I did not think in March 2019 I wouldn’t see another Photography Show until September 2021. So much has happened in that space of time, of course even more so since the March 2020 show was cancelled with one weeks notice. Things that have almost become routine never existed back in 2019, social distancing, face coverings, vaccine passports, lateral flow tests… It is easy to forget how much has changed when these things become a part of every day life. So part of me shouldn’t be surprised that this years show has been a far cry from previous shows, and yet I cannot help feel a little flat after the show. My expectations probably too high, expecting a show like ‘the good old days’ before Covid grossly optimistic.
The first change was change of hall, automatically going to the hall the show is normally in to find it wasn’t there. Then (but not unexpected) no fanfare entrance of big screen and countdown as crowds gathered in the waiting area outside the hall, instead everyone steadily let in to prevent a mass crowd gathering (which makes total sense). But the over-riding thing that struck me was the sense of space in the hall, wider walkways, larger spaces between exhibitors. At first my thought was a different, maybe bigger hall to allow more space and ‘social distancing,’ this made sense to me. However what become clear as we walked the show is the number of exhibitors was less with some big names missing. No Panasonic, Lee, Novo, Profoto, Lowepro or Manfrotto just to name a few.
Whilst some of the big hitters were still there with their usual big stands, and the usual speaker areas like ‘behind the lens,’ and ‘super stage,’ it felt familiar but vastly different. I usually find with even 2 days at the show and the number of talks available I wish I had more time. After about an hour it felt I’d covered the floor and left little else to see. Why some exhibitors have not returned is not clear. Concern over Covid? Gone bust due to the pandemic? Cannot secure the stock? One thing that was unexpected that became evident during the course of the show was some exhibitors were struggling to secure stock either from abroad or perhaps a result of the HGV driver shortages. What has remained strong was the speaker line up and I was pleased to have seen talks from Lea Tippett, Nigel Danson, Alan Hewitt and Rankin. This somewhat made up for the gear I didn’t acquire!
This years show has raised questions for me, for what has become an annual event in my calendar. Is it worth attending for 2 days? Will exhibitors return in the future? I admire the organisers for persevering with the show. I hope they can demonstrate to exhibitors with good attendance figures that it is worthwhile them returning to the NEC in the future.
I’m glad the show is back, change can be hard. I should just be grateful there was a show…