Photokina is no longer. At least “for the time being”. Blaming “the further massive decline in markets for imaging products,” the organisers have suspended the 70-year-old series of photographic exhibitions until further notice.
Over the past couple of years, there have been several rearrangements of the deckchairs on the banks of the Rhine, including an optimistic decision to go annually instead of biennial and a change in date from September to May. The first of the new-style “photokinas” (which the organisers insist on branding with a lower-case “p”, contrary to common usage and the rules of both German and English grammar) had been planned for May this year.
The outbreak of Covid scotched all these ploys and I suspect the pandemic has provided the final coffin nail. Koelnmesse, the organisers, have optimistically left the lid ajar and there is still room for a “phoenix-photokina”, all in lower case, of course, to arise in the future. But, whatever happens, it seems likely that Photokina will never again enjoy the massive world-wide clout that it enjoyed until 2018. Never mind Covid, the demise started with that small p…
Photokina was undoubtedly the world’s largest and most important trade fair for the photographic industry. For decades, the show’s timing in September governed the product cycle of manufacturers large and small. It is poignant that this decision has been announced in November 2020, just a few months after the 70th anniversary of the first exhibition in Cologne in 1950. Leica enthusiasts, in particular, will recall that it was at the 1954 Photokina, a year when people still had some respect for grammar, that the Leica M3 was introduced to the public.
Few readers will be able to remember a time before Photokina and, for most keen photographers, it has always been an ambition to make the biennial pilgrimage to Köln-Deutz. For me, the massive Kölnmesse complex has played an important part of my life, quite apart from its association with Photokina.
During my working life, I was a regular visitor to the International motorcycle exhibition, also biennial and usually on the between years, and I became familiar with the area and felt quite at home in Cologne, a city I have been visiting regularly for the past 57 years.
It wasn’t always sweetness and light attending any major exhibition in Cologne. Unless you booked early, there would be not a single bed available in the city or its hinterland. On several occasions, I’ve had to stay in Düsseldorf and commute daily to Cologne. Even spare rooms in private houses were usually all occupied. This gives an impression of the scale of Photokina and of the other world-class exhibitions in the Koelnmesse calendar. We should certainly spare a thought for the loss of business which will be felt acutely in the city and surrounding areas.
It’s very sad to see our treasured institutions falling one by one. I will sorely miss the trek to Photokina. My last visit was in 2016 and I regard that event as the last of truly great world-class exhibitions. By 2018 the rot had already set in.