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Sunday saw a 5am start for my first ‘Fotofest,’ an event held by Fotospeed, best known for their amazing line of fine art papers.  It’s a very simple concept, a full day of talks from leading photographers.  It wasn’t particularly difficult to decide whether it was worthwhile attending, as fortunately I had heard of all of the photographers and was aware (and admired) their work.

First impressions was the venue was an ideal, Bath University.  Whilst quite a journey from Cornwall it makes sense to use a lecture hall at the weekend when the campus is quieter.  The venue was easy to find with affordable parking close to the venue.  The venue it self was light and airy inside with some outside seating which was a bonus to grab some fresh air between talks.  The lecture hall itself was comfortable, important for several hours of sitting down!

Also at the venue were stands from the RPS, WCPF, Epson as well as The Marketplace.  There was a small area of Fotospeed prints from their ambassadors with a wide range of work.  Space is always a premium, but perhaps this is something that could have been expanded given the event hosted by a photographic paper company.  The event is advertised primarily around the speakers so I shouldn’t be too harsh on The Marketplace, but it was a little lack lustre, as the only real retailer was Fotospeed (and yes I did get some paper!).  Canon, Sony, OM Systems and Fujifilm (sorry no Nikon) were all represented with their latest cameras and lenses.  It did make a nice difference from The Photography Show where it was possible to get to the cameras and speak to the reps without feeling like you had a person over either shoulder.

As for the speakers I thought it was a very strong line up.  First up we had Jack Perks and his excellent wildlife photography, particularly underwater.  Paul Sanders was next with his philosophical approach to photography, some of which seemed to strike a chord with a lot of the audience.  After lunch we had Amy Bateman and a talk focused around her Forty Farms project and subsequent book.  Lastly we had Nigel Danson of YouTube fame and his recent Luskentyre project.  Every photographer brought something different to the table making it a varied day, topped off with a Q&A session with all speakers at the end of the day.  There was a break between sessions which allowed a stretch of the legs and refreshment, but it was also nice to see the speakers just mingling with the attendees, they all were very approachable.  

Would I go next year?  Almost definitely, whilst I was harsh on The Marketplace aspect of the event, it is refreshing to hear from photographers and not have photography be all about gear.  In fact, the talks themselves very rarely ventured into technical aspects of gear.  Too much of photography these days is ‘you need the latest and greatest,’ and that very much isn’t the case.  First and foremost enjoy your photography!