Another October, another PhotoPlus Expo; overwhelming, overstuffed, disappointing, inspiring, educational, exhausting, interesting, fun, rewarding... and all under one roof. From my perspective, Photo Expo rarely fails to please or enlighten and I speak from experience — I've been attending this annual industry event for as long as I can remember and that includes the “vintage” Photo Expos in the 1980s at the old Coliseum on Columbus Circle. I've learned that whether you shoot weddings or wars, fine art or street life, or are just a photography enthusiast, there's something here for everyone. And the 2015 version did not disappoint. With more than 225 exhibitors at the Javits Center this year, the approximately 23,000 visitors over the three days (a 10% increase over 2014) had plenty to see and do. The big names — Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus, Leica, Tamron, Epson, et al.— were all there, of course, and so were the latest innovations in mirrorless cameras, DSLRs and other equipment. Reflecting the increasing interest by photographers, more drone manufacturers exhibited this year, offering products ranging from simple toy-like models to those capable of keeping a GoPro aloft for 25 minutes.
One advantage of attending PhotoPlus is being able to see and literally get the feel of new products. I enjoyed viewing a series of large prints made by using a line of new super premium papers from Epson called “Legacy” that enable the artist to produce museum-quality prints. I immediately thought, “Oh, so what have I been printing until now?” No doubt Hahnemühle, Canson and others are paying attention.
PhotoPlus is more than just introducing new products; it's also about helping photographers learn how to make better pictures through seminars, panel discussions and more recently, a series of photo walks led by industry professionals. Introduced in 2014, the photo walks proved to be so successful; the program was expanded this year. David Carol, a well-known fine art photographer, columnist and publisher, commented: "I did a photo walk for PhotoPlus2014 and it sold out, so this year they asked me to do two instead of just one. My afternoon walk had around 20 people. Where we walk is irrelevant, though we walked to Penn Station and back. My walks are not so much about actively shooting, though people certainly do, but more about me describing how I see, what I see and my philosophy of taking pictures. We might go to a location and I tell the group my thought process in a very literal and applicable way, while also answering questions and being as funny as possible. I tend to draw a fun and lively crowd when I do these types of workshops. Both walks this year did not disappoint."
Unfortunately, I missed David Carol's walk, but I attended Friday's keynote lunchtime presentation about street photography and that did disappoint. It was probably a matter of my expectations not matching the reality of five photographers showing some of their New York City work. I'd been expecting a panel discussion of how social media was changing street photography, but it was actually more about new ways to define and practice it. The panel's moderator, Dennis Keeley and the four other photographers, Danny Weiss, Sally Davies, Ken Schles and Jeffrey Scales, seemed to struggle in defining it. I agreed with Davies's explanation: ”You never know what you'll find,” but I wondered about Schles's answer to “what is street photography?” He replied, “It's an existential question, making me find out about this place and time.” And as for the work they showed, I have a personal dislike for slide presentations with sound tracks, especially loud ones, and I had to sit through two of them. Oh well. On a much more illuminating and enlightening note, I sat in on Jay Maisel's seminar on “Light, Gesture and Color.” I confess to being a long-time admirer of his work and irrepressible persona. Maisel always has something profound to say about the art of making pictures and the work he showed, both old and new, supports his beliefs. Saturday morning, I went to Katrin Eismann's seminar entitled, “Lightroom vs. Photoshop: Who Wins?” Eismann's teaching and presentation skills are well known and her talk was informative, useful and rewarding. As promised, I learned some new ways to use Lightroom instead of Photoshop; Eismann made the time feel well spent.
The 2015 seminar program also included dozens of other subjects, from book publishing and lighting to portrait photography and film production. Having to choose one seminar over another in the same time slot can be a little stressful, but, hey, there's always next year.