Industry Insight: PPP Repairs, UK

Name: PPP Repairs – Pierro Pozella
Location: London, UK
Established: 2014

Hi Pierro! Introduce us to PPP Repairs.
After a couple years of practising at home I decided to approach a local camera shop known as Teddington Photographic, where I first started freelancing as PPP Repairs. I took on small repairs; light seals and traditional rangefinders, such as Agfa, that no other repairs wanted to put time into as it was uneconomical. I quickly started to learn more and more, working my way up to SLRs and more complex repairs. This was around the time I decided to created an Instagram account as many customers wanted to see the range of cameras I was fixing, and get an insight into the repair process. It didn’t take long before I started to become noticed in the analogue world of photography which put me in contact with a company in London known as Film’s Not Dead. They posted an image explaining what I had been doing with camera repairs at the time, and this really helped me launch PPP Repairs on Instagram. I then started to receive message after message, inquiring about all sorts of repairs. At this time, I was able to fix a range of cameras but still needed to learn much more. I was fortunate enough that another camera shop in London, known as Mr Cads, took me on, allowing me to practise on a range of cameras to further extend my repair knowledge. I started with the basic Voigtlanders and Kodak retinas, all the way to Olympus MJU II and Yashica T series cameras. This allowed me to build up a fundamental knowledge of leaf shutters, timers and electronic repairs, therefore giving me the opportunity to begin taking on a range of customer repairs, including many compact cameras that most other repairs would not touch. I started to repair a huge range of cameras from mechanical to electronic, quickly becoming familiar with many systems. It wasn’t long before I started to be approached to repair more high end cameras such as Leicas. At this point I knew I needed to gain more experience and practise with other cameras such as Hasselblad and Carl Zeiss. I already had the basic knowledge, I just needed to practise. I approached many places in London to see if they were able to help, without much success, but fortunately I stumbled upon a small Hasselblad specialist in London known as “The Camera Museum” who allowed me to spend time practicing on Hasselblad lenses and bodies, XPans and more premium cameras. I have always been practicing on any broken cameras I could find, being fortunate enough to have been donated cameras from customers and various people I have met along the way, allowing me to build up my knowledge.

At just 22 years of age you seem to have a very broad knowledge of analogue camera repairs, when, where and how did it all begin?
It first started when I was 15. I saw broken cameras being thrown into the rubbish and I couldn’t let such beautiful objects simply be thrown away, they still had so much life left in them. So, I decided to retrieve them and try to revive them. After many attempts and many unsuccessful repairs later, I started to fix the cameras, one by one. I have also always had an obsession with old glass, which lead me to repair cameras from the 1800s, which I still very much enjoy doing today. This is where I learnt the true basic principle of how a camera functions. I practised on any broken camera I could find – this is why I have such a broad knowledge, as I didn’t focus on just one brand or camera type. One week I could find a Kodak retina, the other, a Carl Zeiss Contessa. However as I started off mainly with cameras from between the 1920s to 1960s, I was able to transfer the engineering knowledge and apply it to later cameras, as they worked in a very similar way. I did not start learning electronic cameras until around the age of 18, however the systems still had the same principle allowing me to understand the relationship between the electrical and mechanical components quite quickly.

As my passion for old cameras grew, so did my knowledge, and with each repair I became more attached to the camera, taking every gear mechanism apart to learn how each individual piece functioned with the next. With each and every camera, so similar they were yet so different, the engineering of each brand fascinated me, creating a thirst to learn as much as I could about every camera I could find. Has photography always been an interest of yours or is it more the technical side of the repairs that draws you to it?
Photography itself has always been an interest from a young age. Analogue photography only became an interest around the age of 14, when I was introduced to the darkroom practise whilst on work experience for a car magazine. This is where It all started. I was taught by the lab technician how to make photograms and pin hole cameras, and ever since this point I was fascinated with how cameras worked. I then went on to study a foundation where I focused on photography, developing an array of pinhole cameras out of shopping trollies, lego and using magnifying glasses for lenses.

From here, I went on to study my Photography BA at Kingston University, stepping up the camera making process and producing 10 meter darkroom prints. I used my own home-made light sensitive chemistry, processing outside using the night as the darkroom, and a large inflatable swimming pool for processing the print. At this time I also came across a WW2 lens from a bomber plane, heavier than me, which I mounted to a shed to produce 20×24 negatives. For my final year at university, I produced a camera capable of rendering its environment in three dimensions inspired by bats. Currently I am studying my Masters at Royal Collage Of Arts where I will continue my passion for photography in a different capacity. 

What has been your most challenging repair thus far?
The most challenging repair to-date was a Contax G2, due to the complexity of the number of gear mechanisms used and the electronics housed inside the body. I carried it out to gain more knowledge on the system.

Is there any particular camera you’re itching to get your tools onto that you haven’t yet had a chance to work with?
There are many cameras I’m still itching to learn how to repair, as I am still forever learning, and as I have learnt after speaking to senior repairers, you never stop learning in this industry. The cameras I would most like to get my tools on are a Makina 67, Contarex, Contax 645, Carl Zeiss Hologon. There are a few more I still haven’t had the chance to practise on so far.

Many of the larger camera repairers appear to no longer be touching many of the Contax models due to lack of parts, yet your Instagram feed seems to be full of them! Do you think that you’ll be able to continue to repair these in the coming years?
Yes, many companies now no longer take on the repairs due to lack of parts, and some do not like repairing compact cameras. I have been repairing many Contax T2 and T3 cameras as I am able to fabricate new parts for flash burn repairs, and a select few other repairs. It’s hard to say with electrical camera, however I’m sure they will still be able to be repaired to an extent. If they are looked after, and as long as parts can be sourced or fabricated, then they will be able to be repaired for many years to come. Do you often shoot film photography yourself? If so, what camera, lens, stock and genre do you favour?
I often shoot film myself, and as such, I have a range of favourite cameras I like to use for different occasions, and with different film stock. I have always been drawn to cinematic qualities in lenses which started out when using Minolta Rokkor lenses, which is why my go-to camera that comes with me everywhere is my Leica M2 with a 40mm f2, or more recently a 28mm f2. I also have a Nortita 66 with an 80mm f2 lens, which is stunning for shooting colour. I have never seen a camera render highlights and shadows with so much character. I have a Mamiya 6 which I use for traveling as it collapses down, and I have recently repaired a Hasselblad Xpan II which has quickly found a place in my bag when shooting. In the summer, when the weather is dry and it’s not so cold, I use a 1900s Thronton Pickard with a f2.9 lens, which shoots 6X9 and I love to use with slide film. I often used to use a Zeiss ikon Mirrorflex until the shutter needed replacing and unfortunately I’m unable to complete the repair due to the lack of parts available. My favourite black and white film stock for many years has been Ilford HP5 as I enjoy pushing the film to 1600 and playing with the developing times when hand processing. My favourite colour film stock is Kodak Portra 160, however with the recent developments of CineStill I have very much favoured this stock due to its cinematic qualities, especially when combined with Leica glass. I don’t have a genre that I favour, I tend to be drawn mostly to the interaction of object and people with light.

I am also always experimenting with the cameras I have repaired, shooting on a wide range of cameras such as SLRs, rangefinders, medium format and large format. If you’re not repairing cameras, what will we find you doing?
If I’m not repairing cameras I am currently studying a full time masters in Information, Experience and Design at the Royal Collage of Arts. In my free time, I am out shooting around London, traveling to new locations and generally exploring. I am currently working on several products designed for the analogue world which will be introduced in the new year.

For somebody that requires your services, what is the process?
For someone that is looking to have their camera repaired they can contact me via email or directly message me through Instagram. Some repairs such as light seal replacement, I can quote straight away, others, I can give a rough estimate after a short discussion about the fault with the camera, and for some cases I have to value the cost of repair in person, once examining the camera. Turn-around time is one week after receiving the camera however this can be quicker depending on the fault with the camera. I offer a three month warranty with all repairs. What does the future hold for PPP Repairs?
I’m going to continue to build my knowledge on camera repairs so that I am able to take on more complex and rare cameras. I am currently working on several products for the analogue industry, one of which I hope to release mid-way through the new year.