Photopia Limited ~ Company History

The Photopia Group of companies was created by a young entrepeneur named Charles Gad Strasser.

The evolution and eventual formation of Photopia Ltd around 1959 (the trademark name Photopia had been in extensive use for several years previous), which subsequently transferred into a public company called Photopia International in 1962, is related below. Some of the information, and my original inspiration, came from a brief article originally published in the February 1963 edition of 'Photography' magazine. The majority of the information, however, has come from personal research, much assisted by a complimentary copy of Charles Strasser's autobiography, "From Refugee to OBE" and a loan to me of Charles' personal archive of Photopia memorabilia.

 

Charles Strasser's life story autobiography "From Refugee to OBE" was published on 23rd April 2007. It can be purchased either through Ian Rosewell via the UK web site www.skylog.co.uk (scroll down to the bottom right and click on Strasser) or via the US publisher Wade Keller (at Keller Publishing, based on Marco Island, Florida). The skylog site contains the following prelude:

"THE LIFE OF CHARLES GAD STRASSER is well captured in the title, 'From Refugee to OBE'. The reader will find not only a passionate personal story of one man's climbing of the mountain, but also an important historical rendition from war-torn Europe to the flourishing industries and institutions which have contributed to our current prosperous world. Charles Strasser fled from his native Czechoslovakia when he was 11 in 1938 just barely in advance of the Nazi war machine. Six years later he joined the allied armies and participated in the final victory. Before his twenty-first birthday he founded a company that would employ hundreds and have an international scope, with ties to Germany, Japan and many developing countries. While he excelled in business, it was for his many humanitarian services that he was awarded the distinction, Officer of the Order of the British Empire. He received his OBE from Her Majesty the Queen at an investiture in Buckingham Palace, 5th December 2000. The reader is invited to come along with Charles Strasser on his exciting journey from refugee to OBE."

In 'Photography' magazine's February 1963 issue, an editorial coulmn entitled 'What goes on...' contained an article entitled: 'Go-Getter'. The following draws on that 1963 magazine article, but it is ammended and extended here to reflect information within Charles' 2007 autobiography.

The 1963 article began "A remarkable young man is Charles G. Strasser, chairman of Photopia International Ltd, the holding company of Photopia Ltd and Japanese Cameras Ltd. He started in business on his own account in the photographic trade at age 20. In 1947, with a loan of £350 and one camera, he started as a professional photographer in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire."

In August 1947, his first business was a photographic studio at 19 Hassell Street, where he traded as "Charles G.Strasser, Newcastle Studios". The business soon expanded to include a developing & printing service for customer films and the retailing of simple low cost, UK manufactured, photographic equipment (e.g from Coronet, in Birmingham).

Early in 1949, before imports from Western Germany became possible again following World War II, Charles arranged an agency to import German cameras from Dr.Max Wirgin, of Messrs. Wirgin Kamera Werke of Wiesbaden. Although at the time of securing this agency there was no immediate prospect of importing cameras, just 4 months later the UK Board of Trade announced arrangements enabling the controlled importation of cameras from Germany. Each imported camera could be valued at no higher than £5.10s (£5.05p) including freight and insurance charges (CIF) into a UK port. The £5.10s CIF restriction limited potential importation to Wirgin's cheapest and simplest 35mm camera, called the Edinex (see below, RHS) but, convinced of the pent-up demand within the UK, Charles ordered a delivery of 100.

By 1951, "Charles G.Strasser, Newcastle Studios" began trading as North Staffs Photographic Services. His activities further expanded to include wholesale photo finishing, i.e. the developing and printing of films for 60 chemists and photographic dealers in the surrounding area.


North Staffs Photographic Services adverts in Amateur Photographer magazine, 1952 issues.

His staff at this time, besides those involved with the original professional photography, retail and wholesale photo finishing business, consisted of just 3 people, Mr Strasser, plus his wife (Charles and Maureen married 8th October 1949), and an office girl doing packing and invoice typing. "Demand was absolutely fantastic and initially, instead of having to sell them (the cameras), we just had to allocate them." Indeed, he 'sold' 25 cameras from the first shipment on his way home from Manchester airport - to 'Robinsons of Sale', in a Manchester suburb. Dixons, run by Stanley Kalms (Charles and Stanley became good friends) had just four shops in the early 1950s, but were soon taking a large proportion of any consignment.


Because camera importation was on a strict quota basis, Charles arranged "to fill out his catalogues with lots and lots of photographic accessories like exposure meters, range finders, flashguns, tripods, enlargers (including the famous Durst range), projectors (by Durst and Dunco), projection screens, transparency frames (by GEPE as well as own-brand), electronic flash equipment (by Multiblitz) - all sorts of things"

Wateler was one manufacturer with a useful range of accesssories and a good relationship was formed, importing 'Wata' brand equipment.

Another important realisation was that consumable items like films, processing chemicals, flash bulbs etc had a much bigger sales potential than e.g. a camera, which was purchased only rarely.

An obscure German man called Mr Kissling invented a 'Flash Button' to use instead of the much more expensive (around 4x) glass flashbulbs. The Flash Button consisted of a little cardboard container about the size of a tap washer, filled with a controlled amount of flash powder. The base was card foot, coated with conductive silver (aluminium ?) paper which could be inserted into a special flashgun and the Buttons were 'fired', either manually or via a synchronised shutter.


Eventually, bulb manufacturers, like Phillips and Osram, were able to simplify and cut the cost of their flash bulbs (capless bulbs introduced in 1955) to the point where they killed off the Flash Button, but most dealers stocked them for a time.

Charles was keen to find ways around the beaurocratic 'red tape' restricting the growth of his business and found that camera accessories, such as rangefinders and exposure meters, could be imported regardless of value and without any quota limitations. So, he telephoned Wirgin and arranged that their £7 camera with built-in rangefinder (hence too expensive to import as a single item) be packaged with the rangefinder removed, the latter shipped separately in a temporary housing. In the UK, Charles set up an assembly line to re-insert and collimate the rangefinders back inside the camera bodies - hence enabling him to extend his distribution range of products to a sophistication others couldn't match. "We did the same exercise with built-in exposure meters, and that gave us further models without competition."

By 1953, Wirgin had developed a new, smarter appearance 35mm cameras, under the brand name Edina, which was advertised by Norths Staffs Photographic Services in Amateur Photographer, in time for the June 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. To see a full page advertisement for the Edina, click here. A Dollonds Phoptographic Service (28, Old Bond Street, London, W.1) advert in AP for May 6th 1953, proclaims "Announced to-day!"

By 1954 the Edina had become renamed Edixa. By 17th March 1954, the Edixa II, with a coupled rangefinder, was being advertised. There were two models, both with a 43mm f2.8 Isconar lens. The lower priced had a Velio 5-speed shutter (1/10th, 1/25th, 1/50th, 1/100th, 1/200th + Bulb) at £24.19s.10d (£24.99p), and the more expensive had a Prontor S shutter, priced at £31.16s (£31.80p). A test review by Monarch Publishing Co. Ltd, and reprinted as a Photopia advertisement in Amateur Photographer magazine for 17th March 1954, can be read here.
A full page Amateur Photographer advert for 1st December 1954 shows a range of 6 Edixa cameras, including the Edixa Stereo 1.

By 1955 there were models Edixa 1P (with 4-speed Pronto shutter) and Edixa II P and Edixa II SVS (with 8-speed Prontor SVS shutter), the latter two both with coupled rangefinders (coupled to the lens focusing mount but separate to the main viewfinder). A test review of the Edixa IP and II SVS models, taken from 'Good Photography' magazine for February 1957, can be read here. A PDF of the instruction booklet for the Edixa I and Edixa II can be downloaded here.

By 1957, though initially subject to import restrictions, the Wirgin camera range also encompassed the sophisticated Edixa Reflex interchangeable lens, single lens reflex (slr), cameras.


Through hard work, re-investment and taking advantages of opportunities whenever they came along - as well as building up around him a young and enthusiastic team - more and more overseas manufacturers of photographic apparatus placed their confidence in Mr Strasser, and the products of more and more firms were distributed to the trade by North Staffs Photographic Services.

Around 1955, North Staffs Photographic Services moved premises from Hassell Street to Ball's Yard, Newcastle.

In spring 1959, the Lubitel twin lens reflex was the first Russian camera on the UK market, though many different models and types appeared over the next three decades. But Photopia was the first UK distributor to see the sales potential of these well performing, but economically priced, products. Photopia unveiled the Lubitel at the 3rd post-war UK Photo Fair, held in May at Olympia, London. PhotoGuide magazine for July 1959 reported:

"The Russian Lubitel caused a minor sensation at the fair in view of its amazing low price. .....it follows the traditional pattern of twin lens reflex design. Focusing is by means of the meshed rings around each of the lenses. ....is remarkable cheap at less than £8."

Click here, or the image alongside, to see an enlarged view; also to read an extract from Charles Strasser's autobiography, "From Refugee to OBE", that describes Photopia's 2 year involvement with the Russian camera industry.


By mid-1956
, Charles opened a London office at 36, Wardour Street, Piccadilly, enabling his Newcastle company to compete on a level basis with rival distributors operating in the London area. Wardour Street was in the seedy 'Soho' area of London, so during 1963 the Wardour Street premises were upgraded, first to Noel Street (still in Soho) and by 1966 into a showroom at Regent House, 235-241 Regent Street, London, W1, one of the main shopping streets in the West End of London. This showroom was maintained until around 1981.


The first own-brand item was a box camera from the Vredeborch factory run by Mr Krause. Later (1957) they produced a simple but stylish 120 roll film camera called the Felita (renamed Felica by 1958), initially priced at £3.7s.9d, it was still on sale at the end of the 1960s (priced below £3).

A 6x6cm negative 120 roll film camera imported in 1960 was the Durst 66, with 8-speed shutter and built-in extinction type light meter, priced £8.7s.2d (£8.36p).

'Photopia' was initially a name applied to 'own brand' products and was in use by 1952 as can be seen in several of the AP adverts, above. The name was conceived to convey the idea of its goods being the 'Utopia of Photography' and evolved into the general trading name for North Staffs Photographic Services. The well known Photopia trademark (see left) can be seen in the Edina advert (click the link and see top left) from May 1953.

In May 1957, the company Photopia Limited was registered for the purpose of carrying on the business previously undertaken by North Staffs Photographic Services.
By 1959 this was complete and Photopia Ltd. became the new company name, alongside Japanese Cameras Ltd (see below).

By early 1960, as its importation & wholesale national distribution business expanded, Photopia Ltd moved to its Hempstalls Lane address and all previous professional photography and retail activities ceased.

The picture shows Hempstalls Lane, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs, as it appeared in the 1965 Annual Report & Accounts.

To view a series of catalogues advertising Photopia brand goods, click the link:

To view a full page Photopia advertisement from Amateur Photographer magazine for 2nd September 1959, click here.
"North, South, East or West, Photopia products are the Best."
     
Ready for Japanese Goods

Before it was possible to import cameras from Japan into the UK (Japanese photographic equipment already had an excellent reputation in the USA), Charles Strasser investigated this source of supply and made advance arrangements for importation to commence once Government restrictions were relaxed. He was ready 'to go' on what turned out to be a most valuable branch of activity, well before most of his competitors.

In 1954 the basis was laid for the future formation of Japanese Cameras Ltd as the result of one of Charles' earliest trips to Japan when he met with the very small but long established camera firm called Chiyoda Kogaku Seiko KK, which produced cameras under the brand name Minolta, a company formed in 1928 by Mr.Kazuo Tashima, "known to all as KT". In the 1950s, "KT" was still President of the company. Although agreements forged during that first visit meant that Charles effectively had the UK agency for Minolta from 1954 (until 1980, 26years), UK import restrictions initially prevented the relationship developing.

In 1957, a quota system for camera imports from Japan was finally introduced, albeit only £15,000 for the whole of the UK. Nonetheless, Charles' prior arrangements meant he was immediately able to apply for a part of this quota and start importation via the readied company, Japanese Cameras Ltd. The Company had the postal address of 50, Piccadilly, Tunstall, Stoke on Trent. It was formally registered as a limited company in May 1957 and became fully effective in May 1958. The first cameras imported from 1957 were the Minolta Autocord, a 120 roll film twin lens reflex (TLR) similar to the German Rolleiflex & Rolleicord, and two 35mm viewfinder cameras. The sophisticated Minolta 35mm single lens reflex (slr) cameras like the Minolta SR-2 (1958), SR-1 (1959) and SR-3 (1960) and SR-7 (1962) appeared later.

Photopia Ltd and Japanese Cameras Ltd operated with separate sales forces and independent advertising. During the year ended 30th April 1960 their combined turnover increased sharply.

By mid-1960 (see, Amateur Photographer Camera Guide for 8th June 1960) Japanese Cameras Ltd were importing the Minolta A & Super A, the Autowide, the 35 Model II and the V2, all being viewfinder cameras and fore-runners to the highly successful Himatic series, of which the Himatic-7 famously went into space with US Col.John Glenn on 20th February 1962. The same AP Guide also lists the Minolta SR-1 and SR-2 single lens reflex cameras and the TLR Autocord incl. the 'L' model with built-in exposure meter and the Miniflex, a 127 roll film TLR competing with the 'Baby' Rolleiflex.

In May 1961, the magazine "Cameras & Equipment" announced two items of news relevant to Japanese Cameras Ltd and the quota system of imports from Japan.
Under the heading "Tokyo Bound", Cameras & Equipment reported "Japanese Cameras Limited announce that they have now opened an office in Tokyo under the management of Mr. S. Sandow. This office will undertake further development of the extensive business connections in the Far East of Japanese Cameras Ltd., and carry out liaison duties with Japanese Suppliers. The address is: JAPANESE CAMERAS LTD., NO. 2, OGAWACHO, 3 - C H 0 M E, KANDA, CHIYODA-KU, TOKYO, JAPAN (cable address GENEOPT, TOKYO), and Mr. Sandow will be pleased to extend hospitality on behalf of Japanese Cameras Ltd. to any United Kingdom dealers or photographers visiting Japan."

Under the heading "Japanese Camera Quota 1961", Cameras & Equipment reported "The present Anglo-Japanese trade arrangements have now been extended for a further period of six months. The agreements were signed on Wednesday, April 19, and will be in force until September. The six month quota will represent 65% of the total quota for last year. This year's total quota, however, is not expected to be greater than that for 1960."

From 1st January 1962, UK import restrictions on photographic equipment from Japan were completely removed and for the first time there was complete freedom of purchasing choice for the UK consumer (European import quotas having been abandoned in November 1959).

The Minolta agency ended in 1980 when Minolta set up import arrangements through its own organisation, named Minolta UK Ltd. Fortunately, Charles had already negotiated to take up the Ricoh agency when Minolta went 'independent' and so on 1st January 1980 there was a seamless changeover.

In 1962 there was a declared Group profit in excess of £100,000 which enabled Charles to apply for company listing on the London stock exchange. Photopia International, incorporating Photopia Ltd and Japanese Cameras Ltd, was 'floated' as a public company on 19th November 1962 with an issued and fully paid share capital of £250,000.
During the years 1963 to 1977, Charles was Chairman and Managing Director of Photopia International and gave a statement to shareholders at the annual AGM. To read about the 'ups and downs' Charles encountered while successfully steering Photopia International through a particularly difficult time of UK currency instability and inflation, read paraphrased extracts from his AGM statements by clicking the button (right).

In September 1964, Paul Plus Ltd was created as part of Charles' philosophy of operating a number of companies, all with their own product range and salesmen, and each having their own relationship with the dealer network.

Michael Mandel has e-mailed to tell me that he was employed as an Area Manager from 1965-1968 within Paul Plus Ltd, which operated out of 29 King Street, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs. They sold a range of photographic and other optical equipment under their own PLUS precision products label.

It was Michael who first alerted me to Charles Strasser's autobiography "From Refugee to OBE" (see the top of this page), published by Wade Keller in April 2007.


This Paul Plus stand is believed to date to 1966-67 and was possibly at a 'photo show' held in an Exeter hotel.

Consac Limited was formed around the same time as Paul Plus Limited, but was not a marketing company. It was purely concerned with performing the accounting functions of the other companies in the Group. The name derived from the term 'consolidated accounting' and its formation led to useful economies in operation.

During 1965, Photopia International pioneered a 'new deal' for their dealer customers by publishing a 'Dealer Charter', setting out their commitments in support of dealer's selling Photopia Group products.

In Camera magazine for March 1966, the Editor's Notebook reports on the success of a Photopia marketing idea, being the 'Photopian' dictionary, a small booklet containing an assortment of specially coined words with appropriate definitions that (not unaturally) boost the Photopia products. For example, 'Cheesetake'; a photograph taken for cheesecake purposes. Most successful if taken with an Edixa camera.

"If you think that this kind of gimmick should have no influence on one's choice of equipment, cast your critical eye over these 'phew phigures phrom' Photopia. The response to ads containing Photopian words increased by amounts from 375 to 780% !! Which only goes to prove that you don't sell equipment on merit alone."



In November 1966, Photopia International purchased Mayfair Photographic Suppliers (London) Ltd, an existing company (certainly in existence in 1960).
Read Bill Kerr's account of working for Mayfair Photographic prior to it joining with Photopia International Ltd.

The trading address of Mayfair Photographic Suppliers (London) Ltd became the same as Photopia Ltd i.e. Hempstalls Lane, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs. This company sold the Miranda range of slr cameras, a Japanese manufacturer owned, interestingly, by a US company called AIC = Allied Impex Corporation [thanks to Neil Robinson in Canada -see his Miranda Sensorex]. Mayfair Photographic also had the agency for a range of interchangeable lenses made under the brand name of Soligor. These lenses could be fitted to all the well known slr cameras i.e. Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta etc. The agency for Bauer Cine Equipment was acquired by 1972.

In May 1968, Citizen Watches Ltd was formed, broadening the scope of opportunity into another consumer sector. However, by 1973 it was decided that the UK Agency for Citizen Watches was not producing the expected return on capital investment so was relinquished by mutual agreement. However, sale of such watches continues in the Channel Islands via the re-registered Citizen Watches (C.I) Ltd. In the early 1980s Charles acquired the Citizen agency just in the Channel Islands for his new Jersey company called Omnitec Ltd.
Around 1969, another new company was set up, Interserve Ltd. This company, like Consac (above), was a service company to the rest of the Group, handling after sales servicing of the products sold by the five selling companies (Photopia, JapCam, Paul Plus, Mayfair and Citizen).
Around 1973, the last of the Photopia International companies was incorporated, this time Plustronics Ltd. It was formed with the audio market in mind, including Denon hi fi. At the time, home music systems consisted either of vinyl record decks and / or cassette decks, probably with an FM stereo tuner or receiver. Portable televisions (unputdownables), simple pocket calculators, LED wrist watches and, by 1982, microwave ovens, also featured in the Plustronics catalogue.
From around 1970, the individual marketing catalogues of the Photopia International group of companies became combined into single, full colour, A4 sized brochures, seemingly published every 2 years.

Post-1973, these brochures also included the Plustronics range of audio and other electronic items. However, separate catalogues for Plustronics were also published, possibly because the Plustronics range of goods was not directly linked to the hobby of photography and so it was convenient to be able to economically give away slim catalogues to customers only interested in audio equipment.


In the 1974 Report & Accounts of Photopia International Limited, the 8 subsidiary companies were shown as below.

The Photopia Group catalogue for 1976 / 76 listed products by:

  • Alpex (slr & enlarging lenses)
  • Bauer (quality cine cameras and projectors)
  • Erno (cine editiors)
  • GePe (slide mounts and developing tanks)
  • Kovac (hand-held & desktop calculators)
  • Minette (cine editors & accessories)
  • Minolta (complete system; quality slr & compact cameras, lenses etc)
  • Miranda (quality slr cameras & lenses)
  • Orion (audio equipment for home & car)
  • Palar (lenses, binoculars, microscope)
  • Photopia (various own brand accessories)
  • Plus (own brand accessories, compact cameras, slide projectors, cine)
  • Plustron (audio equipment & pocket calculators)
  • Raynox (cine equipment & slr lenses)
  • Regula (budget compact 110 & 35mm cameras & electronic flashguns)
  • Sedic (range of 110 pocket cameras)
  • Soligor (wide range of quality slr lenses & accessories)
  • Wata (Wata range of lighting units, flash, camera grips, rangefinder etc)

In spring 1977, as Charles neared 50 years of age, he was aware that a substantial proportion of his wealth was represented in his share certificates, which had a value, but that value could suffer at the vagaries of the Stock Market. Hence, with the UK's less than ideal economic climate at the time, Charles decided it was time he converted those 'pieces of paper' into bankable money by accepting an offer to be bought out. His reasoning was explained to all 160 employees in a letter dated 3rd October 1977.

The buyer was an organisation called Central and Sheerwood who had interests in engineering, printing, publishing and financial services. After due approval by the Monopolies & Mergers Commission and the Stock Exchange, 90% of Photopia International shares were made available by the shareholders. Once all was in place, Photopia International continued much as before, but as a wholly owned subsidiary of Central and Sheerwood. Charles stayed on as Managing Director for a further 3years as part of the buy out deal.


The Photopia Group catalogue for 1978 / 79 listed products by:

  • Aiko (budget home audio)
  • Automount (photo' mounting blocks)
  • Bauer (quality cine cameras and projectors)
  • CI (desk and hand calculators)
  • Da-Lite (Projection screens)
  • Dansk (Danish hi-fi equipment)
  • Erno (cine editors)
  • Fair Mate (de-luxe cassette and radio units)
  • GePe (slide mounts and cine reels)
  • Herma (photo mounting and cine splicing materials)
  • Kovac (pocket & desk calculators)
  • Minette (cine editors & accessories)
  • Minolta (large range of quality still & cine cameras, lenses etc)
  • Nissin (electronic flash equipment)
  • Opticraft (budget microscopes and telescopes)
  • Pal (inexpensive electronic flashguns)

 

  • Palar (binoculars)
  • Photopia (camera hold-alls and general accessories)
  • Plus (own brand 110/126 cameras, flash, projectots, microscopes, binoculars, cases, tripods, exposure meters.
  • Plustron (home audio, portable TV, home computer, car radios/cassette players)
  • Raynox (home cine cameras & projectors, electronic flash)
  • Regula (budget compact 110 & 35mm cameras & electronic flashguns)
  • Roxy (budget radios)
  • Soligor (wide range of quality slr lenses & slr accessories, flash guns and Soligor TM slr camera)
  • Solitel (enlargers)
  • Unicolor (home colour processing equipment & chemicals)
  • Viola (range of tripods)
  • Wata (lighting units, darkroom accessories, slide accessories, cine titler, flash extension cables)
  • Zenith (compact binoculars)

On 20th November 1980 Charles 'retired' to the home he had purchased as long ago as June 1965 on the Channel Island of Jersey. However, he still acted as an offshore consultant to his old company via Photopia's Jersey office, which Charles had set up in 1968. This amicable arrangement continued for a time, but a change of management at Photopia International brought it to an end. Then, while informing his previous competitors and other Members within the British Photographic Importers Association that he no longer had any involvement with Photopia, he received an offer from Johnsons of Hendon to assist them find new agencies. Since rumour within the industry was that Photopia International and Central and Sheerwood were not doing too well together, Charles suggested that Johnsons might consider making an offer to buy Photopia. Charles organised meetings to ensure that the equipment supply companies who had agencies with Photopia International would readily transfer thier agencies to Johnsons of Hendon; most said they would. With that knowledge, Charles bought Central and Sheerwood and Johnsons of Hendon together and an agreement was reached.

In June 1984, the line up of products available through Photopia International Limited was as follows:

  • RICOH Cameras & Accessories
  • ZEISS IKON Projectors & Accessories
  • KIRON 35mm SLR Interchangeable Lenses
  • TELEPLUS teleconverters & extension Tubes
  • COKIN 'A' & 'P' - "the world's best selling creative square filter system"
  • COKIN Quality Round Filters - New !
  • GEPE Slide Mounts & Accessories
  • NISSIN Electronic Flashguns & Accessories
  • LOWEPRO Quality Camera / Accessories Bags
  • NIMSLO 35mm 3-Dimensional camera & Accessories
  • TOPMAN Tripods
  • HITECH filters

In 1985, as you can read on the history page of Johnsons of Hendon, Johnsons acquired the Photopia Group and the status of Photopia International changed once again, from a subsidiary of a public company to again part of a totally private company.

As part of the subsequent rationalisation programe, Johnsons closed their London operation working out of the rented property at Priestley Way on the North Circular Road and physically amalgamated the two companies in the old Photopia head office building at Hempstalls Lane, Newcastle-under-Lyme. Johnsons managing director, David Vaughan, took over the chair and office previously occupied by Charles. For several years thereafter, Charles continued to provide consultancy services to David Vaughan, but eventually this arrangement came to a natural and amicable end.

In 1989 the two companies were fully amalgamated as Johnsons Photopia Ltd.


In December 2004, Paul Roper, Marketing Manager of Johnsons Photopia, having read this web page in its original form, got in touch to confirm that Charles was enjoying his retirement on Jersey. Subsequently, Charles was in touch and we have since exchanged several e-mails. He has helped me considerably with information that has enabled me to expand the Photopia story.

Every 5 years, on his birthday, Charles throws a party in North Staffordshire for ex-employees of his Photopia companies and usually about 100 attend. At the party in April 2007 at Keele University, Charles celebrated his 80th birthday. Charles remains in good health, spending the winter ("winterising") on Marco Island in Florida (see below) and the summers at his home on Jersey. At the time of writing his book, Charles was still making trips (every 2 years) to the Photokina exhibition in Cologne, now as an honoured guest of the organisers in recognition of his very rare achievement in attending all Photokinas since the very first in 1950.

Noteable ex-Photopian employees include Rupert Cartlidge, who joined Charles as his Shop Manager in 1955 when there was just one retail shop in Newcastle under Lyme. Rupert progressed as the organisation grew, eventually becoming Assistant Managing Director of each of the operating companies and ultimately of the public holding company "Photopia International". Another ex-Photopian is John Kirk, who started as a salesman in the Paul Plus company within Photopia International Ltd and progressed to become Export Manager in 1972 at age 23, a post he filled until 1978. Pauline Hancock and Alan Clarke are ex-Photopians who (at the time of writing) are still with the successor of Photopia i.e. Johnsons Photopia, having both joined Photopia in 1963.

Many, many other names, and pictures, are viewable on a web page link sent me by John Kirk. The link should open as a slideshow with numerous pictures contributed by ex-employee 'Photopia folk' during the run up to Charles' 80th birthday party in April 2007.


Charles G Strasser, OBE
(affectionately referred to as CGS)


John Kirk
     
The picture to the right is of Charles taken at the Marco Island Rotary Club meeting on 4th December 2008.
Copyright acknowledged to Sue Keller

In his 1957 Photopia "Catalogue & Price List of Selected Photographic Equipment", Charles Strasser wrote and signed a foreword entitled:
"Best by Test"
"It is our aim to offer selected products, the best of their kind, wherever they may be made, at keen competitive prices, giving at all times good value for money. Being proud of our reputation we back all our products with a speedy after sales service".

A similar promise appears as a foreword to all Photopia catalogues throughout the 1960s. Examples are shown below.


This page last updated: 3rd January 2016