The Little Man With The Little Trade Table

on October 02, 2016

If you have ever gone to a photographic trade show, collector's market, or enthusiast's conference you know roughly what the exhibition hall will look like.

There'll be a number of stands set out by major manufacturers, a couple of tables from a local authority or professional body loosely allied to the theme of the day, and one or two little card tables set up with sad-looking people behind them. They'll generally be in the least favourable position in the layout - near the toilets or down behind the service corridor. Do yourself a favour - seek them out.

We're not saying that the major players don't have good stands - after all, they've got the money and prestige and corporate power to get the best place in the show. And they'll be the ones with the big new products that everyone has been seeing hints of for the last two months on the internet forums. Go to them and heft the new cameras and lenses and have a good time. Enjoy their latest slogans...: "Dare To Imagine The Innovation Of Inspiration To Succeed/Exceed/Recede In You!" "Be What The Paradigm has Adventured!" "Now The World Will Revolving Around Of You!".

Hard to know how to respond to some of this...I suppose you could always shout out "Banzai" and throw yourself on the barbed wire, but that's a big ask for most Australians at a camera show...

But you will do more for your photographic development looking at the offerings of the little card-table people. They might be as humble as someone selling greeting cards, or as complex as someone with a scheme for reprocessing JPEG images into vegetable oil. All sorts of little gadgets are on offer, and some of them are actually useful.

You must not expect perfection - little craft makers rarely achieve industrial precision - and there may be an air of cottage industry about the presentation. Packaging might be scrappy, and instructions and diagrams crude - but then if you have ever read the instructions packed with a Metz Mecablitz product you will know that goodness need not be written up all that well. Look at the equipment first-off.

The German trade show Photokina in Köln has many such tables. People have made their way to Germany from all over the world to try to light the sales fire. If you want manual controls for an electronic computer or strange printing materials or little plastic accessories for anything, you need to haunt the card tables. The demonstrators will be there until the last of their samples, brochures and patience runs out...then they will clap the legs to on the table and beat it for the door. Look well, for you may never see them again.

Beware of entering into lifetime schemes of commitment at these fairs. Sometimes the commercial lifetimes they refer to are based roughly on those of Mayflies. Software is sometimes abandoned at the church door with a pathetic note asking the finder to nurture the infant program. Reseller's programs are also shaky ground...particularly if they ask you to recruit other re-sellers...or call for start-up funds.

Still, there are lots of good things on offer. If nothing else, collect all the brochures you can. They won't be worth anything in 2 years, but you can always paper the walls of the camera room with them.