Baltimore Landmark Camera Workshop Closes After 29 Years – Johnny Martyr Thoughts & Photography

In November 2021, with work picking up again from the COVID lockdown, I decided to pay a visit to my local camera repair shop and fix a few things.

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 about the history of my experience at the Baltimore Photo-Electronic Service. My article chronicles my age in photography and the importance of the scruffy little Lev Gutman shop that has supported my endeavors for the past twenty years.

In the article, I wrote “However, the Baltimore Photo-Electronic Service survived the digital revolution that ended the local lab. It survived the online shopping renaissance that put an end to the local camera store. And now it seems to have survived the COVID-19 ending many small businesses.”

Unfortunately, today I am 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 renewed interest in BP-ES, another member of the Film group in Baltimore posted that Lev had told him he was retiring and closing shop. When I called the old, familiar number to get details, I found that the line had been cut.

On my last visit, Lev gave no indication of this plan. The Russian, as we used to call him, looked as healthy and fit as ever. The shop looked no different from how it had for decades. I had no means of contacting Lev to find out more about this mysterious end of the world, and found no trace of further information online. Apparently, it was just time for him to retire. And that’s not a bad way to end something after nearly thirty years of being great.

As a little introduction, I’d like to share some personal photos I’ve taken with the Nikkor 35mm 1.4 that my wife gave me for Christmas last year and Lev was brought back to life just months before drawing on his deep talent, knowledge and kindness from the communities he’s been serving throughout.

I took these photos using a Kodak TMAX 100 on FM2n which Lev also serviced. They describe some peaceful moments during a sunset sailboat rental I recently enjoyed with my family in downtown Annapolis, Maryland. They found it somewhat fitting to celebrate Lev’s retirement and the closing of Baltimore’s finest camera repair shop.

I say it all the time and this story is an important reminder. SERVICE YOUR VINTAGE CAMERA EQUIPMENT PROFESSIONALLY. If it’s photo-worthy, even if it’s worth keeping on a shelf, it’s worth paying a seasoned professional to restore it to 100%. With the loss of every skilled repair technician like Mr. Gutman, we are getting closer to the end of film photography as we know it. Of course, a new technician will step in and believe we can do some DIY work ourselves. But for the continuation of film photography at a fairly serious level, we need to keep our local workshops busy. A standard Clean, Lubricate and Adjust is much cheaper than a photo operation missed by neglecting classic equipment.

Let’s keep the film alive, guys. Support your local repair technicians and they will support us.

Thanks for reading, happy shooting!

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