This year's photo show in La-La land proved to be very active, with traffic up considerably from last year and even nudging out 2000. Dealer and show organizer Stephen Cohen was even caught off guard with the larger numbers, and apparently did not print enough catalogues for all the extra attendees. The crowds were the largest that I can recall here.
Many dealers did somewhat better than last year, even if the show did not exactly blow the doors off with big sales, and a few dealers did poorly (but there always seems to be a few of us that do poorly; the luck of the draw). But Photo LA showed strength--especially in the face of football playoff games, a postponed San Francisco Art Fair that took some dealers and collectors away, Sundance and Golden Globe programs and a slow-moving economy. On top of all these distractions, a few big collectors that one normally sees at this event were otherwise engaged. While the lookers still outnumbered the buyers, the buyers were buying when images were interesting and prices were reasonable. It seemed that they just were being a bit more cautious.
There was also a lot more after-show activity, which helped buoy the spirits of some of the dealers. Lookers sometimes do turn into buyers later.
Cohen told me that he himself had done a shade under last year's photo sales, but felt he could top his 2001 numbers with some pending after-show business. Most of the other dealers that I spoke to had similar stories.
Actually our own sales were up very substantially from last year's show, which we felt was hampered then by a looming writers' strike, which failed to materialize later, and some major dot-com/tech failures. The latter still may be a factor on the West Coast.
The week was made a little more enjoyable for me personally when I got to speak in front of two enthusiastic local groups: the Los Angeles Country Museum Photography Collectors group and San Diego's Museum of Photographic Arts collectors group.
I told both groups that the most important things to focus on were the image first (and not just the name of the photographer) and presence. I define the latter as the "Oh, my God!" factor; in other words, when you see a print and your jaw drops and you say something to that effect. That is presence and that is a print that you should always buy.