The Lomographers wandered around the International Tourismus Börse ITB (International Tourism Fair) going from one stand to the next. The impending end of production of their beloved camera had left them extremely disheartened but suddenly in the distance they caught a glimpse of an old acquaintance.
By the start of 1997 Klebanov had already left his post as Director General and soon it became evident that his successor was much more figures oriented and considered the “indiscernible” benefits of marketing a nonsense. As a result, the recently renewed two year contract with the Lomographers was questioned. In March 1997 came the news that production of the LOMO LC-A could not be sustained at its recently agreed price and so production was stopped. Perplexity and mourning followed in Vienna. Had all the trouble been for nothing?
Berlin, a few weeks later. The Lomographers wandered around the International Tourismus Börse ITB (International Tourism Fair) going from one stand to the next. The impending end of production of their beloved camera had left them extremely disheartened but suddenly in the distance they caught a glimpse of an old acquaintance. It was Stephanie “Steffi” Susan Weber, a German director now based in Russia who had opened a travel agency in St Petersburg; she was also a staunch supporter of Lomography. Approximately a year beforehand she had organized the first Lomographic trip to St Petersburg and had directed the spaced out troop of 130 Lomographers through the white nights of the city.
These trips, so-called “LomoTravels”, are organised business trips for Lomographers to lomographic places across the globe and even to places as far afield as Vietnam and Cuba. After briefly exchanging pleasantries in Berlin, the discouraged Lomographers related the sorry story to Steffi; “The Russians want to discontinue production of the LOMO LC-A again but we simply don’t understand why. There are more and more supporters of Lomography and we don’t have any more cameras left! We don’t know what we should do.” She immediately interrupted the sad tale with an offer; “I could try to talk to the people at the LOMO PLC. I speak Russian and German and could perhaps communicate with them better and could act as a mediator for you.”
No sooner said than done. In June 1997 Steffi sat together with Lazar Zalmanov and the senior economist of LOMO PLC and again they calculated the production costs. The idea was to relocate the entire production to China in order to make production cheaper. The Swedish LomoAmbassador also arrived, who as fate had it, was an expert on restructuring businesses from the former Soviet Union. The team got straight to the point that despite increasing costs the LOMO LC-A could still only be manufactured in Russia for such a price and moreover, the price proposed by LOMO PLC was perfectly reasonable.The language and communication skills, but above all the diplomatic skills demonstrated by Steffi achieved a further possible compromise. Bearing in mind that none of the Russian party spoke English and none of the Lomographers could speak Russian, all previous negotiations involving the Lomographers had taken place with an interpreter which had proved a laborious process. Steffi came just at the right time, demonstrating that not only could she speak Russian but that she also understood the complex Russian soul, which was often a total mystery to the impulsive Tyrolean’s.
In the summer of 1997 a five year contract was concluded and a price was agreed upon which the Viennese were barely able to pay. Production, which now only took place in the “Filiale” of LOMO PLC, was saved once more. But not everything was business as usual. Influenced by the continually fluctuating energy and iron prices in Russia and due to the erratic Ruble, over the next few years tough price negotiations were held with the Russians.
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