Photokina: A Spectacle of Absurdity

The Big Two may have dominated the headlines at Photokina, but other brands grabbed plenty of attention in other, more... special ways.


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Photokina 2012 has not been without a hefty dose of the absurd, extravagant, and just plain strange. From cosplaying pharaohs and Lego cruise ships to Ferraris, from helicopters to scantily clad trapeze artists, Photokina is nothing short of a spectacle. But what else could you expect from the largest photography trade show in the world? How can you not expect to see a few live eagles? Or a beautiful young lady in a dress made of flowers? Or a swarm of German models splayed provocatively over a Hyundai-sponsored tank? In the words of fellow DCI writer, TJ Donegan, it all seems like a drug-induced fever dream. But for the past week in Cologne, Germany, this has been our reality.


The award for the most over-the-top booth, I think, would be a three-way tie between Sony, Samsung, and Tamron. Unsurprisingly, all three of these companies—and really every major brand at Photokina—employed hordes of stunningly gorgeous models to attract crowds. The difference was in how they deployed them. Sony, for example, had a trapeze artist swinging round the clock; this was roughly 30 feet from a gorgeous young lady adorned in a dress constructed of flowers—real flowers. On the other side of the booth was a duo of male gymnasts throwing each other about in a series of circus acts.

While jungle themes could be found everywhere, Tamron took the trend to exotic levels. They even had a stage, whereupon various displays of synchronized dance and confusing costumes could be seen. It's hard to tell if there was supposed to be any sort of anthropological significance, because one young lady, who appeared to be in traditional Russian garb, was partnered with some sort of Bowie-like spaceman-man, and then with a neon green frogman… sort of… thing… We learned early on not to try to make much sense of things.


Then there was Samsung. While somewhat tamer in its exhibition, Samsung did not hold back on opening its pocketbook. There were, of course, the beautiful women—these decked out in some sort of hip urban attire, complete with basketballs and sideways caps, yo. They also had some rather lackluster breakdancing that induced yawns from mostly everyone. But there were some impressive Lego displays. That’s right: Legos—massive, time-consuming structures modeled after a cruise ship in one display and a cathedral in the other. As a former Lego addict, I can vouch for the thoroughness of work that went into erecting these structures.

All of this, presumably, was to offer press members ample photo opportunities. But the overall effect was, to say the least, overwhelming.


Photokina also seemed to have an infatuation with vehicles this year. At various booths throughout the show, the following objects could be found:

• A compact sightseeing helicopter

• A tank

• A Cupertino High School bus (yes, that’s Cupertino, California)

• A Ferrari

• Several American-made choppers

• A London double-decker bus

Even greater splendor came in avian form. Photokina arranged for a group of various hawks and eagles—some with a 7.5 foot wingspan—to be positioned on the convention piazza. It was a photo op, but also a chance for attendees to observe them through long-distance scopes. It was cool, even though the birds were literally shackled to wooden supports for most of the day, which caused them to squawk and flap their wings with menacing intensity.

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One of the strangest sights of the week was a cosplayer who changed his outfit pretty much everyday, but never to something that did not expose his wrinkly old flesh from thigh to, well… just look at the photos. We regret, somewhat, having not interviewed him amid our extensive coverage, but in retrospect it might only have disturbed us further. Sometimes, it’s just better to observe.

Check out our photos to see some of the absurdity on display here at Photokina, then watch this video of a bullheaded camera... man... thing...

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