Marty’s Camera Repair in Queens, is one of the many small old camera repair stores in New York that will still mend one of those priceless antiques brought in the last century to almost working condition. A majority of the cameras being restored to working order in this store however, are not antiques.
Established in 1980, Marty Moyal, who goes by his first name to most people, has been in the “camera business” as he says, for more than 30 years. He started out working for Nikon as a technician, repairing cameras that customers sent back to the company to repair and then left the company after a decade to start his own enterprise.
Squeezed between two retail chain stores on a busy street in Forrest Hills, Queens, Marty’s shop is unassuming and very easy to miss unless one traverses the busy commercial streets with single-minded determination. On the first floor of a rickety but not shabby commercial building, about two stories high, is Marty’s small camera repair store. Up a flight of stairs, the store doesn’t have any of the adornments one might see on other camera stores with flashy advertisements and bold lettering on store fronts. On entering the store, one realizes that this store’s owner is yet to commercialize this venture. Walls are crammed with cameras and tripods perched on shelves. Almost all the four walls have a collage of film prints stuck on them, some taken by Marty himself and others by his friends and acquaintances. On one corner of the wall is a printout of his store’s listing from the website ‘Yelp!’ that lists addresses of local commercial enterprises and their reviews. Marty has a 4.5 star review rating, which he is extremely proud of and points to. An adjoining room serves as his laboratory where all the magic of repairing old cameras happens. A long table is lit by a small lamp and is cluttered with tools of Marty’s trade. The walls of the room are filled with more cameras and lens. An Israeli, Marty moved to New York when he was 25 and got into the camera business. A short, stocky build with salt and pepper hair, Marty’s heavy accent is evident in his drawl and his manner of speaking.
Marty keeps film cameras produced by Kodak as far back as the 1900s, the earliest being one made in 1906, which is also his most prized possession. It was purchased from a woman whose grandmother was a photographer, “for $200”, he says proudly. “It’s a kind of point and shoot from the 1900s”, he says as he opens the camera to display its insides.
However, despite his love for the company’s products, he says that he hasn’t been affected by the company filing for bankruptcy or will ever be affected by it.
“Its not going to affect me too much because not too many people use Kodak cameras.” The people who do use Kodak cameras are mainly those who use film for photography. “If the company goes out of business, its going to be hard to find (good) film”, he says.
Marty’s business is more than just a repair shop. He is a retailer as well. While he loves Kodak products, he keeps digital cameras from other popular companies like Canon, Nikon, Olympus as well as photography equipment and accessories like papers, lens, film, printing equipment from other companies etc and this keeps his business running. He is sure that selling digital cameras and other photography products from different companies will prevent him from being affected if Kodak’s film business collapsed.
For Marty, Kodak holds sentimental value. “That’s how I started”, he says, looking at prints of photographs he took himself. “I don’t like digital”, he says. For him, digital fails to capture the richness and the feel of the image. Moreover, he believes that with digital photography, the photograph can be altered on editing soft wares such as Photoshop which destroys the originality of the photograph. “You can’t do that with film.” With film he thinks, what you see is what you get. He is yet to see another company produce film as good as Kodak.
A trend he noticed around six months ago was the increase in the purchase of film cameras. “Most people buying Kodak products are students. Because they ask them to use Kodak film cameras. Specifically the Kodak Tri-X 400TX Professional ISO 400, 35mm, Black and White Film”, he says. His bestsellers however, remain digital.
Now even professionals are turning to digital cameras. This is mainly because its cheaper to develop pictures. Students buy film because they are taught how to process film at photography schools and develop all their photographs themselves. Hence, the cost of developing for them is comparatively cheaper to what it would be outside.
He has a loyal clientele all over the United States that comprises of mainly film lovers. Other than students studying photography, those who buy Kodak products from him are collectors. They send their film cameras to him to repair and occasionally buy antiques or collectors’ pieces. Marty himself buys antique cameras and many of those are made by Kodak.
“Kodak is a good company and its always hard to accept that a good company is going out of business.” If the company stops making the film that he requires for all these ancient relics clustered around his walls, “its going to be hard”, he says. One of his interests is to try to take photos with these old cameras finding and using the appropriate film. For the camera made in 1906, he’s having difficulty finding the right film. He hopes the company is able to make a comeback, and more importantly, be able to continue making film.
Till then, he’s going to keep clicking away.