Photokina 2016 in Cologne was an exhilarating experience getting to know a wider photographic community on all levels and from all spectrums
The icing on the cake was bring in the good company of Fujifilm’s X-photographers, and seeing my work displayed at such a big and important show in Europe.
For starters, Photokina is the world’s largest photo and video trade fair held in biennially Europe (where you can’t actually purchase anything. Announcements, impressions and try-outs only). It incidentally has one of the longest traditions, starting out in 1950 and this year at Koelnmesse, it clocked its largest ever attendance of 191,000 visitors.
Just imagine the amount of tech geeks conglomerated here!
So, I am extremely lucky to have a 7-metre long piece of gallery wall in the X-Gallery dedicated to a photo essay about the disappearing Hutongs in Beijing, later on also featured on News Decoder.
Since the wall to my gallery is painted green, I guess this is now the colour of my blood. I came on board officially as an X-photographer two months ago and this being my first outing with the camera brand, I was eager to meet the Fuji team from Japan as well as get to know the other X-photographers – turn virtual into reality.
On Day 0 after the pre-opening press conference where Fujifilm announced development and early 2017 release of the GFX (world’s first mirrorless medium format camera), I could not wait for Photokina to begin.
Of all, the most lasting impressions was really listening to photographers speak about their work. You can learn a lot, reading directly from their body language, reading between the lines, or simply sticking around absorbing positive enigmatic energy.
Kevin Mullins from the UK gave talks on documentary wedding photography – a genre that makes up a big part of my routine. The crowd stayed and were swayed.
Ken Kaminsky from Canada spoke about uprooting himself to seek change and works commercially as a travel photographer.
Bert Stephani from Belgium gave very relevant and useful tips about portable lighting techniques.
Tutorial king Zack Arias who needs no introduction and can always be found teaching online, was great fun to watch up close.
David Hobby of Strobist fame, sounds exactly like he writes, funny & straightforward, very candid and big picture.
Maurizio Faraboni, whose images about leprosy and his dedication to his personal project…made me tear…
I also managed some time to catch other talks at Nikon and Leica: Ami Vitale on how she gets her shots,
Joel Marklund speaking about his Rio Olympics camera set-ups and experience
Jakob de Boer hinted at finesse and poetry in printing photographic works and falling in love with holding a print in your hands.
There were so many talks and lectures, it would be a sport more difficult that catching Pokemons moving from hall to hall if you gotta catch ‘em all.
The Leica gallery showcased a glossy, larger-than-life installation of Bruce Gilden’s Faces, and the photography of masters like Alex Webb.
What really took down the walls of Jericho was meeting Mr Toru Takahashi, President of Fujifilm Europe and the team of camera designers. Suddenly there were faces to a brand. Not just layers of PR employees paid to represent the product. Suddenly after years of being a consumer at the receiving end of the camera, there were real people behind a camera! Hello, Craftsmanship!
Here was a guy who could stand up and say “I am designing the sensor” – wow!
Here was the president in a one-to-one conversation politely asking “If we could just make one more lens to add to the X-series, what sort of lens do you want?”
Over drinks, another designer was saying “Yes, during the development phase we work very very intensely to release firmware updates very fast.”
He also said, “My main role is to design the film simulation Acros. Please, please please continue using it and continue to give us your feedback.”
These people are my real-life heroes. The intensity of it all… oh… this is marvellous.
Connecting with a brand becomes so much easier when you understand that the philosophies it has laid out on paper aren’t just blank statements but are practiced day-to-day in all seriousness for being ahead of innovation.
They take photographer’s opinions seriously and make the effort to communicate directly, not through a PR machine. Fujifilm isn’t paying me to write this, the opinions are my own.
I leave you below with more images and impressions from Photokina 2016, and some portraits of the people I met.