MEOPTA AXOMAT – A FINE PIECE OF GRAPHIC DESIGN!
THE MEOPTA AXOMAT – A FINE ENLARGER AND A FINE COVER IMAGE TO BOOT!
The darkroom I run is full of Meopta enlargers – they are a fairly standard piece of college equipment – built out of solid metal, so very hardy!
I was trying to establish the maximum wattage bulbs for the Axomat enlargers – that’s the sort of excitement my days can be filled with. Upon searching through piles of manuals, hap-hazzardly arranged in a filing cabinet – something glistened at me from the bottom of the pile.
I plunged my hand through the jumbled array of other grey papers, and dragged a dusty booklet to the surface – probably its first fresh air in decades!
I was greeted with this little beauty! What a design, what a photograph! Its amazing.
WHO ARE MEOPTA AND WHAT IS AN AXOMAT?
First thing to point out is that Meopta were a Czechoslovakian company that made basic and highly usable photographic equipment. The enlargers themselves are not the greatest in the world, but they are solid and fairly robust – and for basic darkroom printing, they fit the bill perfectly. For schools – they are ideal as they are also really cheap!
The Axomat was a range of enlargers they produced, from the 70’s onwards I guess.
I could go into a full on review as to the Meopta enlarger range – but from fear of boring 99% of the readers, I won’t! However, feel free to ask if you want some fascinating information on them!!!
BACK TO THE IMAGE…
I guess this must be how the Czechoslovakians chose it best to promote their enlarger – with an elegant lady, daintily raising her hand to the enlarger controls! What I like best is the fact that when in their meetings about the design and promotion for this piece of kit – a collective decision must have been made that this image best reflected the image they wished to portray.
HANG ON – WHY ISN’T EVERY DESIGNER AS GOOD AS RODCHENKO?
Thought I would stick this in as an interesting comparison! Now, I know that Czech was not formally a part of the USSR and they are not strictly neighbours. Czechoslovakia were communist post WWII for many years and, as I understand it a sort of independent satellite state of the Soviet union – so perhaps my link here is a weak one.
But, on with the point – check out this amazing poster for a biscuit factory, crafted by Alexander Rodchenko, for the Red October Biscuit Factory in around 1923.
So, that’s about 60 years earlier than the Axomat, for biscuits and is infinitely better designed and crafted than the Meopta marketing.
Many people would argue that an enlarger was a more exciting product than a biscuit (I am not sure I could ever agree with that), yet Rodchenko managed to make the poster much more dynamic and exciting.
Constructivism is an amazing and fascinating bi-product of Communism in Russia and it’s interesting how it did not filter down to all of the associated countries.
Now I am sure that Graphic Designers out there can point me in the direction of many amazing Czech designs – and they may also point out that the Meopta artwork is from the 80’s not 20’s. But humour me and lets all have a few cheers for the genius of Rodchenko (and Popova of course!) and how most graphic designers owe their entire style to these pioneers and are still not doing as well as they did back then!
LIFE IN A DARKROOM – THE MEOPTA WAY
Apologies. I went off topic, I shall pick up the story seamlessly…then I came across this beast on the inside cover. I can confirm it is exactly what life is like in a darkroom!
Now – ignore what I said earlier about Constructivism being great and once again humour my change in direction! I don’t know what it is, but there is something I really love about this sort of Graphic design – it seems really naive and basic, but endlessly appealing and amusing! I guess that’s the way things always go as cultural visual language moves on. In a few more decades, no doubt we will be looking back at current design and thinking how dated and simplistic it appears.
As far as I know, the Axomat 4 was produced int he early 80’s – yet this artwork seems to scream 70’s at me!