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LC-A Big Book Chapter 62: Interview with LOMO PLC General Director Aleksandr Mikhailovich Aronov

Aleksandr Mikhailovich Aronov has been with LOMO PLC for more than 30 years. He has worked for the company as a manager and an expert in financial affairs before being elected as Chairman of the board of Directors. He is now the Director General of LOMO PLC, has written two doctoral thesis and when he finds the time, he likes collecting books.

An interview with the general director of LOMO PLC, about the company, its history, Lomography, and the LOMO LC+A.

Aleksandr Mikhailovich Aronov has been with LOMO PLC for more than 30 years. He has worked for the company as a manager and an expert in financial affairs before being elected as Chairman of the board of Directors. He is now the Director General of LOMO PLC, has written two doctoral thesis and when he finds the time, he likes collecting books.

Please describe the company LOMO PLC in a few words It is everything that contradicts Lomography.
Nowadays, we are completely out of the photographic market and only small sectors of Lomographic production rest at LOMO PLC. We’re not in touch with traditional consumers and have returned to our original fields: the hi-tech and military industries.

But didn’t LOMO PLC actually start with the production of photographic cameras, in the beginning?
No, this is not true. Before the First World War we produced optical equipment for the military. It was necessary for Russia to have its own optical production line before the war with Germany, Austria and Hungary, as previously all our optical goods were bought from Germany. LOMO PLC was founded purely for military production; and now, nearly 100 years since the company began, it has returned to this field. The competitors the field of hi-tech optics are brands such as Jena, Zeiss and Rodenstock. LOMO PLC began originally as a rival to the Germans and is now competing again.

Did LOMO PLC start producing photographic cameras to compete with the Germans also?
Yes, exactly. That was in 1932. Today the photographic industry is more electronic than optical; that was another reason to stop production in this field.

Do you believe in the future of analogue cameras and film?
I am pretty sure that LOMO PLC will never get back to the production of photographic cameras, and definitely not analogue ones. Of course it is a pity that all this has come to an end. That’s why I will always do my best to support the Lomographic Society, so that they can continue with their business. The LOMO LC-A+ project came to life like this [Aronov was willing to transfer the construction plans to China]. Likewise, LOMO PLC proposes that the Lomo Kompakt will one day be completely produced in China, and maybe also the Lubitel or the Smena will see the light of the day again. Technically, LOMO PLC is out of photographic production, but we have not quit our membership of the Lomographic Society! We would like to continue working in partnership with them.

Concerning the LOMO LC-A+, have you got your hands on one yet?
I am myself not an expert in cameras. I received a LOMO LCA+ and gave it to our night vision-expert, Aleksandr Khitrik, and he liked it a lot. Honestly, he liked it a lot! Today, LOMO PLC tries to concentrate on fields in which the Chinese are not yet that strong, like physics for example. Russia has declared that they want to rejoin the league of super powers, and what signifies a super power? The army, the navy and the aircraft fleet. LOMO PLC can be very proud of their products for use in these disciplines. But the Chinese produce the photographic cameras.

So what does LOMO PLC do exactly in military production?
Optical equipment of course. Optic-electronic systems, the eye and the brain of weapons. Some products are also exported, but we also produce goods that are not sold to other countries. The sales and orders of LOMO PLC are divided into three parts: approximately one third of our production goes to orders within the state, one third is exported and another third consists of consumer products to be sold within Russia and around the world.

What are the most important events, facts and successes of the history of LOMO PLC?
Such a list would be very subjective. Most of my predecessors would have said that it is the telescope in the Caucasus, but I don’t think so. It was of course a remarkable project, but not the most important one. I rate the telescope for cosmic observations and recordings, which is already used in the cosmos, as more important, or the first industrial laser of Russia that we produced. The question “who is the greatest actor?” would be just as difficult to answer – for each generation it is a different actor. The biggest accomplishment in our history is probably that LOMO PLC has survived the change from capitalism to socialism and then back to capitalism again. I’d say that is the biggest accomplishment of the last 15 years.

How has co-operation with the Lomographic Society work since you’ve been the Director General of LOMO PLC?
Of course I knew of Lomography before I met the Lomographers personally. I got to know the LomoAmbassador Steffi in St Petersburg, at a time when these horrible articles about LOMO PLC were in the newspapers. I read that ‘grandmothers’ were producing the LOMO LC-A+ in dilapidated halls in St Petersburg and I was really angry; I don’t think that I look like a grandmother! Then I was invited by the Lomo World Presidents and Steffi to have breakfast at Café Europa, and relations improved. All the negative thoughts I had about Lomography before were washed away. From that moment on, I have always supported Lomography in every way.

March 2007

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written by ungrumpy

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Français, Spanish & Deutsch.