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LC-A Big Book Chapter 31: The Final End of Lomo LC-A Production

After 2000, the LOMO LC-A continued to be produced but constant price increases were becoming the norm. Continued production was becoming more difficult day by day, and both the Lomographers and the LOMO LC-A found workers of LOMO PLC were becoming more and more disheartened. An early end to production was foreseeable and the future of the small camera was becoming more uncertain by the day.

Born in 1971 in Frankfurt, Germany, adventurous Stephanie Weber (now Tsomakaeva) undertook her first trip to the Soviet Union in her old Volkswagen Bug at the age of 18. Amazed by the exuberance of the Russian society in transition, she moved to St Petersburg in 1991. After a few months of university she founded her travel agency Ost-West Kontaktservice. As the main communicator and diplomat between the Lomographic Society and the LOMO PLC-works since the late 90s, it was only fitting for Steffi to become the official LomoAmbassador of St Petersburg in 2000. In fact, she runs the LomoEmbassy in her travel agency at the Nevsky Prospect Avenue. In 2000, adventurous Steffi moved to the Republic of Ingushetia, in the Caucasus region, which neighbours Chechnya. There she established the LomoEmbassy Ingushetia in 2002 and got to know her husband Suleyman with whom she now lives in St Petersburg.

Suleyman Tsomakaev ran a BMW and Mercedes car service centre in Chechnya and later in Ingushetia. He moved together with his wife Steffi to St Petersburg in 2004. He has run the LomoEmbassy Repair Shop since 2005, and he works there with three other employees mending old Soviet cameras. The Lomographic Society regularly sends masses of used LOMO LC-A’s to the workshop, in order for them to be repaired. Whenever a Lomo Kompakt is broken in this world, you can depend on Suleyman and his team to get it clicking away again!

After 2000, the LOMO LC-A continued to be produced but constant price increases were becoming the norm. Continued production was becoming more difficult day by day, and both the Lomographers and the LOMO LC-A found workers of LOMO PLC were becoming more and more disheartened. An early end to production was foreseeable and the future of the small camera was becoming more uncertain by the day.

The fact was that many workers, some involved right from the beginning in the production of the LOMO LC-A were retiring or dying. The essential know-how for production and assembling of the camera was dwindling away, and substantial investments would have been necessary to train new workers. Owing to all of this and the constant increase in production costs (work, energy, rooms, material, capital), which had always been a difficult issue, ever since the initial negotiations between the Lomographic Society and LOMO PLC, in spring 2005, the news came from St Petersburg that production would finally be discontinued. For some years even the most fervent supporters of Lomography at the LOMO PLC factory no longer believed that the financial shortfall in the production of the LOMO LCA could be dealt with by a larger market share or by using Lomography to boost the circulation of LOMO PLC. Despite the strong emotional connection of many LOMO PLC workers and officials to the camera and the continuous support given by Lomographers, the LOMO LC-A could no longer be kept alive. Since 1995 the LOMO LC-A had been the only camera still produced by the factory, mass production of “consumer goods” was over, the infrastructure was increasingly lacking for the hi-tech and specialized optical company. Nevertheless, the 15 year contract drawn up in 2000 was not broken by the ending of production. A special arrangement was made whereby upon agreement with the Lomographic Society, the price of the camera would be renegotiated on a yearly basis. In 2004/2005 even this price was no longer realistic.

So it was that in spring 2005, the last LOMO LC-A left the production premises of Chugunnaya Street. Several facilities now no longer used were converted to other uses and approximately 100 workers were moved to work on different productions. Shortly after, the eagle-eyed Olga Tsvetkova, who had worked as production manager on the camera for more than 25 years went into retirement.

In April 2005 the Lomographic Society publicly announced the end of production. Approximately one hundred LOMO LCA’s were still available on the market and would be sold out in a few days. However, to really get the best out of the LOMO LC-A, a small LOMO LC-A refurbishing workshop was opened in the LomoEmbassy in St Petersburg. Through the involvement of selected experts and former LOMO PLC workers secondhand LOMO LC-A’s were fondly revamped. Our friend Igor is still working in this workshop today, and was in the 1980s the last final assembler to be involved in the production of the LOMO LC-A.

The Lomographic Society delivered approximately 5,000 broken LOMO LC-A’s to the refurbishing workshop at the time of its opening, which for more than 10 years had accumulated at the main headquarters. These cameras were then “completely renovated” by the experts. In other words, all the functions were repaired and checked; the cameras got new casings and were then provided with a 2 year guarantee. These LOMO LCA’s were subsequently sold as “refurbished” models via the Lomographic Online Shop and became very popular. In addition to repairing functions on the old LOMO LC-A’s, the refurbishing workshop purchased individual camera components from LOMO PLC, produced some components itself and dispatched these to China. Even today they constantly repair cameras occasionally retrieving Soviet cameras from throughout the continent which they buy and repair.

Nevertheless, Russian production of the LOMO LC-A was finished once and for all. Sadness filled the hearts and souls of the Lomographers. How should it continue? Was it all finally over? Could more than 10 years of intense work and dedication just go down the drain?

39. Igor worked for LOMO PLC in the 1950s where he assembled Leningrad cameras and was later responsible for the final assembling of the LOMO LC-A. He is now repairing used LOMO LC-As in the refurbishing workshop of the St Petersburg LomoEmbassy.

Have the full glory of the book here

written by ungrumpy

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