Photojournalist turned equipment entrepreneur designed his first products in his garage for himself and his friends, then grew to a global business.
Lino Manfrotto, founder of the world famous camera gear company known especially for their line of tripods, passed away on Sunday in his hometown of Bassano del Grappa, Italy.
Manfrotto got his start working as a photographer. He was doing photojournalism work along with the occasional advertising or industrial gig when he grew frustrated with the options available for camera and lighting support. Like many inventors in photographic and cinema history, he took his frustration and built the tools he needed for himself. There was a wide variety of studio flash and quartz units available to light his shots, but stands, booms and clamps were heavy and outdated. Working in his garage, he built his own lightweight light stand with the flexibility to put the light where he wanted it. Working initially for himself and his friends, he slowly grew the business on his own until meeting Gilberto Battocchio in 1972, a mechanical technician with whom he would partner for the product on which the company would make their name. In 1974, they released the first Manfrotto Tripod.
Most filmmakers have owned a Manfrotto tripod at some point in their career, and it's probably fair to assume that every filmmaker has used one at least once; their tools are simply that ubiquitous. They continued to grow to distributing in over 140 countries by 1988 when they were purchased by the Vitec group, an English tripod company. They currently have more than 30% of the worldwide tripod market, and have expanded to all levels of the industry, bringing their well thought-out design even to tabletop products like the Pixi.
Manfrotto the company remains based in the same town it was founded, Bassano del Grappa, which is also where Mr. Manfrotto passed away on Sunday. In 1991 he turned the ground floor of his home into a library and bookshop celebrating the history of the company, and in 2010 he launched the online Manfrotto School of Xcellence for photography and video.