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A Visit to Photimport



A Visit to Photimport

Wholesalers and professional dealers have often been criticized via my pen. What makes the wholesaler tick? Are they human? Have they alweays had it easy?
In this, the first of what will become a regular feature every so often in these pages, I hope to find the answers. Most Australian importers can tell a success story from very small beginnings.Does this mean I have gone soft?  Has somebody “got at” me? Not b—– likely, the paddle is still intact and capable of rotary motion. Shortcomings in equipment or services will still be reported.

Photimport lead off. Why? Such names as Bolex, Hasselblad, Minolta, Omega and Pathe could have something to do with it. If you arrived in Australia from Europe with a Doctorate of Pharmacy under your belt, you would imagine a rosy future lay ahead.


George Eurenyi

However, our local laws do not allow such a highly qualified person to practise. George Eurenyi, founder of Photimport discovered this on migrating from Hungary in 1949. He obtained work as an unqualified assistant with Michael’s pharmacy in Melbourne. Shortly, he moved to a large Collins Street pharmacy where he became popular with continental clients. His attempts to establish a section to cater for the needs of these people was greeted with typical Australian suspicion.
Eventually he was asked to leave, lest his friends from Europe took over the place. While carrying out these rather menial tasks, George was studying to qualify to “Victorian” standards.In late 1950, George Eurenyi found himself without a job, but a chance meeting with a friend from the same area of Hungary was to be the start of something big. The offer of agencies for some obscure and long forgotten Italian photographic lines was jumped at. This was helped along by a deep interest in photography since the age of nine.

The Paximat projector line sold along with the Paxette; they were the first automatics.  National advertising of these two products became second only to that carried out by BIG K. To Photimport must go much credit for convincing the general public that not all good things photographic come in yellow boxes with red printing. The firm’s policy has always been to look after small accounts; opportunities to align with large outlets have repeatedly been turned down. With business expanding rapidly the company moved to a shop in Smith Street, Collingwood in 1954. Operations were carried out from here for four years. 1958 saw a move to larger premises in the central city area. In 1960 the Petri agency gave the firm another sudden boost. Large scale advertising and a good quality product soon made this series of cameras the best sellers in Australia.

The Petri was the first low priced range finder camera with parallax correcting viewfinder. Some are still in use by professional candid operators. The American Omega agency was also acquired during this period. This made available to local professionals, a brand they had read about with some envy for many years.1963 proved to be a very big year. A move out of the city to the present location in Brunswick and the winning of the prestige range of equipment from Minolta.

Now, with Omega, Minolta and a little later, Koni-Omega, Photimport began to make their first impression on the professional market. Instruction and discussion nights were run for amateur buyers of Minolta equipment. This is of little moment to professionals, but an excellent P.R. move by aprogressive company.

Mid 1969, and along came Hasselblad and Bolex, a formidable pair if ever there was one. Both products had required big time promotion and service for many years.

The service department of Photimport is well staffed and equipped with many modern electronic aids. The staff constitutes a minor leage of nations. Many members are factory trained in either Japan or Europe; the service boss is from Japan. He now lives permanently here with his family. He must be capable of trouble shooting any make of camera, not just Minolta. Regular tours are made by factory technicians to keep the locals up to the minute with design changes. Hundreds of thousands of spare parts are marked, tabulated and stored. They even go back to the early Paxettes. Service centres are available, or will be set up in each state. Last September, a second head office was established in Sydney.

Until this time, Photimport was one of the few Melbourne based photographic organizations. John Vanthoff heads up marketing operations for Northern areas from Sydney, while Ron Cross covers the South from Melbourne. Within the firm a serious attempt is being made to establish a professional division, alongside the amateur lines. A greater interest will also be taken in audio visual equipment. Is Photimport the perfect wholesaler? RonCross
Ron Cross

Of course not: no firm is or ever will be, but they have a professional attitude toward service and servicing. For example, two Hasseiblads are available to fill in for professionals while their own equipment is being serviced.

With the brand names in their stable, I see Photimport as having the greatest sales potential in the professional market, of any importer. To round off their range, they need a reliable studio and/or portable electronic flash unit and perhaps more processing equipment. They have floating around the country, a Japanese 120 S.L.R. that some American critics regard as the best thing since Hasselblad. It would fill a great gap in the middle price range. I would hope that they would take their courage in both hands and import more than just the one sample outfit. Perhaps I may get to test it someday.

There can be nothing but a bright future for Dr. George, his director wife and the staff of astute analysts.

i a p Professional Photography in Australia – March/April 1970