NOT SUCH A BLACK AND WHITE STORY

reason we ran into trouble was because our business was changing, the volumes of film and paper were reducing, and the company was engaged in a very aggressive strategy to grow a new inkjet business to replace the traditional black and white,”says Harman Technology Marketing Director Steven Brierley. was an awful time; I came into work on the Monday and the administrators had moved in. But it wasnnecessarily bankrupt... so, by midday, six of us went to see the receiver and said that we wanted to buy it from them —we wanted to save it. We felt the core black and white business had a future,”he continued, and the rest, as they say, is history. It was saved! It was this faith in the product, innovative developments and loyal fanbase who share the same interest for traditional photography that powered through Harman Technologydarkest days. you re in a real niche, which black and white is, you either totally embrace it or you might as well give up. People look to us to give them the confidence that they should carry on with their darkroom work and beLieve that we re here for the future.” NEW GENERATION So who is the Ilford consumer? Ten or twenty years ago its main sales wouLd have generated from professional photographers, the press and the hobbyists, but as digital technologies have repLaced film it s interesting to find that 80 per cent of sales is coming from schools and colleges. absolutely adore darkrooms, because a Lot of young people don t know about them and they find it exciting. Itphoto education that is the big market for us, that s whatsustaining our business. The students learn about black and white photography on Ilford materials and stay loyal to the brand." Distributing products to 37 countries, another big chunk of the market comes from oversees with America making up at least 43 per cent of their exports I shipping out on average 24 containers of stock each week. The latest trend of Holga and Lomography amongst young people around the world has spurred the revival of film photography, which has been a surprising helping hand to revenue. you asked me five years ago if our 120 roll film would go up in sales because of some retro-styled toy camera, I would have said absolutely not. And yet here we are with this growth we never expected. The Holga/Lomo followers are seeing digital as everyday and see artisan photography as something appealing," Steven says. This word artisan keeps popping up during my visit and is forming the basis to Harman Technology s sustainable business plan for the future, investing in educating others about this genre. have already taught over 1000 lecturers about darkroom procedures in our workshops, and have continued interest in future ones,”says Customer Operations Manager Diane Berry about the masterclasses they fund. "The students are the ones that will ultimately benefit from it and we see it as an investment for the colleges,”she continued. Harman Technology are even trialling traditional imagery to junior school children in September to encourage an interest in black and white photography from a young age. PROFESSIONAL QUALITY Setting off on my journey up to Cheshire I typed the Ilford Way address into my sat nav —yes they have their own road —and was stunned by how big the manufacturing plant was. Within the village-sized factory each department, from the mixing of the chemicals to the exporting depo, has a vital role to play between the 220 strong team. Fashioning a white lab coat whilst having a tour of the factory by the Head of Sensitising, PhD educated Kevin Hodgson, the emulsion rooms could have been mistaken for a dairy production line. But it was the stale vinaigrette smell that took me back to my college days, and confirmed this was the workings of darkroom wizardry. By downsizing their production team from 1500, computer technology ensures that the right quantities of chemicals are mixed to produce the developing solutions, eliminating costly errors. From the constant clatter of canisters passing through machinery, to the rolling of film, the hole punching and the packaging process, each step is essential to making sure the film you clasp in your hands before feeding it into your camera is perfect. One tiny dent and itno good. LEAVE IT TO THE PROS Harman Technology products have been used by the greats: Norman Parkinson, Lord Snowdon and Don McCullin, to name a few, processing timeless images that have sold for thousands. But when you have photography royalty David Bailey calling upon your services to make an original style of paper, that s the legacy of a well-sought after brand. commissioned a fibre-based digital black and white paper that a lightjet could print onto. The quality of what an inkjet printer and a silver gelatine commands is three times the difference. So you could have all the winning combinations of silver gelatine fibre-based print from a collectors point of view and marry it to an image that could have come from a negative or digital file. It wasn t a difficult ask and it shot off to be a big success around the world," Steven proudly says. So instead of sending off your negatives to your local chemist or printer, Harman Technology provide a service, and the products themselves, to create the highest quality of print which cannot be emulated on the high street. To professional photographers this is a very attractive option. "Collectors don t want inkjet prints,”he says, know that Ilford prints can stand the test of time because the business started in 1879 and we can prove it. There s a guarantee that it s going to be there in years to come, that s why collectors spend thousands of pounds on an image.” MOVING FORWARD With such a classic product, Harman technology are always on the lookout for new potentials in the photographic market, taking an age-old idea and bringing it to the mass market. The Harman Titan Pinhole Camera is the latest example of this, and surprisingly was one prototype that Steven didn t think would take off. With the initial sums and figures produced, it was estimated that the pinhole camera would sell 300 units in a year, but this was achieved in just over a month and Harman celebrated its 1000th sale at the Focus on Imaging show this year. But it s not just photography products that they are investing their knowledge and budget into. "We have developed a range of products that have been used in anti-microbial treatments, and silver is a great source of that. This is likely to give us an ever increasing income developed from the science in emulsion and is currently being trialled under the help of government funding." There is no doubt that Harman Technology is going to thrive on the traditional market with those who share a love for black and white photography, but it is matters out of their control that provide the challenges. "If the dollar falls against the pound thatsomething that will affect us but we can t control. Just like the increased price in silver last year, that was painful but fortunately people like our products enough to be willing to pay the higher price. But we could have a real challenge with the economy tomorrow." Harman Technology are a company that want to repay the loyalty to their consumers and make sure that their products are available. Now that might sound like more of a statement of survival, but in an economic climate that is burning out the traditional photographic market, it s a necessity. As businesses are slowing down their production line, Harman Technology are broadening their range. re intensely proud of the fact that we make products in this country. We re financially sound and going forward making new products, but our passion for traditional materials is what drives us.” You re unlikely to remember the first digital photograph you shot, but you ll always remember the first black and white print you produced. It holds that sentimental value of thrusting a lopsided clay pot into your parent s hands that still remains on the shelf today, and it s that art and Harman Technology magic that will keep it alive for years to come.

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