PhotoCounter Australia: L&P in liquidation – with COMMENTARY

https://www.photocounter.com.au/2017/lp-in-liquidation/

“After 38 years serving professional photographers, it appears respected Sydney-based L&P Photographic Supplies is shutting its doors.

Insolvency website Insolvencynotices.com.au has announced that at a general meeting of members of L&P Photographics on August 2, ‘it was resolved that the Company be wound up and that Christopher John MacDonnell (Restructuring Solutions), be appointed liquidator’.

Industry sources have informed PhotoCounter that it has been known for some time that the business was in financial difficulties, but there was no particular business decision or direction which brought the liquidation on. ‘It’s been a slow, terrible death,’ observed one contact. …”

Commentary:

The liquidation of L&P Digital Photographic is a double tragedy, for current professional photography practice and for Australia’s photographic history.

The writing was on the wall when L&P’s landlord sold the building, photographer Max Dupain’s former studio, at 96 Reserve Road, Artarmon, in June 2017.

There appears to be little interest in preserving and learning from the history and achievements of Australian photography and photographers, and it would be a tragedy if the last traces of Max Dupain’s studio and darkroom disappear under the new ownership and tenancy of number 96 Reserve Road.

Too little attention and respect is paid to Australian pioneers and greats in the field of photography.

Harold Cazneaux’s home-based studio and darkroom fell into near-decrepitude under threat of demolition and it is unlikely it will receive heritage status and preserved as a museum, as should have been done long ago.

Great Australian photographers are more likely to be celebrated by the governments of other countries or the mayors of other cities.

The great German-Australian photographer Helmut Newton and his achievements have been memorialized by the Helmut Newton Foundation located in the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) along with those of his Australian wife the photographer June Newton aka Alice Springs.

It took decades for an Australian state gallery of museum to offer a show of any kind to the Newtons and there is no sign of the customary major career retrospectives or major collection of works much less a foundation ever appearing here in their own country.

The story is even sadder in connection with Anton Bruehl who, like the Newtons and countless numbers of other Australian photographers before and since, had little choice but to work overseas in order to build his brilliant career.

One of the greatest Australian photographers who made many contributions to the art and craft of photography, Anton Bruehl is not even memorialized with an entry in Wikipedia.

Australian photographers have long relied on foreign connections for their education, training, commissions, viable careers and supplies, and that does not make them any the less Australian.

I learned photography at long distance from a North American photographer working in the large format sheet film camera tradition and imported books, equipment and supplies direct from his company when I discovered I could not obtain what I needed here.

That early exposure to other ways of doing things, to a non-conformism rare in this country, led to other ways of doing things and to buying supplies from a New York-based photographic store the like of which we have never seen here, B&H Photo Video.

I would love there to be an Australian professional photography and video store where, as with B&H, one can see, try and then buy on the spot.

Alternatively, and even better, where one may borrow an item of equipment for a damned good tryout for several hours in return for one’s credit card details just in case, like the many stores in Tokyo recommended by globetrotting moviemaker and photographer colleagues.

Instead one must rely on reading reviews, watching videos, poring through specifications lists then ordering, unseen and untried, from online retailers.

I would gladly buy from Australian professional and non-professional online and bricks-and-mortar suppliers, if they had what I need in stock, on the shelf or in the backroom.

So many times I have walked into inner city or Artarmon suppliers only for an assistant to recommend that I place my order with B&H instead.

It is rare to see what what one needs on the shelves, much less to buy it. The few times I have been able to see and try led to purchases, often for a higher price than if I had ordered it online, due to the convenience of the item being right there right now.

The last time that magic combination – see, try then buy – occurred was at another now-defunct professional supplier, Foto Riesel, before it was sold then changed form into a bricks-and-mortar branch of the online retailer Digital Camera Warehouse.

Foto Riesel’s demise was the end of inner city-based well-qualified professional advice, a top quality digital printing service, a professional quality analog processing and printing lab, a brilliant secondhand equipment cabinet, and the fellowship of other photographers.

Photography and moviemaking here are subject to the loneliness of the long-distance photographer and it is only becoming lonelier.

Being a professional in either closely-related realm is lonelier again with L&P’s liquidation and I will miss Keith Gibbons’ long, rambling monologues during my rare visits to Artarmon.

I will never be able to make good on my hopes to eventually hire L&P’s small hire studio, Profoto lighting and Fujifilm GFX 50S camera to work on several coming documentary portrait series for this project, Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success.

A quick tour of the L&P studio revealed that Mr Dupain’s darkroom was to be turned into  a change and make-up room and it would have been fun to work in the same rooms as he once did.

My visits to Artarmon, once the natural home of photography and moviemaking, will now be even fewer than they have been in the past.

I cannot remember the last time I purchased anything from the remaining photography and video supplier there, Kayell Australia. Kayell represents a range of excellent brands whose products it can order in on request but so far I have not had need of any of them.

I am now wondering how the imminent arrival of Amazon and its huge warehouses out west will affect the professional photography and moviemaking supply scene in Australia.

Links:

Quick Hands-On with the Amazing Fujifilm GFX 50S Mirrorless Medium Format Camera

Today I made a flying visit to L & P Digital Photographic in Artarmon, a suburb in Sydney’s north shore that is home to several movie and photography industry retail, rental and manufacturing companies, the most notable of the latter being Miller Tripods. My mission was to have a very quick look at the Fujifilm GFX 50S and its first three lenses, the Fujinon GF 63mm f/2.8 R WR, GF 32-64mm f/4.0 R LM WR and the GF 120mm f/4.0 R LM OIS WR Macro

For the next couple of days a Fujifilm GFX 50S, vertical grip, tilt adapter and the three lenses will be available to see and experience a hands-on with and then, some time after that, a GFX 50S kit will be added to L & P’s rental collection.

L & P also operates a compact rental studio at their Artarmon premises that once housed the studio and darkroom of Max Dupain, the late Australian modernist photographer known for his architectural photography collaborations with Austrian-Australian architect Harry Seidler.

Some Rough and Ready BTS Snapshots

L & P is already taking orders from professionals wishing to purchase or lease Fujifilm’s latest photographic innovation in the form of the GFX 50S.

My aim during the visit was to get a quick impression of the GFX 50S as a hand camera and not a stand camera, and not to create great photographs of the types of subject matter I would place in front of a camera like this. With luck that opportunity will come later and I will do a proper job of it.

Sample Snapshots

I simply stepped outside the door during a brief interval between rain showers, made two shots with the GF 32-64mm f/4.0 R LM WR lens set to f/8.0 and the GFX 50S set to ISO 400 and 1/640th of a second, focussing on the foremost figure at left of frame. I made the first exposure at 32mm and the second at 64mm.

I then processed each raw file in version 3.1.4 of Iridient Developer and applied minimal tone, colour and sharpness corrections after choosing Pro Neg S from Iridient Digital’s free Fujifilm-style film emulations set.

After exporting the largest JPEG file, I uploaded it to my Flickr account as I need to conserve media space in my website hosting account right now. Flickr has applied its own sharpness-reducing compression algorithm so please bear that in mind.

These snapshots are mediocre photographs but the GFX 50S is anything but a mediocre camera. Click the images below to see them large in my Flickr account.

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Thoughts and Observations

A quick and dirty first test like this of a newly released camera can only tell one so much. But it satisfied my aims. I wanted to know whether the GFX 50S would meet my needs and be a viable option for renting, leasing or buying sometime in the future, bureaucracies and lawyers permitting. The ‘Untitled’ project self-financing saga is ongoing.

When I got back into photography after an absence enforced by ill health resulting from chronic photochemical allergy and extreme dermatitis, a major concern was whether then current digital technology would offer as much variety in ways of seeing and photographing as the variety that I had come to rely on with analog photography.

My first serious digital camera was a DSLR, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, and it was not an easy fit as I had never been an SLR person. Rather, I had relied on a range of non-SLR rangefinder and technical cameras and these somewhat unconventional, even non-conformist, cameras had helped create my personal photographic vision. Or more properly, visions.

It was only with the arrival of Fujifilm’s Finepix X100 rangefinder-style camera that I began to feel comfortable with digital photography. The Fujifilm X-Pro2 cemented that comfort with a camera that, in many ways, recalls the 120 roll film rangefinder cameras I had so loved.

Likewise Fujifilm’s X-T2 is a reminder of the technical cameras that were so crucial to my development as a photographer just as Panasonic’s Lumix GX8 shares some of the traits of the waist-level Rolleiflex twin lens reflex cameras I adored for their own unconventional way of showing me the world as a square and from down below, via the GX8’s unique tilting EVF.

Now the GFX 50S, with its clear similarity to the X-T2’s shape and usability, offers a combination of features I relied on in my technical cameras and my Rolleiflexes, filtered through Fujifilm’s and Panasonic’s recent digital camera innovations.

The GFX 50S allows you to use it like a small hand or stand-mounted view camera, like an EVF camera, more or less like a DSLR but minus the mirror slap, or like a tilting EVF camera that is in itself the closest simulation we have now of the wonderful TLR cameras once made by Mamiya, Rolleiflex, Yashica and others.

My brief experience with the Fujifilm GFX 50S was enough to tell me this and remove the last concern I had about whether contemporary digital hardware can provide me with enough creative options to build a set of closely related personal photographic styles in the way analog hardware did.

One thing is certain, confirmed by my two snapshots above: the Fujifilm GFX 50S’ resolution and image quality equals that of 4″x5″ sheet film cameras and I suspect that its future GFX 100S descendant will rival the results from 8″x10″ sheet film cameras.

Postscript:

After covering an International Womens’ Day rally in the Sydney CBD, I dropped into digiDIRECT’s city store to take another quick look at the Fujifilm GFX 50S. They had the camera, three lenses, EVF and vertical battery grip and kindly allowed me do some snapshots of one of the staff members, Benny, below.

DSCF6092_iridient_exposure

This photograph was made with the GF 120mm f/4 R LM OIS WR Macro lens and with the Vertical Battery Grip on the camera. I processed the raw file in Iridient Developer then exported it as a TIFF that I opened in Alien Skin Exposure X2 where I applied a Polaroid Type 55 preset and platinum split toning.

I chose f/5.6, AutoISO and aperture-priority, and the GFX 50S set 1/60th second. Although this is not a portrait as such, the experience of making it reminded me of how I loved to make frontal, full-face close-up portraits of artists, chefs, celebrities and businesspeople for the glossy magazines in Polaroid Type 55 positive/negative instant film, split-toning prints made on silver-rich baryta papers.

On considering the Fujinon GF lenses currently available and coming later in the year, I would choose the GF 120mm f/4 R LM OIS WR Macro and the GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR prime lenses as a very workable pair for full-face and environmental portraiture. The 120mm is roughly equivalent to 90mm in 135 aka 35mm format and the 45mm lens is close to 35mm in 135 aka 35mm format.

Although I often lit those editorial portraits with Broncolor flash units with spot grids and barndoors, nowadays I’d be more likely to use continuous light such as my Rotolight Neo three light kit with barndoors to narrow the beam down.

Other LED lights I want to investigate sometime are the Dedolights with variable beams that spread from spot to flood and take a range of light-shaping accessories.

While electronic flash has its advantages in freezing movement, it can be distracting when trying to really narrow down the beam and place the light with a high degree of precision but little time with a portrait subject.

Using continuous light allows you see exactly what the camera is going to see and permits building a closer relationship with your sitter, faster. The GF 120mm f/4 lens’ optical image stabilization means one can handhold the lens in continuous light and obtain enough sharpness, or one can of course place the GFX 50S on a tripod and use it somewhat like a small view camera.

Image Credits:

Header image concept and hack by Carmel D. Morris.