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A Visit to Ilford



A Visit to Ilford

Some time ago these pages were highly critical of the sales and distribution facilities of Ilford. I was asked to meet with company executives so they could preset their side. This they did and agreed that many things fell afr short of what they should be. This was a far more adult attitude than that adopted by another manufacturer who came under criticism at the same time.

IlfordAt this time John Fraser was the new boy marketing manager acquired from the giant Monsanto group. John discussed plans for extended market research andimproved distribution plus other administrative reforms. Ideally a new broom sweeps clean but it should move at a moderate speed to ensure a thorough job. Some two years elapsed before the results of these nehind the scenes activities became apparent to we the customer.
Staff moves both in and out seem to be the in thing for a period. At one stage heads fell at a rate that would have done a Russion purge proud. To an outsider many of thes emovesseemed unjust and a deal of ill feeling was generated against Ilford Australia. As in many moves of this type one should not take things at face value.

Around this time product range and marketing policies were rationalised. The number of products was very much reduced. Ilford decided, rather logically, that it would make for efficiency to specialise in those lines that they had intimate knowledge of and were best equipped to handle. In practice this limits the range pretty much to black and white materials and associated processing chemicals.

To market these it was decided to concentrate all efforts on professional, industrial and x-ray users. Advertising and promotional efforts ignored the shrinking amateur market completely. In this area the enthusiast will pursue the product he prefers. How effective the new policy has been nationally I can only guess. In Victoria the results are only just now becoming apparent by way of improved service and product availability.

Ilford Australia are getting close to their twentieth year of operation. Before the establishment of the Australian company, Ilford products were imported by the Melbourne firm of Herbert Small. Sales were reluctantly made from a corner of their toy department.

This operation was inefficient in the extreme and it amazes me that the Ilford name did not die an inglorious death, could it be that the product is good? The good thing to come out of this period was the production of the Hesma brand of chemicals, some of these show present day formulas a thing or two.

Eventually distribution moved to a shop and warehouse in Hesma house in the outer central city area. Ilford Australia was born and in time operations moved a quarter of a mile to larger premises. After some years of fair success headquarters were established in a new administration and factory complex in NOtting Hill. This allowed the importation of bulf paper lots which are cut, packed and stored locally. Liquid and powder chemicals are also mixed and packaged here. Victorian distribution and administration are carried out from space on the fringe of the city.

I think the time is appropriate to point out that although the Victorian Manager has the name Max Williams we are not the same person. This has caused some confusion but so far nothing of a serious or domestic nature. Since his arrival from Ilford Adelaide, Max has worked wonders. His stirring may not be fast but the resulting mixture is smooth. Now having done his inside job well, I think he should get out and meet more of his customers.

The course of the history of IIford Australia in no small way has been plotted by one person. Keith Davis may not be a photographic household word in all states, but I suggest that if you have had technical problems he has had a hand in solving them. Keith has been teacher, nappy changer, critic and verbal castigator of a couple of generations of Victorian photographers. He cannot wave a formal piece of academic paper but as a trouble shooter he is without peer. A practical working knowledge of photographic business and the devious and sometimes stupid minds of photographers is something that cannot be taught in school. After twenty one years service Keith retires at the end of 1971. It is rare to find a person who believes in the company he works for and the products they produce. At the same time he may agree with critics of the company and has been known to add a few comments of his own. It may be thought we are discussing a doddering old man. This is not so, grey hairs he may have, but retirement is a preventative health measure.

In many areas Keith Davis will be nearly impossible to replace, however before this takes on the character of an obituary, lets look at the future. The position of technical services manager will be taken over by Tony Green who has spent eight years with Ilford. In this time he spent two years in the U.K. during which he worked at the parent company. His scientific background enabled him to work in many departments including research and development, emulsion making, etc.


Of recent times Tony has been in charge of quality control and chemical manufacture. In spite of what some may think all Ilford products are subject to frequent checks to make certain that no lemons reach the market. A technical service manager will inevitably spend much time flying a desk. However, the Ilford laboratory while small is well equipped and staffed, so most curly ones can be solved. If you have a gripe send it to your branch manager, don’t go around with a chip on your shoulder. Abusing the product and the company will solve nothing, the chances are it is you anyway. Tony Green will be of great value to the profession, he is there to be used so go to it.

By the way Ilford Australia does have a managing director and a company secretary. Jim Kemp is M.D., he spent nine years with Ilford U.K. and was production manager when posted to Australia five years ago. He is the most Australian “Porn” I have met.

Bill Trickett is boss of finances and many of us owe him a vote of thanks, over sixteen years, for tolerance during rough patches.

Ilford is unique in catering almost entirely for the professional. Even their annual competition is for the professionals benefit. Regardless what you may think of this years’ result, the contest is a very worthwhile contribution to our profession. Whenever the I.A.P. needs financial help for some project Ilford are expected to contribute to the same extent as the big yellow one. Although they are only a fraction of the size in this country, they have always done this, professional photography is of great concern to this company.

Early in the new year you will have a choice of warm toned papers. Ilford are releasing a new chloro-bromide that will have the same unified speed and range of grades of Ilfobrom.

A test report will be published as soon as samples become available.

P.S. What two Melbourne dealers completely ignored a mailed request from a country photographer. His need was for studio electronic flash gear, they must be very affluent at the moment. A complaint to the Victorian council was answered with other sources. Another Melbourne dealer refused the certain sale of a zoom lens, it went to a Sydney dealer who offered service. Wake up Melbourne, Sydney is moving on!

i a p Professional Photography in Australia – Nov/Dec 1971