Well, it’s nearly that time again. The Photography Show is nearly upon us, and like the true meaning of Christmas, for a few days we’ll get to fully understand what it’s all about.
Forget art, forget talent, forget skills honed over years or decades. No, good people, it’s all about the money. We’ll be told; again and again and again, to be good, you need to spend lots and lots of money.
More pixels, bigger lenses, lighter tripods, ridiculous bags, the list goes on and on.
To demonstrate that their brand is better, the manufacturers will wheel out their heavily sponsored ‘ambassadors’ in the belief that we will genuinely be convinced that they are giving us their unbiased opinions and endorsements.
The completely unqualified amateurs of a few years ago will strut around stages making nonsensical statements about their (unproven) talents, and the technical merits of equipment they can barely operate, let alone understand.
Men, and it is actually always the men, will demonstrate their photographic skills by literally bringing every piece of kit they own to an event where there are actually few photographic opportunities. Doubled up under the weight of numerous bags, they will stagger around the event, vainly seeking something interesting to shoot, and if by sheer chance they find any opportunity, will spend the best part of an hour setting up completely unnecessary equipment which demonstrates that, yes, they are pros!
Cards will be flexed and credit scores destroyed in the Darwinian battle to have the best equipment at literally any cost. Like ancient hunters the ‘victors’ will return home with the spoils of the hunt – highly complex equipment destined to remain, at best on auto, and at worst left in its box.
Of course, it isn’t all like this. Some speakers will be fantastic, and some of the ‘ambassadors’ are truly talented. Not everyone will be showing off their equipment or the size of their penis (sorry, wallet/lens/bag).
Some, like myself, will be taking students who are desperate to learn, or perhaps just going to catch up with people they rarely get to see.
Yes, despite all of the above I’ll be there too, but not spending money I don’t have. My students will be running around trying to learn and get freebies. I’ll be drinking coffee with some friends and talking shop.
Here are the questions that always occurs to me. Why do manufacturers spend money on photographers who only use equipment because it’s free? How gullible do they think we really are? How many people do they actually think they are convincing to buy their equipment?
Let’s take Fuji for example. I have nothing but respect for one of their sponsored photographers, but someone like Trevor Yerbury doesn’t need a Fuji camera to demonstrate his skill. No one will really think they will be able to create shots like his simply if they buy a Fuji camera. Another Fuji sponsored photographer; I have nothing but contempt for. His sponsorship, for me, makes the likelihood of buying a Fuji much, much less.
I’m exactly the type of person to buy a Fuji, and yet I haven’t. I think I’m the sort of customer that Fuji would want (feel free to delete the word Fuji and insert the manufacturer of your choice). I take photographs and people sometimes pay me to do that. Much, much more importantly, I teach photography as a job and I use my cameras in demonstrations. Any one of my students will be able to tell you what cameras I use and why I use them. I lend them cameras to use, and their buying decisions are influenced by the equipment they’ve used.
Oh why, oh why, oh why don’t they sponsor me?
Ha! I don’t trust sponsored photographers to be totally honest, and wouldn’t even trust myself to be objective if I was being paid (in money or in kind) to promote a brand like the sycophantic fan-boys of Peli or 3 legged things.
No. Actually what I’d want from Fuji/Olympus/Nikon/Canon/etc. what might actually convince me to buy their equipment over someone else’s next time I buy a camera, is a free, structured, educational course that will show me how to be a better photographer. Obviously I would expect the manufacturer to promote their equipment, but the science and the art is quite transferable to other brands (yes, really). Something actually useful, and free from the personalities of the people now promoting the brand.
My students don’t have much money – yet. But they will remember the twit from the Nikon stand ignoring them in favour of the fat guy with already too many lenses around his neck at last year’s show. They will remember being barged out of the way by a herd of sweating pervs when a model appeared on a lighting stage. And they will definitely remember the arrogant strutting fool promoting Fuji – a few future customers lost there guys.
Yes, I’ll be there – and I’ll probably enjoy it. But let’s not forget the purpose of a trade show. It is naked capitalism designed to make you spend. And it is the true meaning of Christmas in the modern age, profit over people.