2017 is the 8th consecutive year i have been visiting the PhotoPlus Expo (PPE) in NYC. The show is the largest US dedicated photography trade show, and it takes place every year in downtown Manhattan.
Over the years, the show has changed, attendance waned and focus of the exhibitors shifted. This year, there were at least 3 massage stations, 3 makeup stations and one booth promoting a Chinese theater show coming to the US this month. Considering the entire showroom floor is relatively small, this seems like quite a large amount of non photo related exhibitors, especially relative to previous years. Despite this, or perhaps because of this trend, the show was very well attended, far more than in recent years.
Representation of “analog” photography was especially weak this year. The newly launched Polaroid Originals (formerly “the Impossible Project”) were showcasing a new camera, and all new films. The booth was well attended and staffed. The obligatory Fuji Instax display was not very noticeable.
A small company called “Film Toaster” displayed its concept for a digital camera based film scanner. The system is custom built and tailored to the users needs, based on a flat panel LED light table, an adjustable box and custom camera/lens mount, this concept seems pretty much limitless in terms of size and quality (limited only by the available size of the light source and pixel count of the capture device. This seems like a small flash back to the days when quad capture MF digital backs were the go to devices for film reproduction, but with a “modern” almost DIY twist. No prices or website were discussed at the show, perhaps this is truly a custom type of product.
Also at the show was Shen Hao, the Chinese large format camera maker, who were attending the show for the second time in a row, as part of the “Chinese Pavilion”. On display were a 12X20 ULF camera , a 6X9 geared towards digital capture devices and the all new TZ45-C the latest iteration of the TZ 4X5 camera line (following the B and A). Stay tuned for an in depth review of the “C”, we have a sample unit coming in a few days. The quality is excellent as always and Shen Hao cameras now sport an optional red bellows and Polycrilic ground glass. The small display garnered lots of attention and the Shen Hao People were very enthusiastic about the very well attended show.
The Charles Beseller company is alive and well and had a booth at the show. Strangely, the only items in display was the aging, but still manufactured Beseller 23C enlarger with a color head. The rep there assured us that 4 blade easels are still being made and while there were no prices discussed at the show, you can order any of these items from BH and other retailers.
Noticeably absent from the show was Kodak/Alaris, who’s booth in past years drew huge crowds, and often featured Keith Canham and his cameras. The cue for free film used to wrap around the exhibit hall. No film makers were represented at the show, even the relatively local CineStill (headquarters in NY state) and New55 (from nearby central MA) were not there. Sprint chemistry, located even closer in RI were not there either. In fact, the only film on display at the show was at the Omega Brandess booth a US wholesaler.
Perhaps the shows glut of “more of the same” digital gadgets, carbon fibre tripods, travel cases, product shooting booths and digicams along with the fact that PPE is attracting more crowds than ever would signal to film makers that this show is again a relevant place to show case their wares and maybe next year we will see an “analog pavilion”.