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LC-A Big Book Chapter 29: Problems with the Black Market

Advertisements appeared in various newspapers and on internet sites, publicising brand new LOMO LC-A’s for low prices. The question was: where were these people getting these new cameras from, on the Russian black market? How was it possible since the Lomographic Society was not only the sole purchaser of the camera but also exclusive worldwide distributor? Steps had to be taken because the illegal trade of the cameras was naturally harming the legitimate market and was certainly not approved by the LOMO PLC senior management, nor understandably by the Lomographers themselves.

The LomoEmbassy opened in St Petersburg in 2000 and by 2001, only a year later, the black market trade of the LOMO LC-A cameras had already grown significantly. It was logical that as the LOMO LC-A was becoming more and more popular it was also becoming increasingly difficult to get hold of a secondhand Russian camera on the market and with the introduction of the LomoEmbassy in St Petersburg (and the associated exclusive distribution of the camera by the Lomographic Society) no more little snapshot cameras were being sold in Russia for a give-away price. Advertisements appeared in various newspapers and on internet sites, publicising brand new LOMO LC-A’s for low prices. The question was: where were these people getting these new cameras from, on the Russian black market? How was it possible since the Lomographic Society was not only the sole purchaser of the camera but also exclusive worldwide distributor? Steps had to be taken because the illegal trade of the cameras was naturally harming the legitimate market and was certainly not approved by the LOMO PLC senior management, nor understandably by the Lomographers themselves.Countermeasures were planned and once more the saving idea came from the St Petersburg LomoEmbassy. The LomoEmbassy put anonymous advertisements in the papers where they declared: LOMO LCA’s wanted. In this way they tried to find out who the prime suspects were. The con artists actually got in contact – naturally they weren’t stupid and left the ordering of the cameras anonymous – and soon the LomoAmbassador Steffi & Co had the first black market LOMO LC-A’s in their hands!

After a more detailed examination of the packaging and technology of the camera it turned out that it involved secondhand cameras, which for the most part didn’t work properly. The dealers merely traded individual components of the camera and “spruced up” its external appearance and put the faulty LOMO LC-A’s in the apparent original packing from LOMO PLC. The whole camera was then sold at a considerably lower price than the new and original LOMO LC-A, and despite explicit warnings by the LomoEmbassy and the Lomographic Society it unfortunately found some buyers.

Thanks to meticulous research carried out by the LomoEmbassy it became clear that there had to be a direct link between the production lines of the LOMO LC-A at LOMO PLC and the black market dealers. Elsewhere the individual components, particularly the casing of the camera were not available. Thus, using the in-house LOMO PLC factory security service to advise and carry out investigations, a few months later it was discovered that a worker in the LOMO LC-A production had been regularly smuggling out specific individual components of the LOMO LC-A from the factory and earning a tidy sum on the side, while selling these to black market sharks. As a consequence, the guilty worker was immediately dismissed without notice and the Russian black market trade with the alleged “new” LOMO LC-A came to an abrupt end as the plug had been pulled on the source of the individual components. Following this incident, the serial number of each newly produced camera was strictly documented so that each individual model could be registered and therefore prevent others from smuggling the individual components out of the factory. A related funny episode was when a few weeks after the smuggling episode leaked out, some people anonymously called the Lomographic Embassy in St Petersburg and asked if they were selling these individual black market components. The answer was of course a definite “Njet”.

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written by ungrumpy

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