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Industry mourns and celebrates Les Brener

The following are a selection of comments from friends and colleagues of Les Brener which give an insight into the esteem in which he was held:

Les Brener at his farewell dinner, 2003. (Pic: John Swainston)
Les Brener at his farewell dinner, 2003. (Pic: John Swainston)

– To me he was the first International Director of PMA that I met at PMA. I’ll always remember him as the statesman and gentlemen who took people under his wing and provided sage industry advice in a fatherly manner. Our condolences and prayers go out to Jessica and the rest of the family. All of us were better for knowing and working with him. Bob Moggach, PMA Canada

– PMA has lost a great friend and supporter. Les made so many contributions to the industry, and was vital to the establishment, growth and success of PMA Australia. We’d like to extend our condolences to his family, and his friends all over the world. He will be missed. Georgia McCabe PMAI, USA

– I am very sorry about Les passing away. One year before his retirement, after one of our meetings in Vegas, I had a strong headache and told him about it. I then discovered that, apart of being one of the most well prepared and efficient PMA´s Int´l Directors with a sound knowledge of the industry, he was also a pharmacist with a profound knowledge of human body behaviour. Not only he recommended the medicine I should take but went into my bedroom to check my conditions after a few hours. Only a gentleman can do that.
I will certainly miss him a lot. My condolences to his family and specially to Jessica his beloved wife. Roberto Ricci, PMA Brazil

– John has captured well the essence of a very special man I was privileged to know. I want to acknowledge the deep commitment Les offered photographic education in this country. His counsel to me in this field was without peer. RIP Des Crawley

– What a champion for our industry he was: Tireless, vitally involved and always doing his very best for everyone in the industry. I worked with Les on many projects, such as National Photo Month, the PMA beginnings and the annual big photo industry shows. Together we worked the fine lines of trying to keep both retailers and wholesalers happy at the same time! No wonder we drank together so much!  It was a 37-year journey that had us travelling regularly together across Australia. We did not always agree, but we have always remained firm friends and he was helping me with a photographic project right up until now. Quite simply, his contribution to our industry cannot be overestimated and his passion for it remained with him until the end. Paul Curtis

– A great servant and (at times) leader of our industry. A true gent, family man and achiever. Respect, and love to his family and colleagues, who will miss him. I always had the impression that he managed to glide around, rather than walk. Robert Gray

– From the mid 80s with five of us at a state PMA meeting in his hotel room until his retirement with 50+ attending, we were always inspired by Les. Both John Swainston and Terry Rimmer along with many others from the industry kept up a friendship long after he retired – that really says something. There will be one empty seat at The Les Brener Lunch this week, a great tradition that will endure in the memory of Les. Phil Gresham

– Like most people who’ve spent any length of time around photography, Les had a big impact on me. He was the first person who made me feel really part of an industry rather than just a career or a brand, but in a way different to my uniting love of photography. I always got the sense that Les, despite his position as Director of PMA’s Australian operations and in effect, the representative of photo retailers, was never constrained or conflicted by that. To me, he saw the photo industry as something that should simply embrace the betterment of those involved in photography. Perhaps his background as a pharmacist influenced that – there was no natural owner. But I think that it was his inclusive character and values that most guided him in that direction. He certainly had a big influence on my own beliefs. Les personally presented me with my PMA pin. I’ll never forget it. I’ll never forget him. Rest in peace Les. Stuart Poignand (ex-Canon)

– I always thought of Les as the complete diplomat, the Henry Kissinger of the Australian photographic Industry. He moved seamlessly between the Industry moguls as well as the various photo associations. Often resolving pricklish problems where others before him had failed. A true gentleman and a fitting recipient of the Order of Australia medal for services to the photo industry. Goodbye old friend. I enclose a recent photo of Les at one of the Les Brenner Lunches. Peter Rattray

– When Les walked through our lives he left footprints on our lives, I’ll never forget his passion for our photo industry and as a migrant to Australia how he and Jessica were driven to making a new start in their newly adopted homeland. Good by old friend I’ll never forget your words to me often: ‘Robbo its Brener. ….one r and one n.’ No Les I wont! Richard Robertson

Les Brener, photographed last November at ‘The Les Brener Lunch’, a group of industry and former industry leaders which has been convening since 1981.

– Les Brener was the Australian Photo Industry for 23 years from 1980 until 2003. As head of PMA Australia he oversaw the era of minilabs, the end of film cameras and the arrival of digital. Les always fought for the small guy. He was a friend, counsel and solution-seeker. Incredibly cultured, an encyclopaedic knowledge of fine music, and supporter of the arts throughout his life, while also passionate about Rugby. From my first meeting with him in his pharmacy in Salisbury Rhodesia in 1968, to our last single-malt tasting a couple of months ago, a dear, dear friend, so deeply missed. Vale Leslie Julius Brener OAM, true to his values, seldom one to complain about his physical condition, generous, so proud of his children and grandchildren. To Jessica, all love and deepest sympathies. John Swainston



  1. Lincoln Gray Lincoln Gray March 27, 2015

    Sad news. The Australian photo industry was made better by the tireless work of Les Brener over so many years. Les’ passing is a reminder that nothing stays the same. My condolences to Jessica and the family. Vale Les Brener.
    Lincoln Gray

  2. Phil Heesch Phil Heesch March 27, 2015

    Funny, I was only thinking of Les quite recently and thinking it would be nice to venture down to the big smoke to see how he was traveling. I have only just learned of his passing today thanks to Keith’s latest newscast. What a wonderful contribution to the History of the Photo Industry Les has made both here and overseas.The comments of you industry doyens have said it all about this wonderful man. Les always brought an air of relaxation and peace when he called on you and at various industry events where all of us competitors were corralled in the one room. His infectious smile and outstretched hand ensured neutrality, and good cheer prevailed. I remember Les best as the “Mother Hen” of the industry and have fond memories of him shepherding us all around on our way to various functions and conventions both here and overseas. He would do the rounds on the aircraft during the night to ensure all was well with his brood. Poor Jessica, she never did get a restful plane trip!
    To Jessica and the family, I am jealous as you got to spend the most time with this beautiful person.
    To you Les B, we will meet again one day at the big photo convention in the sky…until then my friend…Vale

  3. Brian Kearney Brian Kearney March 27, 2015

    I was introduced to photography as the age of 11 when my Dad bought me my first camera a Kodak Retina 11c. It was purchased from Les Brener’s Pharmacy in Salisbury, Rhodesia in 1960. Several times a year we had black and white negatives and prints processed at Les’ pharmacy. He always made time to review and discuss the results with us and suggest ways to improve my photography.

    36 years later I met Les at a PMA function in Australia. He hadn’t changed a bit. He still gave generously of his time, knowledge and enthusiam.

    Who knows how many people’s lives he enriched? Les was such a special person. God bless you and your family.

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