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Photo Continental closes doors

Iconic Brisbane-based photo specialist, Photo Continental, closed its doors and website yesterday, September 14, after 64 years in business.

The Photo Continental property in Mt Gravatt. The retail premises have since cotracted to the left half of the building.
The Photo Continental property in Mt Gravatt. The massive photo retailing premises first  contracted to the left half of the building, and now the doors are closed for good.

Although it’s unconfirmed, one reliable source indicated to PhotoCounter that the closure of Photo Continental was more of a considered business decision than recent high-profile store closures, in which administrators have been called in.

Photo Continental will hold a clearance sale of stock via its website.

‘It’s not a bankruptcy under any circumstances,’ the source told PhotoCounter.

(We hope to be able to add more background on the business closure when we have a chance to speak with Photo Continental general manager, Mark Schleicher.)

pc-stuffThe Photo Continental website currently announces: Photo Continental has had a long history as a family-owned and operated business, having first opened its doors over 60 years ago in 1951.
It is with deep regret that we have had to close our doors on our photographic sales and laboratory departments.
With the change in consumer purchasing habits and along with the general cost of doing business in the current retail environment, Photo Continental can no longer offer the level of customer service and competitive pricing we have been renowned for over the past 64 years…

Craft Giraffe, the craft/scrapbooking branch of Photo Continental, will continue as a standalone business.

At the start of 2015 Photo Continental announced it would be ‘limiting our exposure to the digital hardware market.’

‘While we will still have access to a wide range of digital SLRs, compacts and lenses – we will be limiting the quantities we hold in store,’ Photo Continental explained on its Facebook page, focussing instead on ‘paper, chemistry and film along with a solid range of must-have accessories.’

Prior to this move the craft retail section had been separated under the new banner and Craft Giraffe name in 2014.

Photo Continental was a pioneer in mail order retailing of camera gear, and one of the original camera discount stores. It also had a strong presence in the second hand camera gear market for several decades.

Photo Continental established a minilab business in 1988 and was one of the few outlets in Queensland to continue offering a full photo printing service, covering B&W and colour neg film.

The valuable Photo Continental building on Logan Road, Mt Gravatt (about 15 minutes south-east of the Brisbane CBD), was, at more than 2800sq m, described as the largest physical camera shop in the southern hemisphere.

Reaction of customers on Facebook was remarkable, with around 100 postings in less than 24 hours expressing regret at the loss of the clearly highly-regarded supplier.

Here are a couple of typical contributions:
‘Such as shame,’ wrote Chris Wruck. ‘I bought my first photography equipment from Photo Continental in the early 1970’s as a young boy with a love of photography, back in the days when you were in Adelaide Street in the CBD. I set up a complete black and white processing lab in my parents downstairs rumpus room which I completely took over with my Durst enlarger and darkroom equipment.
‘You guys were always the best in town and I have always purchased the bulk of my equipment from you to support our local businesses. Now, many year on and as a professional photographer, I am really saddened at this loss. To the many staff who have helped me over the years, thank you. I am truely stunned that the end of this era has come. Best wishes to all the team for your future. God bless.’

Former Kodak service technician George Mosel wrote: ‘I was a service provider in my Kodak days and a customer in my private life. Sad to see the end of what was once the biggest photographic and photo frame supplier in Brisbane. For a long time, pricing was keener than online+freight and it was always in stock. I bought my first DSLR there and of course the lenses, accessories, flash guns, tripods and the list goes on… Your service was always professional and courteous, knowledgeable and friendly. The end of an era, to be sure.’



  1. Rob Heim Rob Heim September 16, 2015

    One of the great retailers, it is very sad that this day has arrived. I wish all involved the very best for a joyous future.

    • Angus Martin Angus Martin September 16, 2015

      It is always sad to see a retailer close that has been servicing the photographic industry for so long. However, based on my experience at Photo Continental, it is not surprising. Unfortunately I often found the service staff wanting in their knowledge of products, unhelpful and at times arrogant and dismissive. Added to this the fact that their prices were not at all competitive, I stopped considering them for my equipment purchases some time ago. It would appear I was not the only one.

      • Keith Shipton Keith Shipton Post author | September 16, 2015

        – On the other hand, it’s rare to see such affection for a retailer as is shown in the 150+ overwhelmingly positive comments from customers responding to the closure on the Photo Continental Facebook page:
        Who do you prefer to spend your money with these days, Angus?

        • Abel Mario Abel Mario February 25, 2019

          LOL!!! 150 people does not says it all. In saying that anywhere you go this days you’d find an unpleasant experience with customer service.

      • Darren Quin Darren Quin September 17, 2015

        I also experienced rude service from an older gentleman who I later found out was the General Manager of the place.

      • Trevor Nunya Trevor Nunya May 7, 2020

        To Angus Martin. I found the same thing. I had the unfortunate displeasure of working for Photo-Continental when they had a store opposite the Customs House, and the main store at East Brisbane. If you were nice to the customers, you were taken aside and counselled on how to be rude and arrogant. It was a horrible place to work. I was permitted a ten minute break every day, and even then, I was made to feel like a sponge for taking it. When it was extended to a half hour, a punch in clock was put in, and when you clocked back in, he would go to the card and check the time to make sure you were not late. And the smell of Bacardi from the old man and Vit was a constant reminder of the caliber of person you were working for.

  2. Rob Heim Rob Heim September 16, 2015

    One of the great retailers, it is very sad that this day has arrived. I wish all involved the very best for a joyous future.

  3. ecopix ecopix September 16, 2015

    Like Chris Wruck quoted above, PhotoContinental was part of my making as a pro. In the 70’s, one would get advice from any sales outlet that could give it, and when the purchase decision was made, whip around to PC to buy it, because they were always cheaper!
    Apparently we have done exactly the same trick on them, now. We are a fickle lot, aren’t we?
    I have a vivid mental picture of their first long, narrow Adelaide Street store, with the old founder sitting silently on a stool down at the end keeping an eye on his staff and customers. That was the early 70’s. At their first Mt Gravatt shop (near Griffith Uni), they had his old screw thread Leica on display, telling of his industrious school photography and, if I recall correctly, claiming the little camera had made a million exposures.

  4. Peter Rose Peter Rose September 23, 2015

    Photo Continental was an icon within our industry The founder.Mr.Tadrowski was a unique character who built a business unmatched for many years.His son Vit followed in his fathers foorsteps before his untimely death.Mark Schleicher did an outstanding job in continuing to grow the business together with Vit’s wife.
    Unfortunately another indication as to how much The Industry has changed in recent years.
    Very sad!

  5. Bruce Thomas Bruce Thomas October 5, 2015

    Although the company is known as a major photographic retailer that pioneered mail order sales in Australia, its origins were in school and wedding photography. Photo Continental was founded by a post-war Polish immigrant, Mr Tadrowski – I cannot recall his first name – who ran a wedding photography business called Rembrandt Studios which was located in an arcade in Adelaide Terrace, Brisbane. In 1961, I noticed an advertisement in his window seeking part time photographers for wedding work. I was just 17 years old and in school uniform, but I went into the shop anyhow and offered my services. Surprisingly, he agreed to give me a try. I had recently acquired a driver’s licence and could borrow my mother’s Morris Minor, so I started covering weekend weddings, initially on ‘spec’. In those days one or more photographers would turn up at weddings uninvited, even though there was an ‘official’ photographer engaged by the couple. We ‘spec’ shooters would concentrate on photographing the guests, handing out our cards, but also take a few formal group shots as well. The studio would give us film and a modest petrol allowance, and we would be paid on commission for any resulting sales. We would have to supply our own camera equipment, typically a Rollei or Yashica TLR and electronic flash. When I had shown I was a competent photographer, I was also given weddings where I was the official photographer for Rembrandt Studios.

    Mr Tadrowski also had a couple of other small outlets in Brisbane at the time, Rubens Studios and Canberra Photographers, but they all led into the same darkroom facilities in the Tadrowski family home in East Brisbane. Mr Tadrowski had also worked as a school photographer when he first came to Australia. For this work he used the name Photo Continental and had an old pre-war Leica camera which he had apparently used in Europe when he made a living in candid ‘street photography’, which was quite common at that time. I discovered many years later that my class photograph for 1951 at the Camp Hill State School is stamped on the back ‘W. Tadrowski, Photographer’ and in 1952 ‘Photo Continental’, I think – it is very faint!

    In the mid-1960s, Mr Tadrowski decided to try selling photographic equipment from his Rembrandt Studios store, initially in a small way. He also began to curtail ‘spec’ shooting of weddings, concentrating on only commissioned work. Eventually he decided there was more money in photographic retailing than wedding photography and moved entirely into the former, for which he decided to use his original business name, Photo Continental.

    I have been speaking of Mr Tadrowski, the elder, of course, as his son later ran the business for many years. I worked for Rembrandt Studios for over three years. It provided me with a useful income while I studied at the University of Queensland and many fond memories as well.

    • Bruce Thomas Bruce Thomas October 8, 2015

      Rembrandt Studios was in Adelaide Street (not Terrace), of course. Apologies, it is nearly 50 years since I lived in Brisbane!

  6. Michael Shapter Michael Shapter October 28, 2015

    Must say I’m gutted, they were the bank too big to fail. Under the circumstances some of the above comments I think are inappropriate. I’ve had a very long association with PC’s as a competitor, they were a sometime supplier, I had a hush hush relationship with Vit, the “old man” must never know your supplying me with 4×5 Polaroid film when I’ve run out. Numerous other trade anecdotes. Found Mark to be a gentleman. Very sad. Best wishes to all concerned.

  7. Donna Donna February 5, 2016

    Worked for 6 years with photo continental in the 80s while at East Brisbane and then Macgregor when Vic (son), Vics wife and his mother was still involved in business. Very sorry to see doors closed after such a long history in business. Was a unique organisation in its time Hope all staff have found new jobs.

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