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Photo Plus Review

November 6, 2006

Back from New York with a review of Photo Plus Expo, the annual gathering of the tribe known as the photo-industry.
I wasn’t sure how to go about this; how to give my impression, but I know that most people aren’t really going to care what I think, so there was a generous amount of flexibility.

My grand idea is to give medals. Yep, that’s it. Gold, silver, bronze, you know the drill.

My choices might surprise you because much of what I experienced at this grand convention was not that inspiring(I’m picky), so I had to look outside the bounds of traditional prize-winning subjects and dig deep into the experience of the event.
It is very clear the photo-industry is now run by technology and not photography. The vast majority of booths, lectures, seminars, etc, were technology based, and if that is your thing, then Photo Plus would have been a pixilated overload.
But for me, I think there are many ways to sell gear without having to talk tech. Show me work. And in this I was very disappointed.

It had been several years since I had been to New York, or Photo Plus, and what struck me immediately was the fact that many of the speakers endorsing one thing or another sure seemed like the same folks I saw endorsing the same stuff years ago…? There seemed to be an intense lack of new blood, of new work and new angles.

I think the photo-industry suffers from a malaise of creativity, which is masked by the continual infusing of new crap to buy and upgrade.

There was also intense overexposure, as in the same photographer speaking at three, four different booths. In my mind, there are very, very, few photographers worth seeing at more than one booth. And none of the speakers I witnessed really seemed to have work interesting enough to pull this off. (Mental note: I’m not claiming I’m a genius, or that my work would be worthy of this either. Not even close. But, I do have the right to critique. And, there were plenty of speakers I did not see.)

Okay, enough of this babble. Now, lets get to the awards.

Bronze Medal: Martin Parr

I would guess in the neighborhood of 250 people crammed into meeting room whatever to see and hear what Mr. Parr had to offer. Images and concepts were the dominant feature, how refreshing, with little to no questions or talk regarding software, cameras, etc. And, Mr. Parr had a sense of HUMOR, something lacking in many of the other presentations. Parr, one of the few photographers to really bridge the ever-important gap between art and photography, is one of the most influential photographers working today, and appears by all accounts to be a very normal guy with little ego or overt flash.

Silver Medal: All the companies who sponsored the nightly parties.

Oh, and I’m talking about the “open to most everyone” parties, not the “exclusionary” parties that also occur during this time.Those elitest party planners know who they are!(Am I pissed because I wasn’t invited? You will have to guess.) American Photo, PDN, Digital Railroad, Livebooks, Photoshelter, Kodak, etc, all had parties that were “light at the door” if you know what I mean. These parties were about “come in and have a good time,” and not about whom you know or who you are. I’ve always had a problem with this other kind of party, probably why I’m not a joiner when it comes to clubs or groups. (Again, if that is your thing then so be it.)
A personal “thank you,” goes out to these welcoming folks and their shelling out the pesos to give all of us a good time.

Gold Medal: HERE IS IT PEOPLE, BEST IN SHOW!!!

The crews that clean up the Javits Center the MOMENT the event ends.

I wish I had a photo-related lecture, event or happening to take this medal, but there are only so many style points you are going to get by talking about software, lens elements or workflow options. It’s just not that interesting people! (Mental note: I, of course, use software, lens elements, and even engage in workflow, but there is no way in HELL these are taking the top prize.)
So, I’m relegated to handing out nothing other than my awe to the guys and gals that tear this great beast down.
If you haven’t seen these people in action, all I can say is they work faster cleaning this building than those lawyers in Glen Gary Glen Ross. It’s like they have something to hide.
One minute you are in a mini-mall of booths, and the next minute your standing on cold cement. Kudos people, you are a well-oiled machine.
Now I think I have some idea who cleaned up the Hoffa mess. If your not careful and hang around too long there is a danger of being swept up, boxed, taped, and shipped before anyone has a chance to realize your gone.
Again, this was an easy vote for me. This group was far and away the most dominant, interesting feature of the event. I’ve been looking for a new project, and I think I might have just found my subject matter. “Trade Show Hellions”

Honorable Mentions: There were plenty of other bright notes.

Apple Aperture(See, I’m not totally jaded): Complicated, but looks to be headed in the right direction, thinking of the total picture, including the cataloging idea. And, price reduced.

Leica M8: (See, I’m not totally jaded.) Looks interesting for those who feel digital M will give them what they need.

Darius Himes for his program about photo-books. Darius fits a niche in this industry, an interesting one, and you won’t find anyone who knows more about photo-books. And he has a cool car.

Kate Chase: A woman who reps retouching experts. Very nice, very interesting.

The crew at Digital Railroad: The team was great, fun, and walked me through the new operating system. Kudos to Jennifer, Tom, George and the others.

Dave Metz at Canon for final night dinner at Victors. I’m still full.

The Picturehouse crew for arranging the event.

Ted G(aka Ted Longfellow), writer friend from New York, who put a mighty dent in the whisky bottle during a nightly party, and became a hit in the process.

The guy stuffing buffet food in his photo vest at one of the events.

The guy I saw peeing in daylight hours somewhere on 38th street. A real daring dude he was.

Peter Waisnor for his dinner conversation, quirks, and just being Peter.

Janet Began for her Halloween costume.

Coney Island. My first trip. Fantastic.

Michael Grecco for the book.

Hussein Formani for the Lucy Awards, tons of work and fun.

Duane Michals for saying and doing what he says and does.

Scott D from Kodak, for his sense of humor and the film.

Clay Blackmore, someone I had never met, but someone who I now know is REALLY a photographer. He has the bug, the bug you can’t acquire, you are just born with it. Here is to printing and processing Mr. Blackmore.

Oh, last but not least. The Peruvian flute player on the subway. I’ve heard my fair share, and this guy was good.

Stay tuned for more thrilling photo-industry news.

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