a report by John Henshall

PMA is the annual expo of the Photo Marketing Association held, for the second year running, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Mr & Mrs David Bailey at PMAPMA is a hard-nosed show, mainly featuring hardware for retail photo dealers and how to sell it. There is little emphasis on fine images. This year, one welcome exception was Olympus who shipped-in David Bailey for the opening of his exhibition at New Orleans' superb 'A Gallery For Fine Photography' on Royal Street. There was little digital imaging here, except for a few Iris 'watercolor' prints in the exhibition, priced at around half the price of the silver prints, perhaps because of fears of fading? Olympus set another fine example, sadly not followed by others, by issuing all their press releases on CD-ROM.

A few years ago, PMA was definitely not the place for digital imaging products. Then, last year, you could hardly move for them. It was as though someone had switched on the light. Just about every camera manufacturer was giving front-of-booth prominence to their own low-resolution digital camera. A year on, none of these products were still in evidence.

This illustrates the hype and extremely short shelf-life of many digital products. They have been little more than virility statements for the companies concerned - expensive learning curves, because digital cameras are very costly to design and manufacture. Few can possibly pay back even the research and development costs. The dilemma is that companies not taking part in the digital revolution may be perceived to be dropping behind - maybe also in their mainstream, non-digital, photographic products.

This year it seemed the photographic companies had finally realised what still pays their wages. Although digital was very much in evidence it was much more - excuse the pun - focussed. A year ago, photo-company sceptics firmly believed that they would be retired to the golf course in the sky before digital took hold. This year those same people were behaving like seasoned digital advocates - boasting of their new digital products with the cockiness of men who had discovered that they could, after all, sire a son late in life.


Guy KawasakiPMA has an off-shoot especially for digital imaging, the Digital Imaging Marketing Association, which held its one-day conference the day before the PMA conference and trade show opened.

DIMA got off to a poor start with a general session, "The Next Graphics Platform - Mac or PC?" Speakers from Apple and Microsoft failed to inspire much hope for either platform, making it difficult to draw any conclusions. Fortunately, Guy Kawasaki's superb keynote at the end of DIMA ensured that the day ended on an entertaining, informative and inspiring note. Between these, the menu was varied - from consultants promoting their latest report but giving little away, to Katrin Eismann's superb advanced tips and tricks tutorial for Adobe PhotoShop power users. A less direct commercial attitude might be beneficial for both DIMA and PMA

In this Report:.


When the brain is hurting from an overdose of technology, respite may be found at the far end of the PMA show, where scores of small booths tout every conceivable photographic accessory: laminators, albums, frames, mounters, lenses, batteries, vacuum easels, light-boxes, financial services, insurance… On the King Micro booth we found a reversible tele/wide convertor for digital cameras.

World Richmond CasesPerhaps the most useful booths were those selling fitted cases. World Richmond cases make fitted cases, like the one I tried my Agfa ePhoto1280 in. Though beautifully made, it did not have space for spare batteries and media. I already use the CaseLogic DC-70 case to hold my Sony DCR-PC7 camcorder, batteries, tapes and wideangle adapter, so I went for the CaseLogic DC-50, made specially for medium-sized digital cameras, which also holds eight AA-sized batteries. It would cost manufacturers only $6 each to buy these cases in bulk and supply them with their digital cameras - a small price to pay to protect expensive cameras.

On the final two days of PMA, New Orleans was warming up for Mardi Gras and the show was quiet, Bourbon Street noisy. Perhaps this proves, after all, that there is indeed life outside photography?

This article first appeared as a Report for Seybold Publications, February 1998.
This document is Copyright © 1998 John Henshall. All rights reserved.
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