Michael Warshall, executive director of the Nulab Group, has sold the bulk of the business to long-established Horsham-based high volume photo lab, HC Pro.
HC Pro was established as Horsham Colour by an icon of the Australian photographic industry, Brian Murray in 1968, and purchased by current managing director (and former accountant) Bruce Wilson four years ago. The Nulab business will be moved from the south-eastern Melbourne suburb of Braeside to Horsham, in western Victoria, over Christmas.
Michael Warshall founded Nulab in 1980, when as a photographer he became frustrated with the quality of photographic printing he was being offered.
‘I’m really sorry to see a real character of the industry moving on,’ observed Peter Rose, former executive director of the PMA. ‘He has done an amazing job of promoting his business. Well done Mike!’ Michael was an active participant in industry associations over many years.
– However, Michael will not be moving on entirely. He will stay with HC Pro as ‘Director of Innovation’ for up to two years.
‘I will be around working with Nulab customers to help grow the business,’ he said. ‘Nulab has always been customer-centric rather than production-centric’. He identified encouraging more photographers to print, rather than simply selling digital image files, as critical for the survival of photography as a profession. (Not to mention photo labs!)
‘If it’s not printed it’s not real and they are not going to make a lot of money with digital files.’
The sale encompasses Nulab Professional Imaging and NuShots – the professional and consumer photo print service businesses in the Nulab Group – much of Nulab’s hardware and software, and customer lists. It does not include Nulab Media (commercial print-on-demand).
Nor does it include what is at the technological heart of the Nulab business, its Indigo digital presses. HC Pro already had Kodak Nexpress equipment.
Nulab was the first professional photo lab in the world to migrate entirely from silver halide to Indigo technology, and in the early days at least Michael would probably concede he was on ‘the bleeding edge’ of photo printing technology.
He worked hard with HP over the past decade to bring the quality achievable via Indigo equipment up to silver halide standard. Nulab’s two Indigo 7800s have been expertly set up for photographic printing and will be sold on the open market.
‘These printers now deliver a better dynamic range than silver halide,’ Michael told ProCounter.
In the last three years the work with HP has focussed on the development of a new Light Light Black ink. He said other printers around the world are now using the new ink and told printing website ProPrint it has completely changed digital printing.
Brian Wilson has indicated that HC Pro will absorb a few Nulab staff (presumably given they are happy to relocate) but that others will lose their jobs. Around 30 Nulab staff were made redundant last Monday. (‘One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,’ Michael commented.)
He said the decision was prompted by a discussion with his wife about six months ago in which it was brought home to him there were only 14 years until he reached the average lifespan of the Australian male. It was time to step back a bit and spend more time with the family: ‘consolidate and smell the roses’. His wedding/portrait business, Michaeal Warshall Photography, is also up for sale, as is the building from which it currently operates.
Michael bows out on a high note, having just topped the vote in the 2017 ProPrint Power 50 Innovation and Influence. Nulab has consistently won printing industry print awards, particularly in the photo book category, both in Australia and the US.
This year he entered Nulab in the American Premier Print Awards. Eight categories were entered for eight awards including the top award, the Benny, for digital printing and novelty books.
‘There were 2200 entries, and this was chosen as it exemplifies the highest standards in the printing industry,’ the judges wrote. ‘The Benny goes to those firms who create a visual masterpiece.’