‘Mary Walker Exhibitions would like to announce that the 2013 Focus on Imaging exhibition was the last,’ read a statement about the show, which was open to the public and the trade and has pulled in more than half a million visitors over its 24-year history.
Walker said her time running the event has been ‘immensely rewarding’ and a ‘fantastic journey’.
‘I am certain that the time is right for the industry to perhaps find fresh opportunities and bring new ideas to photographers – maybe we’re due a new revolution of some kind?’
She added: ‘Focus on Imaging will not be sold – I’m simply bringing it to an end.’
‘Gap in calendar’
Among the first to react to the news was Jeremy Gilbert, group marketing manager at Nikon UK who said: ‘We are saddened to hear that Focus on Imaging will no longer be running after so many years – it was the UK’s premier imaging show.
‘Nikon has continually supported the show since its launch and its loss will leave a gap in our calendar of events next year. We wish Mary and her team all the best for the future.’
Giving his initial reaction, Michael Pritchard, director general of the Royal Photographic Society, described the news as a ‘big blow’, but he believes someone else may step in to fill the void.
A spokesperson for Olympus UK told Amateur Photographer (AP): ‘Olympus is naturally saddened to hear that Focus is no more but is already scoping a big event around the same time’.
Ideas are thought to include a ‘big prize, winner-takes-all, photographers’ challenge open to users of all brands’.
Writing on AP’s website forum, photographer Roger Hicks said: ‘A lot of people took Focus on Imaging for granted, without realising what an immense amount of work Mary put into it.
‘Its absence is going to leave a BIG hole in the UK market.
‘Where else could you get your hands on that much kit, and see what it feels like?
‘I was at the first Focus, and the last. I’ll miss it.’
Despite today’s shock announcement, the decision is likely to have been under consideration by organisers for some time, even before this year’s show, which took place at the Birmingham NEC in early March.
This year, 34,397 people visited the event, around 8% down on 2012.
Amateur Photographer was not aware that Focus faced any financial difficulties.
Rather, it seems the event may have merely become harder and harder to organise.
It is possible organisers became frustrated with last-minute bookings by exhibitors, which had become a trend in recent times.
This may have taken its toll on organisers who were under pressure to fill the large exhibition space at the NEC.
What is clear is that, from today, the path is open for anyone with the ways and means to take up the reins of running a yearly event that proved popular with many AP readers and industry figures.
Chris Cheesman, AP news editor
Focus on Imaging press statement, released earlier today:
‘Following a successful and long-running contribution to the photography industry spanning 24 years of the annual Focus On Imaging exhibition – and after more than half a million visitors have enjoyed photography through the Show – Mary Walker Exhibitions would like to announce that the 2013 Focus on Imaging exhibition was the last. Mary Walker said: “Focus On Imaging will not be sold – I’m simply bringing it to an end.” She continued: “It is with great pride that I look upon an amazing period of time in my life, where I continually worked hard to run Focus On Imaging to the absolute best of my ability. I myself, the Show and my committed team have witnessed the phenomenal growth and revolutionary changes that have come to the photographic industry, and I am proud to have offered photographers and manufacturers an opportunity to come together professionally and personally over the years.” Mary said: “There are now so many elements of a photographer’s working life that we simply could not have imagined back at the inception of the original ‘Focus On Photography’ as it was 24 years ago. It’s been an immensely rewarding job that has brought experiences and friendships that will always remain. I am certain that the time is right for the industry to perhaps find fresh opportunities and bring new ideas to photographers – maybe we’re due a new revolution of some kind?” Mary is aware that she has a long list of people to thank, concluding: “I would like to offer my thanks to all of the exhibiting companies, large and small – both now and in the history of the Show – for their support; then of course my small team who have helped make everything happen each year; and certainly Focus would never have been the experience that it became without the visitors who walked through its doors. It’s been a fantastic journey.”‘