Monday, January 17, 2011

Imaging USA

This has been an interesting six days. The Wife is attending Imaging USA in San Antonio, one of the largest photography conferences in the world, put on by Professional Photographers of America. She's taking her certification exam, and cramming in all manner of seminars offered during the week.

I've blogged before how the La Leche League conferences she attends share an uncanny similarity with the science fiction conventions I attend, save that their dealers rooms are smaller, there are far more women in attendance and pretty much nothing in the way of parties. Well, Imaging USA is on the opposite end of the spectrum. It compares more with Worldcon or DragonCon. There are 10,000 photographers attending. Something along the lines of 400 will take the certification exam over that span. Their equivalent of the dealers room--the expo--is enormous, but the cost of the cool toys for photographers start in the hundreds of dollars and quickly scales up to the tens of thousands. Even at a behemoth genre con like Comic Con there are only so many Action Comics no. 1 to go around. In addition to the expo, there are huge seminars--roughly equivalent to panel discussions--attended by hundreds, and unlike SF cons, the programming begins at 7 a.m. There are also huge parties put on by Canon and Nikon, with a host of smaller, off-site and private parties hosted by smaller outfits like Animoto. And there are galleries of award-winning photography on display. All in all, it's very, very cool.

Sadly, I didn't get to see much of it at all. Although I have a recently-acquired affinity for photography, The Wife is the pro in this case, and this week is hers. I managed just an hour or so wandering the expo floor, engaging in full sensory overload, before The Wife went off to her next scheduled seminar and I returned to riding herd on our kids. Despite my brief cameo, I still ran into one good photographer friend there and had a couple of laughs.

The Wife, though, had something of an opposite experience. During a particular gathering, a local photographer sidled up and addressed her in an overly-familiar way (his schtick was reading her name off her name tag). He looked familiar, but she couldn't place him, so she just acknowledged his greeting and didn't offer any further small talk. Rebuffed, he performed a great Ron Burgundy impression and moved on to the next unattached woman available. Shortly thereafter, The Wife caught sight of his name tag, and realized who said photographer was. So in an effort to be friendly, she went up to him and greeted him, saying "I thought you looked familiar!" to which he replied, "Of course I do. I just said 'hi' to you a few minutes ago." The Wife then explained that she was from New Braunfels, and his chummy, smarmy attitude instantly changed to contempt. "Not another one," he said, then curtly turned and stormed off, leaving The Wife standing there, stunned. She called me a few minutes later, boiling mad, and I don't blame her. Conventions are all about networking, but some photographers obsess over the perceived "competition" to the point where common decency takes a hike. The Wife's on good terms with a number of pros in the area, and has gotten referrals from them, as well and passed along referrals to them. It's fun to talk shop and draw inspiration from one another. This guy was apparently willing to do that, but only as long as The Wife wasn't from around these here parts and therefore no threat to his "territory." Can you imagine Elizabeth Moon and Lois McMaster Bujold refusing to speak to each other because they both write space opera and fantasy adventure? Or William Gibson and Bruce Sterling refusing to sit on the same panel discussion because the other cuts into his market share? Unbelievable.

Note that I'm not calling this jerk out here beyond the unidentifiable events posted above. Had it happened to me, I'd be roasting him alive. But The Wife is more circumspect and diplomatic. Genre cons have their jerks, too, but their jerkiness tends to be somewhat less... calculated, shall we say.

All in all, it was a fascinating, stimulating event from what I saw of it. The Wife certainly is inspired, and already she's booking shoots to try out new techniques. I'm hoping to get a bigger taste of Imaging USA next year, when it's held in New Orleans. As of now, we plan to attend together, and the chance to do some street photography in the Big Easy is something we've both wanted to try for a long time. Hopefully, when the time comes, there will be a few more friendly faces and at least one fewer unfriendly one.

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Delicate Sound of Thunder

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