I attended the PDN PhotoPlus Expo in New York City for the first time this year for one day of their 3-day event, sponsored by Photo District News magazine.  Short version of this post: I am most definitely going back next year and planning on enrolling in their numerous seminars and happily paying the requisite seminar fees, which are formidable (the fees) yet impressive (the content).  After feeling several pieces of equipment at the massive Nikon exhibit (my current format) I have now added a few unexpected items to my wish list (Happy Holidays, I hope).

At the Nikon booth, Joe McNally, the iconic photographer and a Nikon ambassador took the stage.  I first became acutely aware of Joe’s work shortly after 9/11.  As a shell shocked resident of New York City at the time, I poured my frustrated energy into documenting the immediate aftermath of that day and slow but eventual recovery over the years.  Joe McNally at the time began taking life size photos of emergency personnel (police, fire, EMTs, others) using the world’s largest Polaroid camera.  (There’s a link to Joe discussing it in 2008 below.)  After I saw the first images displayed on streetlights I was in awe of how he showed these first responders to be heroic and vulnerable at the same time.

Back at the PhotoPlus Expo, Joe stressed the importance of being prepared and having a game plan prior to shooting whenever possible.  Turns out the subjects who give him the least amount of time for a photo session are professional athletes – sometimes Joe is only allowed 5 to 10 minutes by his own estimate.

About that Polariod, from Joe’s blog here “This camera is the world’s only Giant Polaroid camera, invented at the behest of Dr. Land himself. It is the size of a one car garage. Its lens came from a U2 spy plane, according to legend. At f/45, you have about an inch of depth of field. You cannot focus the lens–you have to focus your subject by moving them back and forth in tiny increments. There is no shutter, you have to work camera obscura at the moment of exposure. I used about 25,000 watt seconds of strobe, mostly run through a 12×12 silk. The strobe system was wired to a Mamiya RZ 6×7 camera, bore sighted under the Polaroid lens. We would pose the subject, then wait for the interior workings of the Polaroid to spool up (there are two technicians inside the camera when you shoot, and they have to prepare things, like switch on a Black and Decker wet dry vac to suck the Polaroid film to the giant backplate of the camera). Then I would go dark in the studio, pull the cap of the Polaroid lens, fire the Mamiya and thus render an instantaneous dupe, one a huge positive, and the other a 6×7 transparency.”

— Daniel Farber Huang