Recently, AP was given the rare opportunity to visit the Harman Technology factory in Mobberley, Cheshire and watch rolls of Ilford HP5 Plus film coming off the production line. Technique Editor, Tracy Calder speaks to Managing Director, Peter Elton and Sales and Marketing Director, Giles Branthwaite about the recent resurgence in film sales and how the company has changed over the past few decades and what they are working towards for the future.

Where it began

In 1879, Alfred Harman began manufacturing gelatino-bromide ‘dry’ plates from the basement of his house in Ilford, Essex. He chose this location for two main reasons: its proximity to London and its clean, dust-free environment. In time, Harman changed the name of his house from Langsett to The Britannia Works. Henceforth, the plates his team produced were known as Britannia Plates (later Ilford Dry Plates). By 1886, Harman was running a thriving plate-manufacturing factory called the Britannia Works Company. He was a great believer in innovation, and a man of high standards, so it came as no surprise that, in 1889, he hired a quality supervisor to ensure that every plate was as close to perfection as possible. Just over a decade later, the company changed its name to Ilford Ltd, and Harman stepped away from the day-to-day running of the factory (although he remained a member of the board for some years).

In recent years

The company Harman established has gone through many changes over the past century, but some of the greatest have taken place in recent years. Like all silver-halide photographic companies, Ilford Imaging UK Ltd suffered from the arrival, and rapid popularity, of digital photography. Consequently, in 2004 it filed for insolvency (the Swiss-based arm, which focused more on digital products, remained in profit). A year later, the black & white photographic business and the premises in Cheshire were acquired by Harman Technology – created by former directors of Ilford Imaging UK. The name Harman was an obvious choice and signalled a return to the company’s core values, namely its dedication to innovation, development and precision. While the battle is far from over, Harman is clearly up for the fight. The company’s optimism does not seem entirely misplaced: ‘We have seen a global resurgence in film sales for three years running, with 2016 seeing a 5% growth in film volume,’ says marketing communications manager Matt Parry.

Read the full feature in Amateur Photographer, June 3 issue. Click here to buy it now.