2019 PhotoPlus Expo Round Up

2019 PhotoPlus Expo Round Up

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. 

The 2019 PhotoPlus Expo show floor before opening on Friday, October 24, 2019, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.

Film Photography

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.

Exhibitor Changes

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.

Closing Thoughts

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.

Jordan Bush's picture

Fstoppers Writer Jordan Bush is a pro photographer focusing on commercial, editorial, and photojournalism work. He writes and photographs the monthly column, "Foodographer." A former Apple software trainer and hardware technician, he also has an affinity for retro video games.

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I can't wait to try Ortho Plus 80. First new film introduced by Ilford since Delta 3200 in 1998!

Best Buy? Their camera department has to work its way UP to being just a fart joke.

Thanks for the recap. I didn't go this year for a few different reasons including the lack of presentations and hands-on experiences (but mostly money). I was also really bummed to see that they were not doing the portfolio reviews this year. Instead they had an option to get a "free image review" with "a photographer" on the expo floor, which may or may not have been great, but is definitely not the same.

I went to Photo Plus today. It was the first time I had been there in 3-4 years. It was very disappointing. I did not realize that they no longer had speakers and classes which while I had not attended in a long while, their absence does change the nature of the show. It really felt like a camera club high-end swamp meet not a professional equipment show. It will be the last time I go.

I buy a ton of stuff online but there are things you just want to touch and see in person. I ended up going to the B&H showroom, just a few blocks away to see look at some light stands.

There are things that I just don’t get. Like, ether Canon or Nikon had a couple of well-dressed models on one person risers. There were always 20-30 people photographing these models. Why? What is the purpose of shooting something that you had no part of creating and that hundreds of other people are also shooting?

This industry is not dead but manufacturers and distributors can’t remember how to market anymore. I think part of the problem is that Javitz is most likely TOO expensive of a venue for a show like this. They should move it into a less expensive spot so smaller and newer companies can afford to attend. The presentations at the booths were just too large, too impersonal to attend. My career took huge jumpstarts back in the 1990s based on marketing and business development classes I took at Photo Plus. While there is much to learn via YouTube, there is nothing like talking one on one with industry leaders and that aspect is completely absent now

My other issue is that while there are very few vendors and most of the people working the booths have little idea what they are talking about, the show itself is too loud and busy to actually have a meaningful conversation in the first place. They keep squeezing the floor space to generate “buzz” but in reality,​ they generate headaches.

I am not usually somebody who rants but something really got under my skin yesterday. But hey, I am just a successful commercial photographer in an age where the likes of me are dying off, what would I know?

I went for a couple hours on Friday. As others have stated, it was overly crowded and difficult to have conversations with the few people that did know what they were talking about. The last two or three years I came away with the same feeling, "Next year I'm not going to bother." But it doesn't cost me anything to go, except for a few hours time. I do like walking around and seeing some of the equipment in person that I have been considering. Then I create a mental list of things I'd love to buy, and promptly ignore it throughout the year. The "models" that are posed around the show floor are just proof that some things about this show that really should change are clinging to the past, and the gaggle of people with cameras (I refuse to call them photographers) crowded around said "models" are cringe worthy at best. This year, more than years past felt rather sad, like everyone there realized that all the money they spent to set up booths here were just not worth it.

I flew over from the UK just for the show... not really, I just happened to be in NYC on the same week and was my first time at PhotoPlus. I had a quick wizz around but it was smaller than I expected.
The UK Photography show is quite a bit larger and seems to attract more retailers and possibly competition. B&H obviously attracts most of the business.

Anyway.. the show was ok but as happens in the UK some of the booths attract big crowds making it hard to see or get around easily. Was fun to see some of the US bloggers and photo celebs in person though.

I also visited the Sony event... that was simply packed and unfortunately not that enjoyable on one level. Got to try the A9ii but would have been better I think if Sony had been at PhotoPlus. No idea what these guys have to pay to display at PhotoPlus but I bet it's not cheap.

Try Clyde's (Frazier) Wine And Dine.

PhotoPlus is a shell of its former self.

The room used to have a lot of energy, but now it's a little depressing -- probably reflecting industry trends.

The only highlight now is seeing the beautiful prints at the Canon, Epson, and paper company booths.

And I really miss the seminars.

In the past, I attended talks with Martin Schoeller, Dan Winters, Jay Maisel, Greg Heisler, Chris Buck, John Paul Caponigro, and many other great photographers.

Javits Center has always suffered from its own location - being tucked away on the far west side with nothing photo-worthy to shoot. B&H would run free shuttles to/from their flagship store a few blocks away as a way to lure more customers. However, the newly built Hudson Yards are a beautiful photo op, and just right around the corner. I snapped this with my iPhone just the other day.

I have to admit that I was disappointed in the show this year. The lack of the conference part was definitely noticeable. Also, between Sony having their own event, and many vendors curtailing their own floor space there seemed to be an overall lack of gear. One thing I always enjoyed was the ability to easily touch and try different products. For instance, the Nikon booth had everything seemingly crammed on a couple of tables (like an Apple store). Makes me wonder if this is another expo whose days are numbered.