Trade shows suck. Really. They’re crowded and noisy and everyone is grumpy because they’re late or hungover or both. You wait in line for everything, eat bad food, and invariably drink too much. The sensory overload of all those VR simulators and chickens and teeth-bleaching eggs makes you want to crawl into a hole and die.
And yet Jakob Schnetz loves trade shows. As crazy as it sounds, the German photographer has attended around 25 in the past five years and chronicled them all in his series Trade Show. His obsession started with EuroTier, a livestock show where he found a plethora of farming equipment, live animals, and at least one guy in a cow costume. “It was just this feeling of a compressed small artificial world,” Schnetz says.
He discovered a trade show for just about everything you can imagine. He attended CeBIT, the world’s largest computer expo, where one vendor hawked a chip implant that opens doors. The WBK International weapons show catered to WWII memorabilia, where Schmitz met Nazi paraphernalia vendors who refused to be photographed. And he saw thousands of chickens, geese, ducks, and other fowl at Deutsche Junggeflügelschau, which means “German young poultry show” in English. “The smell was disgusting,” Schnetz says. “You can imagine maybe 2,000 square meters of 11,000 chickens for days.”
Schnetz returns to some trade shows year after year, spending up to 10 hours finding humorous details like soldiers sipping sparkling wine or someone in a VR simulator pretending he’s flying. He finds such things far more revealing than an overview of the show because they convey the bizarre nature of an event designed specifically to sell you something. All that spectacle wears Schnetz out. “After a week at one of these trade fairs you’re just done with everything,” he says. “You want to just go to bed or have a beer or something.” Perhaps he ought to check out a brewery trade next.
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