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Industry vets renew auld acquaintance

A  group of 16 industry doyens met at the Auburn Hotel in  Melbourne on Tuesday this week for their annual Christmas reunion. Although a small group, they came from Perth, Tasmania and NSW as well as Victoria, and as a group harkened back to a time in the photographic industry when distributors and retailers, and even professional photographers, saw themselves as ‘in this thing together’.

Russell Hetsre and Peter Cosham (Pic courtesy John Swainston.)

It’s worth noting in the light of the comments below that it was only around 10 years ago that the indefatigable Richard Robertson (Ted’s) and Jeff Crowley (Fujifilm) organised a (PMA) Christmas Party which took over Melbourne’s Luna Park and was attended by over 400 photo industry people. How things have changed.

John Swainston, who flew down from NSW, noted: ‘As the years pass these get togethers seem more important.

‘I and those attending all agreed: We worked at a time when competitors could also be friends while competing aggressively.’

We asked a few of the attendees for a brief assessment of the photo industry in 2019 and any thoughts they might have on making it more successful. It’s clear from those comments that they all believe they were in the privileged position of living through its best years, which were now behind it.

Eddie Tromp, Victoria

Eddie Tromp (Courtesy John Swainston)

Unfortunately the industry appears to now having lost it’s professionalism, it’s status and to a certain extend it’s glamour.

Cameras have become a commodity and are sold by almost every bulk retailer of electrical products, with just a handful of specialty photographic shops left in the whole of Australia, in fact the world.

As for what could be done to improve things, I personally think that the horse has bolted and we are in the hands of ‘big business’ and whatever developments they will come up with,

Sorry to appear somewhat pessimistic about our once great industry, which gave us a good living, many friends and camaraderie, as witnessed at our annual reunuion last Tuesday.



Keith Shipton, Robert Heim, John Swainston. (Pic courtesy Peter Cosham.)

Rob Heim, Victoria:
With smartphones expanding consumer enjoyment of photography the industry needs to capture this interest by showing the public how much more they can achieve with these images. Sadly we no longer have a PMA or a Kodak to generate a mass marketing campaign.





Graham Carter, Tasmania:

Graham Carter (Courtesy John Swainston)

The 70s, 80s and 90s were the Halcyon days of the industry and then as the song goes, ‘Video killed the Radio Star’. Digital killed the photographic industry, cameras are now phones, photos are now digitally manipulated images,and probably 90 percent of photos taken are not archived. No longer can we pull the shoebox out of the cupboard and go through the negatives,the images we now take are somewhere in this big electronic bank.

I think the camera manufacturers should bring out a camera with a phone in it 🙂 But more serioulsy, there should be more emphasis on ‘Print your image or lose your Past’. That’s what needs to be addressed or everyone in the industry will be circling the same plug hole.




Duncan Dodd, WA:
A great catch up in Melbourne of industry stalwarts at the annual lunch in Melbourne – and not a Zimmer frame in sight! The combined industry experience represented over 700 years.

Peter De Janko, Richard Dodson and Duncan Dodd (Pic courtesy John Swainston)

Amazing to think of the camaraderie that has remained all those years. Our thoughts were with other industry personalities who were not able to attend, or who no longer with us.

There were many stories and anecdotes from the times we all shared together and of course the way the industry has changed was discussed.

The advent of digital cameras was a major turning point that revitalised the industry, but the introduction of the 10-cent print, phones with cameras and the internet saw the demise of many of the specialist outlets where customers received customer service from knowledgeable salespeople.

We all certainly experienced some of the best and most exciting days of the industry, however I doubt if the people in the current industry will have the same experience and relationships  in the future that this group enjoys.



Richard ‘Robbo’ Robertson (Pic courtesy John Swainston.)

Richard ‘Robbo’ Robertson, Victoria:
Its hard to see a prosperous future for the industry. There is little or no marketing. Everything is online and about cutting the price.  All these influencer and ambassador programs – well I simply don’t believe anything online and its clear all these endorsements are paid for and that should be acknowledged up front.

I’m really not involved now except for the ‘old boy’s network’ and  haven’t been called by anybody in the industry seeking my input on anything since I retired from Ted’s. There’s a lack of unity which is demonstrated by the fact the industry can’t even organise a Christmas Party. There are few if any product launches or trade shows, etcetera. The photo industry has made itself irrelevant and invisible, except for the BS on social media.




  1. PG PG December 6, 2019

    Hi Keith, we have get togethers in Brisbane also we just don’t invite you 🙂

  2. Anthony Leong Anthony Leong December 6, 2019

    Haha After 30+ years, as someone not a ‘notable’, I see this with regret…*and* I am still working in an industry overwhelmingly peopled with those 1/3 – 1/2 my age! I am not pessimistic, but I reckon I qualify as a “vet” still very much in the game. However…
    One of the major points *everyone* missed is that photographers (the good ones) are artists and that can never be replaced by phonecam – the average punter didn’t go to photographic school, where you learn about composition, art, your antecedents, past artistic greats in all forms of art and how light is used. The average punter is a digital machine-gunner. I am not and therein lies the difference. While print may have died (where an 8 x 10 sold for $80), I usually shot tranny anyhow, so the demise of the minilab or whatever was not as keen for me. The demise of the darkroom (and its hipster revival) I am ambivalent about, even though for many years I taught darkroom technique & practice.
    I as an “elder” welcome the new crop of photographers, bemoan a lot of their bullshit which doubles for what used to be called lack of competence, but admire their attempts to break the rules. I think I admire their spirit more than their content, though some is innovative. That said, they should be encouraged to learn the basics as we did. This is about physics, not elitism.
    Hopefully the old, white men of photography (where were the women like Angie? where were the coloured eminent photographers like Bill Cheung?) will be joined next time by others with differences, so a more enlightened and rounded debate and comments can be shown.
    Right now, I seem like the odd, old bloke out!

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