We reported briefly in the editorial of our last newsletter that a true icon of the Australian photographic industry, Alan Small, has died. The news came in just before deadline, and there wasn’t time to put together an obituary we could be confident was both factually correct and worthy of Alan.
We wrote: ‘Alan operated Taree Camera House since 1983, only closing the doors a few days ago, following a prolonged illness. But it was his guiding role as the first chairman of directors of Camera House/Raleru, which he held for 11 years (plus another six as deputy chairman) which distinguished him as a leader in the industry. He was awarded a Life Membership of Camera House in 2002.
Alan was an accomplished photographer, and an astute businessman. Always forthright, he was an expressive and articulate speaker and writer. He was always generous with his encouragement for us here at Inside Imaging. He could keep a Frontier running with duct tape and baling wire.
Truly one of the greats.
…But his passing warrants more than a few rushed sentences. Below is a compilation including contributions from Camera House, from long-time friend and colleague John Swainston, from his son David and comments from industry contemporaries, all of which paint a picture of a man who was much loved and respected by those who enjoyed the honour of his friendship.
Alan’s son, David Small:
Before becoming Taree Camera House in 1983, Dad traded as Taree Photographics, and had done so since August of 1962, making it just shy of 61 years under his ownership/management. I worked weekends and school holidays with him from the age of 13, and for two years after finishing school. He had some amazing people work with him, and I learnt a lot about business and life in those years.
The family closed the store on June 30 to prevent it running into a new financial year. He would have turned 86 in September, and all he wanted to do was go back to his store and work.
Prior to opening the store, dad was the news reader on Taree radio station, 2RE, and also did some work for the local TV station, ECN 8. With his long time employee, Colin Booth, they also ran the New Liberty Theatre in Wingham for many years, my mum selling tickets and my aunt working the candy bar, until Taree Photographics grew to where time didn’t allow both.
Stewart Pickersgill and Lance Miller, Camera House:
We are sad to inform you of the passing of Alan Small.
Alan Small was the owner of Taree Camera House, he was also the first Chairman of the current form of Camera House, a position he held for 11 years, before assuming the mantle of deputy chairman for a further six years.
Like all successful organisations we are built on solid ideals and sound structure, and Alan was the leader of the group that provided the conceptual ideals and then built the successful company that we enjoy today.
Our first warehouse was a store in Manly. The next step was bold, and our second warehouse was purchased and owned by our company, with our offices upstairs. The company had a factoring finance arm known as Auscam to support importing and membership. These business models empowered a fledgling company and Alan lead those smart moves.
While many of us have a face for radio, Alan had a voice for radio. He spoke well and clearly so attendees at AGMs knew the company’s directions. Alan’s ‘welcome to the Ladies’ at AGM dinners was a signature of a gentleman of his era.
Alan ceased being a director of Raleru in 1999 but the company and the brand he formed continued to meet the challenges of the digital revolution that was so destructive to many photo retail organisations worldwide. In recent times we have withstood the challenges of Covid equally well.
All our subsequent directors have had the privilege of building upon the foundations of a model and a company that had the necessary layers of checks and balances to continue to succeed. Like everything we have evolved, but the early DNA that allowed us to evolve and built our modern company was established by our founding board led so professionally by Alan Small.
We send our condolences and thoughts to his family and friends.
Through incredibly hard work especially by him and co-directors John Miller and Jan Novak, along with Roger Hart, the GM and Joe Magno the finance man, Camera House rose to become one of the strongest camera retail groups in the country, a position they still maintain.
I was always amazed at the range of camera and accessory gear he offered in a small country town. Service was everything to him and his team. Behind him was the strong support of Jan his wife. In October 2002, at the Camera House AGM, our company, Maxwell Optical Industries (Nikon), won the Merv Lewis Supplier of the Year award. On the same night Alan and Jan accepted the Camera House Life Member Award for services to Camera House and nearly 20 years on the board.
I will never forget the enormous determination he had to ensure small retailers got the best deal possible and that consumers had a place to go locally that would help them get the best from their photography.
Comments from friends, colleagues and customers:
– Alan’s contribution to the Manning Valley will endure for years to come. When I moved to the mid-north coast 23 years ago, 2 things caught me by surprise: 1 the range and service available at Alan’s store, which rival’s capital city camera stores and 2 Alan called me by name, even though I had only met him once a number of years earlier! And over the passed 23 years he has continued to be an inspiration.
– Very sad to hear this news. Alan and I go way back to the very early days of Auscam then Camera House. He we a leader and mentor to me in those years.