory have luscious products that wowed me. Needless to say my associate Bob and I will be doing a lot of experimenting this year.
We also spent lots of time at Hasselblad’s offsite facility, where I was again wowed by customer service and value-added workshops and discussions that continue to help me climb the learning curve for using my new H4D-50 camera and lenses in creative ways. So far I have to tell you that I am so impressed with Hasselblad’s ability to handle dynamic range and interpret it in almost a film-like manner. I’ll be blogging a lot about that in the future as I share successes and failures.
A few “wins” from PhotoPlus. I was able to connect in person with a Nikon technician named Jim Crawley who has worked for Nikon for 46 years! Jim knew my Uncle Morris, who was an independent, but legendary Nikon repairman himself. My uncle has been dead for many years now, so it was a real treat for me to make the connection. A funny story is that I had a colleague who I taught with at the University of Delaware in the eighties. His old mechanical Nikon broke and he sent it in for repair. They sent him a message saying that they could not repair it, but there was a man in New York City who could. You bet; it was my Uncle Morris!
I also got to connect with people who I deal with regularly, but who up to now were email addresses or an anonymous phone voice. I’m the kind of person who appreciates face-to-face, having grown up in the pre-Internet world.
Final observation is about equipment versus technique. Throughout the convention hall, exhibitors set up mini-theaters for their guest lecturers. Nikon had live models for people to try out their equipment. I was impressed by how well attended these demonstrations, lectures, workshops and live shoots were. Here is a video clip of the Nikon exhibit showing people watching a live demonstration.
People are obviously eager for ways to improve their photography, to better express themselves creatively in a world that stresses uniformity. My hat is off to all those who were there to learn.
If you are a photo enthusiast, think about attending one of these shows. I know you will get a lot out of it.