entering the PhotoPlus Expo the first thing I saw was a large, neatly
folded stack of yellow plastic bags with the word Nikon emblazoned
across the back and front. They were there so that anyone entering
that vast hall of all things photography would have a place to put the
magazines, brochures, the occasional pen and pad they had collected
during their visit. After that, everywhere I went, the yellow bags
followed, each moving to the sway and gait of the person holding them.
I was in a sea of yellow with slashes of black, but only if I looked
down and not up.
I am just back from a remarkable and at times overwhelming exhibition
called Photoplus Expo, the recent photography and design conference
held at the Jacob Javits Center in New York.
For photographers, professionals and amateurs, the more than 400
booths, a quick count by the way, gave all the spectators a chance to
wander through the hall like kids in a candy store.
What did I come away with after visiting the site for over two days?
First, still photography with all the many elements that go into
getting a photo, is alive and well. But with a difference. Wandering
through the hall, hearing people talk, watching them at booths run by
Canon, Nikon, Leica, Hasselblad, Apple, Sony, Hewlett Packard, Epson
and others, if it was not apparent before, it is now -- digital rules
and film is on life support, almost dead.
the hall, the major companies immediately grab your attention with
their big booths and big signs. Crowds appear at the counters as if by
magic. Positioning is everything at an exhibition such as this one.
The exhibitors who want your attention pay heavily for the space near
the entrance because they want you to come to them first. People do
just that. Each of the major sites also staged lectures by well-known
photographers, who were, more often than not, selling their recent
books. I have no problem with that. Anyone who writes a book should
get maximum exposure. Acting as a fly on the wall and jumping from
talk to talk, though there were a few where I stayed longer than I
thought I would, I came away from each with more knowledge than I had
before. That was good. Sometimes the best part of a presentation was
having a place to sit, and to rest, before moving on to the next
booth, the next target. This helped me, and probably other people, get
through the day, because for the most part sitting or resting was not
Part of the problem with exhibits such as PhotoPlus Expo is that the
size of the hall with its great height is at times overwhelming. Once
you look past the booth you are visiting and then look up, you might
find yourself, as I did on occasion, discombobulated. Lost.
Disoriented. But then you move forward because there is another booth
down the row, another row of booths down a different aisle, another
aisle in an endless round of aisles.
variety and beauty of all the digital cameras often astounded me. The
Leica exhibit with its cameras that were simultaneously simple but
also had a sharpness of design and clarity of purpose, sent whispers
of desire from my heart to the camera, but to no avail. Hearing the
professionals extol the virtues of the Leica told me my wavelength was
still working. This is not to take anything away from the wonders of
Canon, Nikon and others. The Leica exhibition reminded me of my days
in Vietnam in the late 1960s when I could have purchased many a Leica
M3 body on the Saigon black market for under fifty bucks -- or less if
I were in a mood to haggle. Alas, I never did because of more pressing
imposing were the printers that reproduced large format color photos
made with digital cameras. The clarity, sharpness and brilliant colors
were something to behold. I wondered, though, how many people wanted
poster size prints instead of smaller format, equally sharp
reproductions they could distribute to friends and family, use for
calendars, and to show off their latest grandchild? Not many, I would
venture, but the exhibits that showed off this latest digital
technology were sometimes startling, and something I found myself
drawn to as I wandered through the hall in search of whatever else was
At NBC News for 35 years, Ron Steinman was bureau chief
in Saigon, Hong Kong and London, was a senior producer on Today and wrote
and produced for Sunday Today. At ABC News Productions, he produced
and wrote documentaries for A&E, TLC, Discovery, Lifetime and the
History Channel. He has a Peabody, a National Headliner award, a
National Press Club award, a International Documentary Festival Gold
Camera Award, two American Women in Radio & Television awards and
has been nominated for five Emmy's. He is a partner in
Douglas/Steinman Productions, whose latest documentary, "Luboml: My
Heart Remembers," aired on PBS' WLIW/21 and the History Channel in
Israel, April 29, 2003. He is the author of, "The Soldiers 'Story",
"Women in Vietnam," and most recently, "Inside Television's First
War: A Saigon Journal," University of Missouri Press, 2002.