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AAU Photography Students Make Connections at Photo Plus Expo

Academy of Art University Photography student Tracy Florom was one of seven Academy students who flew to participate in Photo Plus Expo in New York City. The following is her description of the event and her time in New York overall:

Over 24,000 people attended the annual Photo Plus Expo in New York this year. Among them were seven Academy of Art University photography students.

All seven of us - Kathleen Turley, Mona Brooks, Shauna Regan, Christina McNeill, Joseph Gorman, and myself, Tracy Florom - are currently enrolled in Caren Alpert's Editorial Photography class. Caren suggested that attending the Expo would be a great experience and would provide many great opportunities to anyone who went. She also offered to get discount passes to the Expo and any other event she could for anyone willing to make the trip.

The Photo Expo is a yearly event featuring a convention floor with the industry's leaders in equipment and schools, as well as many varied seminars and keynote events.

While exploring the convention floor, we all learned some really valuable lessons. It was all a bit overwhelming at first; we saw hundreds of people making their way through hundreds of booths with every imaginable gadget a photographer could ever use. Once we made our way to the back, we discovered the Advertising Photographers of America (or APA) booth. It was here that we first learned that being an out-of-towner could be an advantage.

People were nice to us, but when they learned that we were a group of students who had flown in from San Francisco they were even more receptive to us. The APA were hosting portfolio reviews at their booth. Even though we didn't have an appointment with the art buyer, the rest of the APA staff who were present were more than happy to look at our books.

Academy Students at Photo Plus Expo
Academy students Kathleen Turley, Mona Brooks, Shauna Regan, Christina McNeill, Joseph Gorman, and Tracy Florom

Everyone got a turn with either Bob Ripps, Maggie Soladay, or Aaron Finemann, and some people got feedback from all of them. Overall, the reaction to our work was very good. This was especially true with respect to the reaction to Shauna Regan's work. The consensus was that she could move to New York and start working any time she wanted to.

The seminars we attended ranged from "Mastering the Technique of Wedding Photography" to "Cultures on the Cutting Edge: Documenting Contemporary Cultures." During the seminars, we saw some amazing work and took something away from each one, whether it was a newfound respect for the world of stock photography or a rekindled love of traditional black-and-white film photography.

While in New York, a group of us also met with Michelle Goldin, the photo editor of Photo District News Educational Magazine, and Sue Brisk from the editorial department of Magnum Photos. Sue Brisk gave us a tour and an insider's look at the Magnum Photos offices. Sue gave us great information on how Magnum runs and how they discover new photographers. She also showed us Magnum's newest division, "Magnum in Motion." Magnum is keeping with the times and has a division that works on making short movies - or combinations of still images, audio, and film - of the events that Magnum photographers cover. Michelle Goldin of PDNEdu talked to us about breaking into the industry, staying current, and places we should visit while we were in New York.

Mona Brooks also met with the photo editors from Photo District News Magazine, People Magazine, and Budget Travel Magazine. The one thing that they all told her was to always work on refining one's personal style. While Mona was meeting with Jeanine Fijol of Photo District News, she was offered a job. She ended up with a two-night job covering the parties that PDN was hosting during the weekend of the Expo.

The trip to New York wasn't all conventions and seminars though. We attended the party hosted by the Advertising Photographers Association and one of the PDN parties. These were a great opportunity for us to reconnect with people who we had met at the Expo, and also to meet new people.

No trip would be complete for a group of photographers without some time to explore and photograph one of America's most exciting cities. We managed to make it to Central Park, Bleeker Street, the Meatpacking District, Ground Zero, Soho, and Chinatown. The exploring especially paid off for Christina McNeill, who met a willing model in a waitress at a Bleeker Street bar. Christina actually scheduled a photo shoot on the last day of the trip!

Overall, the trip was a great experience. People were really receptive to us and willing to help. It really showed that taking that first step to meet people in your industry really pays off. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Everyone is looking for the latest and newest thing, which could be you.



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