The 2019 PhotoPlus Expo was held this weekend at the Javits Center in New York City. This year’s edition was full of several changes, both exciting and concerning.
Held annually since 1983, the PhotoPlus Expo in New York City, put on by Photo District News (PDN) and Emerald Expositions. Touted as "The Biggest Photography Event in North America," took place from Thursday, October 24 through Saturday, October 26, 2019.
35mm film photography resources were in abundance. Charles Beseler Company, makers of print enlargers, had arguably the most interesting booth of the entire show with a fully functioning, mobile darkroom tent. Complete with a running sink, the lightproof room had a constant queue of folks lining up for live, hands-on printmaking demonstrations. Walking into the room, a safelight illuminated the vented tent full of printmaking supplies.
ILFORD PHOTO, the U.K.-based film manufacturer showcased its lines of film, processing, and printmaking supplies. Among their new releases are fifth generation, multi grade RC papers, and a new film, ORTHO PLUS, in 135 and 120 formats. According to their press release, Ortho plus is an "orthochromatic black and white film (all other ILFORD and Kentmere films are panchromatic) rated at ISO 80 in natural light and ISO 40 in Tungsten." Perhaps most exciting of their new products is the ILFORD and Patterson Film Processing Starter Kit. It contains pre-mixed chemistry and all of the basic film processing tools needed for first-time film photographers to process two rolls of film.
Next to ILFORD booth was Roberts Distributors, touting among other things Paterson Photographic Equipment. Most intriguing was the Lab Box by ARS-IMAGO, a film developing tank featuring modules for multiple formats and daylight loading of exposed film, which looks absolutely brilliant.
Freestyle Photographic Supplies was yet another film photography related vendor on site, dealers of Holga cameras, Arista.EDU and CineStill Film. Among others, B&H Photo featured film scanners and Print File was on-site showcasing their film archival products.
The Missing Conference
Formerly promoted as "PhotoPlus 2019," in years past the show was known as "PDN PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo." Quite obviously, the formal conference component was dropped this year, a major loss that I found unexpected in the months leading up to the show. Devoid of the three days of free keynote speakers and paid seminars presented by top industry minds. That said, there was no lack of quality speakers on the show floor; all of the flagship camera and lighting manufacturers had robust presentation lineups. There is a case to be made that more quality presentations and offerings were available on the show floor, making learning freely accessible to everyone.
There were two particularly notable exhibitor changes on, and off, the show floor. Sony setup its own venue off-site, the Sony Creative Space, situated relatively between B&H Photo and the Javits center on 37th street between 10th and 11 Avenues. According to Sony's Alpha Universe website, the event was free and registration was required. Also of note, Best Buy had space on the floor for the first time to my recollection. Their booth included a display with models for attendees to photograph.
Having first attended PhotoPlus Expo in 2008, the Expo has changed a great deal over my time there, for better or for worse. This year brought both shifts, in my view, and I'm excited to see the photography industry embracing film again. I recently rebuilt and updated my own darkroom, a discussion for a later date, and the enthusiasm of others for film photography on the show floor was energizing.
The old conference format was a staple for me, an annual highlight offering inspiration and first-hand wisdom from the masters of our craft over three days. Now, spending one full day at the Expo makes travel arrangements simpler. Typically I commute into the city by train, this year I joined the local camera club’s charter bus for the first time. Drop-off at the Javits Center door was cushy, with the luxuries of accomplishing work and spending time with friends on the trip to boot. It's a fantastic means for folks to get to the Expo, one I encourage other camera clubs in the region to consider.
On a personal note that others may find helpful, in years past I've struggled to find good food on the walk from New York Penn and the Javits Center. Branching out a little more this year, I was thrilled to find ramen at Tabata on 9th and 40th, six short blocks away from B&H photo. If you attend PhotoPlus Expo or any other events at the Javits Center, do you have any favorite restaurants in the area? What are your takeaways from this years event? Share your 2019 PhotoPlus Expo experiences in the comments below.