by Panikos Hajistilly Published 01/12/2016
It was July 1975; I was fresh out of school and I ran into the dress factory my mum worked in, I was very excited to tell her that I managed to get my first job! I was due to start at the beginning of September, working for Marble Arch Camera Exchange selling all things photographic, including projectors, cine cameras, compacts, film, lots of film, slide viewers, binoculars, printing papers, an almost endless list.
It was my first step in my photography career, albeit a short lived role as a shop worker. I really wanted to be a photographer, and even though I was an avid reader of the Amateur Photographer magazine, I knew I wasn’t quite good enough. I was happy to be handling the equipment I loved so much and playing with and learning how all that stuff worked. Within a few weeks there was an opening at Technical & Optical Equipment in Thane Villas, Finsbury Park, London. They were the importers of Russian cameras such as Zenit, Zorki, Fed and Lubitels that were so popular in the 1970s. I jumped at the chance and pretty soon, after being taught by one of the Russian trainers, I was a camera technician! The build quality of those cameras was, well, let's call it industrial!
Very simple engineering, but did its job reasonably well, though not particularly reliably, nor with much finesse.
Within a couple of years I went to work for JJ Silber who imported Canon cameras and lenses, Metz flashguns and a host of other photographic and audio products. I was with them when Canon UK was set up and went across to the new Canon offices in Neasden. While there I specialised in the professional cameras including the A1, F1, T90 and all the motor drives and lenses associated with them. I travelled to various sporting events such as the Formula 1 Grand Prix and went to Canon’s European Headquarters to train on new cameras as well as the first autofocus SLR lens in the early 1980s. That seems like another era now.
I still wanted to be a photographer, but my family was growing and I had a mortgage to pay, and I was on a reasonable salary, so a big career change would be very hard.
In 1985 I went to Olympus Optical in Central London servicing the famous OM1, 2, 3 and 4Ti and then in 1987 I joined Nikon where I spent 15 very enjoyable years working on all professional and underwater gear. I was workshop supervisor for a good few years and had the chance to meet up with many top photographers and go to some great events, such as the Open Golf, Wimbledon, the World Cup, the Winter Olympics, to name but a few. During that time I was a weekend warrior for a while doing weddings whenever I could with the Hasselblad gear I had bought myself over the years. It was during this time that I qualified as a Licentiate with the MPA .
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