PHOTOTEC

In the late 1950s and early 1960s I looked forward to my Wednesday copy of Amateur Photographer magazine (priced 1s 3d = 6p in 1959, rising to 1s 6d = 7.5p between mid '61-'62). Some of my favourite pages were located at the back, where there were advertisements for low cost film, paper and equipment. In the late 1950s much of this seemed to be ex-government surplus stock, but as the years passed the adverts included commercial brands of material and equipment that had been acquired as 'end of line' or surplus / redundant / bankrupt stock from otherwise leading suppliers.

 

Marston & Heard advert from Amateur Photographer magazine dated 28th February 1968. Click to enlarge

Two of the companies involved in this 'cut price' trade already receive mention elsewhere on my site. Marston & Heard (Lea Bridge Rd, London, E.10) purchased surplus KI Monobar cameras post-1965 after it ceased being manufactured. They also advertised having purchased the whole remaining stock of Ilford glossy bromide after Ilford started their new Ilfobrom range in 1967 (see my Ilford Chronology entries for the years 1958 & 1967 for mention of Marston & Heard). Harringay Photographic Supplies Ltd (Green Lanes, London, N4) were the source of a low cost enlarging lens for my Agiscope enlarger around 1962 and advertised discounted Series 1 Ilford Advocate cameras in December 1954.

Other London based companies selling similar cut-price materials and equipment were Frank Martins (Kingsland Rd, London, E8), Brunnings (High Holburn, London, WC1), A.W.Young (mail order at 159 Chatsworth Road, London, E5 and a small retail shop at 81a Lower Clapton Road London E5; also in Tottenham N15 between Seven Sisters Road and Green Lane, behind Severn Sisters tube exit on the main A10), Stratford Photographic Store (Stratford, London E15), Direct Photographic Supply (Edgeware Rd, London, W2) and Malham Photographic Equipment (Malham Rd, London SE23). Over the years, some of these names disappeared and others emerged e.g Brixton Camera Centre (Atlantic Rd, Brixton, London, SW9) and RK Photographic (Finchley, London N3).

Laurence Winston worked for Harringay Photographic from 1961 to 1970 when he then joined A.W.Young in Chatsworth Road, London E5. He was their buyer, in charge of stock control and warehouses. He tells me that "A.W.Young bought out Marston & Heard in 1972". A.W.Young (with Marston & Heard) acquired several other shops but economised on advertising by keeping the original shop names. Later, from spring 1976, all these shops became part of Phototec.

Martin Reed, now of Drakside Photography, worked at Harringay Photographic for about a year in 1975. He says "... at the time it was really the last gasp of the large multi-department old fashioned photo dealer as had been operating back into Victorian times. They did all sorts of stuff, a lot of it connected with ex-government dealings, which had been massive after the war, but was reducing to more of a trickle by then. They employed two engineers for servicing all sorts of stuff; cine projectors were still very big in the market then. They had a small aluminium casting foundry on the premises, darkrooms for repacking bulk film down from 2,000 foot rolls and a power guillotine for paper cutting & repacking. They had even made a machine for punching extra sprockets into 16mm film to make it into standard 8mm. The shop at 435 Green Lanes was rumoured to be 10,000 square feet and sprawled all over the adjoining premises at the rear. Apart from this they had leased a disused cinema as an additional warehouse on Hornsey Lane a mile or so away. This had seen massive turnover in it's day, but they were decommissioning it by 1975".

"The original business closed about 1978, I think. Harry Madden wanted to retire on health grounds so, in order to & pay him off, the partnership with Frank Knichel had to be broken up. So son Roy Knichel and his father set up a new partnership, RK Photographic. Subsequently, Harringay Photographic & the Green Lanes premises were acquired by Jim Costelloe (see below), who was already successful with his Phototec venture. But the premises were too large to work economically in the reducing photo' marketplace. They tried selling Citizen Band (CB) radio as one diversification, but the premises were closed down by maybe the early 1980's".

In December 2006 I received an e-mail from a correspondent who wishes to remain anonymous, giving me some background to the above companies which I'd like to record here. More recently (July 2009) I've heard from Mr.Peter Löffler, who originated the company PHOTOTEC in Northern Germany and became involved with the owners of Marston & Heard and A.W.Young in 1975-76.

I've tried to put these two items of correspondence together in the following narrative.

By the mid-1970s, Marston & Heard and A.W.Young (M&H and AWY) were owned by the partnership of James John (Jim) Costelloe and Werner Schmidt. Ted (Edward) Marston (the original owner of Marston & Heard) was still around but was no longer involved, though he kept looking in on his old company. Bill Rose has commented "Werner Schmidt was previously the manager of Dixons Professional at 27 Oxford Street during the 1960s to early 1970s and later set up Old Timer Cameras in Borehamwood (where he lived). I believe he retired a couple of years ago" (around 2005 ?).

In the mid-1970s M&H and AWY purchased Ilford's remnant stock of Double and Single Weight papers (as Marston & Heard had similarly done in 1967 - see above). A Marston & Heard advertisement in AP for 24th Sept 1975 declares "Special Ilford Paper Purchase - fresh wholesalers stock of Ilfomar Bromide, D/W" (double weight). Ilfomar was a warm tone fiberbase paper.

In the same advert is another section saying "Special Ilford S/W Glossy Normal" (single weight). These printing papers possibly became surplus as a consequence of Ilford introducing their Ilfospeed RC Papers in 1974. It is believed that M&H + AWY paid £100,000 for this stock "a considerable amount of money at the time". There were similar end-of-line paper purchases from Agfa, including the entire remaining stock of Agfa's Brovira and Record Rapid.

       

Peter Löffler tells me that in July 1975 he founded a mail order company for darkroom materials and accessories in northern Germany at Sandkrug near Oldenburg, called PHOTOTEC. While looking for business partners and mail order supplies he met Jim Costelloe and Werner Schmidt, the owners of Marston & Heard and A.W.Young.  "Mr.Costelloe and Mr.Schmidt needed a partner on the continent and offered some financial investment". In April 1976 they became partners with Mr.Löffler in the form of minority shareholders in his Phototec company and this led to Peter Löffler making the brand name PHOTOTEC available for use in the UK. The formal partnership ended about 1985 when Peter Löffler purchased back the shares he had sold.

The partnership with Mr.Löffler subsequently led to the formation of the UK organisation known as Phototec Centres, a trading name which started appearing in UK photographic magazine advertisements from around mid-1980. Prior to that time, the several companies owned by Jim Costello and Werner Schmidt continued to advertise using their individual company names.

In the late 1970s further companies joined M&H + AWY under the Phototec 'umberella'.

The Phototec Centres originally (Amateur Photographer, 11th October 1980) named its several branches as Marston & Heard Photographics Ltd (376-378 Lea Bridge Road, London E.10), A.W.Young Photographic (51 Atlantic Road, London S.W.9), Harringay Photographic Ltd (435 Green Lanes, London N.4) and B.S. Filmservices Ltd (82A Clifden Road, London, E.5). Later, A.W.Young was referred to as the Brixton SW9 branch and Martson & Heard was referred to as the Leyton E10 branch.

By 1982, Phototec (still called Phototec Centres but now emphasising the name Phototec) also had associates in Birmingham (R.Parkes Photographic Ltd; 10 Ethel St, B2 4BG) and Peterborough (Peterborough Photographics Ltd, 126 Bridge St, PE1 1DY). These associate dealers were not wholly owned parts of Phototec but were associated in order to form a larger buying group, as was the fashion at that time, in order to obtain goods at lower prices from wholesalers and so be able to undercut retail competitors by offering larger discounts on new equipment.

A Phototec advert in AP for 21st August 1982 has a 'tag' alongside the address of Harringay Photographic Ltd (now referred to as the Harringay N4 branch), proclaining "AP Dealer of the Year Award Winners".

As an aside, my 2006 anonymous correspondent supplied interesting insight regarding a brand name which appeared in M&H advertisements during the mid-1970s and later within Phototec advertisements. This name was 'Barfen', a brand which evolved from the names of two gentlemen, Tony Barden and Derek Fenton. who joined the group following a chance meeting with my source at Lambeth Photographic Club. They met with Jim Costelloe and Werner Schmidt and presented their chemistry product lines. As a result, they formed a partnership with Jim and Werner and went on to commercially develop their product range under the trade name BARFEN. It became associated with various darkroom items but especially colour film (Barfen negative CN 100 and an E6 type transparency film Barfen CR100), E6 processing kits and slide mounts.

The Phototec name survived in use within the UK until (at least) the end of 1991 as a "Darkroom Materials Suppliers" with the address of The Old Malthouse, Priory Avenue, Taunton, TA1 1QB, selling mainly their own Barfen brand films and chemicals together with some other manufacturer's products.


Rodney Bates, who has been friends with Peter Löffler for many years, tells me that neither Phototec (in the UK) nor Marston & Heard now exist (July 2009) but their spirit lives on in the company Firstcall, which celebrates its 20th Anniversary in 2010. They are based at Cherry Grove Rise, West Monkton, Taunton, Somerset, TA2 8LW.


The original mail order house PHOTOTEC in N.Germany is still trading (July 2009). Peter Löffler was the managing Director from 1975 until 2007. Peter concludes his e-mail by telling me:
"Mr.Schmidt and Mr.Costelloe are still alive. I personally have lost contact to Mr.Costelloe. There is some correspondence with Mr.Schmidt".

Since 2008 PHOTOTEC in Germany has been a part of Nordfoto of Norderstedt (north of Hamburg), a photographic wholesale house.
     
Harringay Photographic and Harrison Marks studio ?

My anonymous information source told me that a little known fact about Harringay Photographic Supplies was that in their labyrinthine maze of a property (sadly now sold and used as a betting shop!) was a top floor flatlet. It was the base and studio for shooting the early Harrison Marks soft core (by today's standards) glamour films! George Harrison-Marks was born 'George Harris Marks' on August 6th, 1926 and died: 6pm. June 27th, 1997.
See this web site for further details.

The above snippet about Harrison Marks' studio being sublet from Harringay Photographic has since (July 2009) been confirmed by Werner Schmidt (thanks Werner !).

But another source disagrees. From Martin Reed, I've heard comment on this story from Roy Knichel, the son of Frank Knichel, who set up Harringay Photographic post-WW2. Roy worked at Harringay Photographic in the 1970’s. Roy categorically says that Harrison Marks did not film there, though there was a studio of sorts & the place had a reputation for risqué films, so that’s probably where the rumour arose.

An advert in PhotoGuide magazine (p262), for March 1961, suggests "A MUST DURING YOUR VISIT TO LONDON - an EXHIBITION featuring the unpublished works of HARRISON MARKS, Britain's leading photographer of the nude figure. 1st & 2nd Floors, Harrison Marks Studios, 4 Gerrard Street, London, W.1. This address is a long way from Harringay Photographic Supplies at Green Lanes, London, N4. I suspect perhaps the location of the studio for shooting the glamour films may have been kept private and separate from Harrison Mark's business premises, in case of attention from the police. Hence, the studio at Gerrard Street may have been just the advertised business address.

 


This page last modified: 2nd August 2016