In November of 2021, with work picking up again from the COVID lockdowns, I decided to pay a visit to my local camera repair shop and get a few things things back in order.
I took my Nikon 35mm 1.4 AIS and 105mm 1.8 AIS in for service and was inspired to write an article for Petapixel on the history of my experiences at Baltimore Photo-Electronic Service. My article chronicled my coming of age in photography and the importance of Lev Gutman’s cluttered little shop that has been supporting my efforts for the last twenty years.
In the article, I wrote “And yet, Baltimore Photo-Electronic Service survived the digital revolution that ended the local labs. It survived the rise of online shopping that ended the local camera stores. And now it appears to have survived COVID-19 that ended numerous small businesses.”
Sadly, today I’m here to report that Mr. Gutman has retired and BP-ES is permanently closed.
A few months after my article was published and there was some renewed interest in BP-ES, another member of the Film in Baltimore group posted that Lev told her that he was retiring and closing his shop. When I phoned that familiar old number to get the details, I found that the line had already been disconnected.
Last I visited, Lev gave no indication of these plans. The Russian, as we used to call him, looked as healthy and fit as ever. The shop looked no different than it had for decades. I have no means of contacting Lev to find anything more about this mysterious end of an era, and found no trace of further information online. Likely, it was just time for him to retire. And that is not a bad way to end things after nearly thirty years of greatness.
As a bit of a send-off, I wanted to share a few personal photos that I’ve taken with the 35mm 1.4 Nikkor that my wife gifted me for Christmas years ago and Lev revived just a couple months before withdrawing his profound talent, knowledge and kindness from the community that he served for so long.
I took these photos using Kodak TMAX 100 in an FM2n that Lev also serviced. They depict some peaceful moments during a sunset sailboat charter that I recently enjoyed with my family in downtown Annapolis, Maryland. They feel a bit fitting to celebrate Lev’s retirement and the closure of the best camera repair shop in Baltimore.
I say it all the time and this story is an important reminder. GET YOUR VINTAGE CAMERA GEAR PROFESSIONALLY SERVICED. If it’s worth shooting, even if it’s worth keeping on a shelf, it’s worth paying an experienced professional to bring it back to 100%. With the loss of every skilled repair tech like Mr. Gutman, we creep ever so much closer to the end of film photography as we know it. Sure, new techs will step in and sure we can do some DIY work ourselves. But for the continuation of film photography on any kind of reasonably serious level, we need to keep our local repair shops busy. A standard Clean, Lube and Adjust is so much cheaper than a missed photo op due to neglect of classic equipment.
Let’s keep film alive, folks. Support your local repair techs and they will support us.
Thanks for reading, happy shooting!
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