Decanting the Photokina experience.

We’re home. It’s unseasonably warm but the leaves have begun to turn and autumn is clearly settling in, adding to our disconnect; these past 14 days have been a whirlwind.

I’ve been trying to think of the best way to present everything I shot during our brief but intense time in Europe and honestly, I’m still reflecting. I’ve been sifting through the images and it could easily go in several directions. All I know at this point is that I’m rather happy with the results. Venice and Rome? Kind of inspiring.

But before Italy, before roaming through streets and palaces and ruins… There was Cologne.
Let’s talk about that for now.

One of my images in the X-Photographers Gallery. The prints were big, bold and damn impressive.

Up with People

I spent the entire summer haunted by Photokina — what I’d say, how I’d say it, what I’d shoot, who I’d meet; I’d visualized and prepared and anticipated to the point of obsession. But the actual experience? Way beyond anything I could’ve imagined.

Of course, the event itself is massive: this isn’t a bunch of kiosks in a conference hall but a city within a city. Several huge buildings, outdoor terraces, every single nook and cranny packed with photographic goodness. I had expected Fujifilm to have a small booth next to a live stage — it turned out to be almost an entire floor. Very, very impressive. But beyond the physicality and the scope of the show, the experience for me became more about people than anything else — the people attending the shows, those I had a chance to talk to, the team organizing it all and of course, the photographers with whom I was sharing the stage while I was there: Bert Stephani, Kevin Mullins, Zack Arias, Gianluca Colla, Elia Locardi, Eric Bouvet, Pete Bridgwood, Ken Kaminesky, Alex Lambrechts, Bobbi Lane and Lee Varis. I also got a chance to chat with David Airob and Paul Schlemmer before leaving for Venice. I know this all sounds like a lot of name dropping but here’s the thing: I knew all these guys would be interesting; I mean the sheer diversity in that group was enough to insure there wouldn’t be a dull moment. But I had not expected such a huge, talented bunch of people to be so much fun to be with. There wasn’t a single ego to spoil the mood and we had a total blast before the talks, during the talks and… Well… After hours. Do you know Germany has beer? It does. So there.

Gianluca and Pete checking out the T...

Zack shooting an impromptu portrait outside the pub...


All the invited photographers were scheduled for either Live Talk or Studio Demo — I was listed as "studio" but was actually doing both, 50/50. The speaking portion was a sort of reflexion on visual storytelling and the importance of seeing at all times. A very condensed version of a much longer talk I’ve been giving this past year. Now the live shoot… That was a whole nother ball game.

On stage. Courtesy of Bert Stephani.

I wanted to do a shoot that was very "free", using movement to try and capture images between the poses with the goal of creating a sequence of images (as opposed to a single perfect portrait). You know, to tie in the shoot with the storytelling angle of the talk. It worked — at least in retrospect. See, I was the first and only guy shooting during the first two days of the event… So there were, let’s say, a few glitches to contend with. This on top of what is already a pretty nerve wracking situation to begin with: shooting with Photokina looking over your shoulder (!). But it worked out in the end and I have to admit that despite the snags, it was actually kinda fun. And of course my guinea pig sessions paved the way to my buddy Bert Stephani bringing the house down with a perfect shoot on Thursday ;)

Bert explaining The Gap...

Kevin bringing on the tears...

Below are some of the images from the live shoot. Quick setup notes for those of you who might be interested: X-T1 with XF 56mm f/1.2, a single Profoto strobe in a beauty dish on camera axis (high up, mostly aiming over the model’s head). Big thanks to Jamie, to my two wonderful models Wioleta and Anna as well as everyone involved in the girls team… They were simply fantastic to work with. Interesting tidbit: total elapsed time on each shoot? About 4 minutes. Only found this out when I came home and looked at the metadata… Stress is one powerful time-stretching machine.

Day One: Wioleta.

Day Two: Anna.

Wioleta and the BMW...

Thanks, thanks and more thanks

Not to go all Oscar speech on you but I do need to acknowledge some people… I want to thank Billy Luong and Greg Poole of Fujifilm Canada for making this possible and being such a joy to work with, Marc Horner of Fujifilm UK, Kunio Aoyama and everyone at Fujifilm Japan who worked like crazy on this entire event.

Photography can be a very quiet and solitary pursuit. Even when we're shooting other people, there's always a part of it that's internal, that innevitably forces us back into ourselves at some point. So for me, on a very personal level, these intense couple of days were like an influx of energy. Meeting these photographers, speaking to so many people fueled with the same passion, working as amateurs or professionals... It was one of the most enriching and moving experience of my life. I come out of this with a boatload of memories and new friends for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect. 

It was an honour and an absolute blast. 
More please ;)


P.S All images were shot with the X100S (except for the studio stuff).

Patrick La Roque

laROQUE, 311 Lorncliff, Otterburn Park, Canada