Chicago photographers support Calumet Photographic

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Peter V. Bella

After 75 years in business, Calumet Photographic abruptly closed its doors om March 13th. The announcement was made at 8:35 a.m. on Calumet's Facebook page.

250 people lost their jobs.

The Chicago photographic community was stunned. Support and anger poured out on Facebook.

The Chicago Tribune picked up the story by 10:30 a.m and updated the story as more details emerged.

It was disclosed the abrupt closing was due to a Chapter 7 Liquidation filing in United States Bankruptcy court.

This elicited more anger from many in the photographic community.

It is not uncommon for companies in Chapter 7 to abruptly close their doors, making no public statements about it. Calumet probably was following the advice of their attorneys.

Later that day a post on Facebook claimed that one or more locations might reopen. This may have been in response to people who had equipment in for repair and those wanting to return rental equipment. There was great concern from those groups, as there was no information available about procedures for picking up repairs or dropping off rental equipment.

Some are expressing hope on the horizon. That remains to be seen.

Rumors circulated the closure was due to two private lenders and investment groups. Allegedly the two companies refused to grant Calumet a 90 day window to restructure their debt load. There were unsubstantiated rumors of executive and upper level mismanagement which led to the collapse of the business.

On Sunday afternoon, approximately 75 supporters and employees held a demonstration at Calumet Photographic's Cherry Street location in Chicago.

It was made very clear ahead of time the demonstration was a show of support for the company and its now unemployed staff. "This is not a protest," was placed on the release.

Chicago has a strong photographic community, professional, amateur, and hobbyist. Calumet Photo, as it was known, played a big part in this world. Aside from their extensive stock of equipment and their knowledgeable staff, Calumet offered free and paid educational classes, supported photographic organizations, and exhibited the work of local and international artists.

Calumet was more than a retail hub or business. It was a resource for the photographic community.

No other photographic store since Altman's, the first photographic superstore, offered so much to so many. Altman closed in the early 1970s, after the employees won the right to form a union. The Altman family decided closing was better than dealing with a union and the governmental regulations covering unions. This was a blow not only to the photographic community but the nascent cinemagraphic community. Altman rented cinematography equipment to film, commercial, and advertising companies shooting in Chicago.

Helix, another large photographic retailer closed its brick and mortar store last year, after 49 years in business.

Some photographers at the demonstration expressed concern that retail photography stores and their support and assistance may be coming to an end.

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