“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” Rachel Carson
I still have my copy of Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s seminal work in which she warned the world of the impact of modern chemical and farming practices on the wider environment. All those years ago, I was active in encouraging support for environmental issues and although I tend to do this more quietly now, it is reassuring to see that the fate of those with whom we share the planet seems to be higher on people’s agendas again.
In man’s pursuit of his own gains he has frequently ignored the bigger picture. Many of the wonders that we look to photograph today may not be here in the immediate future. As Rachel Carson so clearly points out, it is in our lack of appreciation that this destruction goes ahead. I hope that the expanding interest in photography as a hobby might serve to make some consider the impact that their lifestyles are having and to begin to appreciate the smaller things in life more. After all, these may be all we have.
Following the demise of Focus on Imaging last year, the phoenix has risen from the ashes in the shape of The Photography Show, which was held over four days at the NEC, Birmingham, last weekend. I went along on the Sunday to take a look around and explore this new incarnation of all things photographic.
A t first sight it seemed pretty similar to Focus on Imaging. A dazzling array of stands offering everything from printing materials to backdrops. Some retailers, with show specials on offer and others manufacturers, demonstrating their latest products. I got my hands on Fujifilm’s XT-1, hot off the production line just a few days earlier. That is one sexy camera! I also met Nikon’s new retro Df and have to say I was surprised at the sheer size of the body, despite the reviews that had told me it was bulky. I fell in love with a little camera bag from Benro, which will be perfect for a day of street photography. I just need to find a supplier now.
The event has plenty to offer beyond the opportunity to fritter your inheritance. Many stands had talks and demonstrations and I enjoyed watching a lively and entertaining presentation by Frank Doorhof on The Flash Centre’s stand, as he showed the audience some neat ways of using high speed synch flashes to create stunning effects in camera. The IGPOTY stand imported a ‘garden’, mostly comprising grasses, primulas and succulents which proved to be something of a honeypot for photographers keen to create some floral images as reminders of their day. There was also a catwalk with presentations on fashion and wedding photography.
However, the highlight of the show for me was the opportunity to attend a presentation by Joe McNally on the ‘Super Stage’. Tickets were purchased in advance for the very reasonable price of £10 for the 90 minute session. We took a languid tour through some of the highlights of Joe’s career, covering his time at National Geographic and beyond. He offered some fascinating insights into the making of many of his best-known images and a peek at a style of photography career that may now be forever consigned to the history books. It was worth every penny.
If you are tempted to attend next year’s show, here are my top 5 tips:
- Wear sensible shoes, as you will likely be doing a lot of walking – especially if you travel by train.
- Some of the show bargains were running low stock by Sunday morning, so if you are planning a big purchase, don’t delay!
- The hall gets pretty packed out by late morning so this is an ideal time to book a talk or show for some time out from the crowds. There were some great speakers this year.
- Don’t leave it too late to buy lunch or you may find the shelves are bare.
- By 3pm the halls were really emptying out so late afternoon is an ideal time to stroll round the stands or take some candid shots of the event.
And the most important thing I brought home with me? Inspiration! A big dose of inspiration to get out there and try new ideas, take more pictures.
Yet again I have fallen foul of that powerful emotion, Love At First Sight. I have generally found going to a camera fair without a shopping list to be unwise and this time it was about as unwise as it gets. With no specific purchase in mind, I wander the stalls browsing the myriad cameras, lenses and other doo-dads set out to tempt me. One regular stallholder arranges the front of his table with boxes of ephemera; lens caps, obscure remote switches, scratched sunlight filters. And behind these deceptively cheap defensive lines stand the real prizes, desirable vintage cameras strut their stuff on the back shelf in the hope of effecting a relocation before the day is out.
I have been tempted at this stall before, but my purchases stayed in the realms of the incidental. This time my eye was drawn immediately centre stage, to a pristine Rolleiflex. Oh my. The light glinted off the chrome-effect lens cap and I was in love. Holding this treasure in my hands felt so right it took great strength of mind to put it back down. But put it down I did, to spend the rest or the morning with that memory burning a hole through the synapses of my self control. With the end of the fair approaching rapidly, it was crunch time: would I be taking the Rollei home with me or not? Eventually I succumbed and emotion ruled the day. An exchange of used notes, a handshake and I walked away heady with excitement at my new acquisition.
It fascinates me how my mind plays games with me. You can’t afford it, put it back. You don’t need another film camera. You could buy a cheaper one, lots of stalls have them. Yes, but…will I regret it when I get home? It really is lovely. Just wait and see if it’s there at the end. Let fate decide. If it’s gone, it wasn’t meant to be after all. How I like to abdicate responsibility and let the Universe decide! However, sometimes stepping back from this process in a conscious way, to watch the drama unfolding inside you. is remarkably relaxing.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that you relinquish control completely to drift every which way the wind blows you. We need some structure to guide us along the path. Else the bank account would soon be empty and the house full of impulse purchases. But mulling it over, taking time and yes, being indulgent every now and then. Who knows what is around the next corner? Universe, thank you for my new Rolleiflex!
I spent Sunday just gone at Focus on Imaging, a four-day exhibition of all things photographic. Camera manufacturers, retailers, printers, bookbinders, studio quipment suppliers; you name it, they are all crammed into two lust-filled halls of photographic materialism at the NEC. Whilst I was able to revel in the reflected glory of being in the same room as a Hasselblad, touching one was out of the question. Though we did overhear one fortunate customer tell the assistant he would put his £20k purchase on his credit card…
The event was a fascinating blur of activity, with camera enthusiasts of all shapes and sizes thronging the halls in search of…what exactly? Judging by the sheer scale of the event and the queues at the retailers’ counters, we have been well and truly sucked in to the myth that more and newer equipment equals photographic success. Perhaps if I could afford that Hasselblad I too could take the perfect picture illuminated with my top of the range studio lights. I could print it up to eye-boggling dimensions and distribute it in beautifully bound glossy books. We can all dream, but sadly I don’t think it will make me a better photographer.
Back to reality, for me it was life’s little pleasures that made the day. The chance to sit down – ahhhh! my aching back and weary feet- and listen to presentations on the use of equipment, software and studio portraiture. Spend time watching the crowds drift by, bubbling with excitement over the latest models on display at the show. Getting my hands on the new Fuji X100s – how much?! – I need a better paid job! Oops! Gear acquisition syndrome alert!
I didnt take a ‘proper’ camera, instead deciding to snap a few pictures with my phone. This one is my favourite as it seems to bring together so many aspects of the event. The Mamiya was sitting behind glass in a cabinet and appeared to be in a pool of stillness within the hectic environment of the show. The reflection in the glass has gathered elements of the activity bustling around it, camera brands vying for attention and a speaker trying to make his presentation heard over the hubbub.
So, did I buy anything? Yes, I did succumb in the end! Not to the unobtainable Hasselblad, or the enviable Fuji X100s, but a much humbler purchase; I am now the proud owner of a Lensbaby Composer and am looking forward to a summer filled with fun taking soft-focus, blurry pictures!