Not all heroes wear capes. Peter B. Cooper who is not some big-name philanthropist or billionaire decided to sell his ARRI ALEXA Mini LF and use that money to buy a new CNC machine for Iron Glass.
Now, if you are not familiar with Iron Glass, they are a lens rehousing company from Ukraine. Like Peter, I bought some of their earliest lenses back when they first started out putting PL mounts and focus gears on old vintage lenses.
The people of Ukraine have been suffering ever since Russia chose to invade around 19 months ago. Many people have lost their lives, and their livelihoods and no one knows when it will end.
I caught up with Peter B. Cooper to ask him about what he did and why he did it.
What inspired you to sell your camera and then use that money to buy a CNC machine for them?
My good friends at Iron Glass in Ukraine have been through a lot, and the ongoing war has cost them so much. Their cinema lenses make stunning images enjoyed by movie lovers worldwide.— Peter B. Cooper (@peterbcooper) October 3, 2023
So I sold my Alexa Mini LF, and used that money to help get them a new CNC machine.
I knew that maintenance of one of their older CNC machines was starting to cause them real trouble. When it broke down and was seemingly beyond repair there was talk of replacing it with a new one from America, but it might be a year before they were able to free up the kind of cash to be able to get it installed. I knew I had to do something.
My ALEXA Mini LF, which is one of the best cinema cameras in the world, and a camera I was absolutely in love with, was sitting on the shelf between jobs. Being down such an amazing tool is tough, but supporting friends in need was more important, so the decision to sell it was a simple one for me.
Making a donation is one thing, but what you did goes far above that. Did you discuss the idea with Iron Glass or did you just go ahead and do it?
Of course, any equipment purchase like this requires proper preparation and planning. When I reached out, they immediately said they would make good on the money and pay me back as soon as possible, which I knew for sure they would. Within a day we were making preparations to get the money to Haas Automation in the US and a couple of weeks later the machine was at their door. The first I knew of the CNC machine being installed was when I saw a beautiful video on Twitter from their media team.
What was this reaction when you told them what they were doing?
They were absolutely over the moon. They are ambitious guys and do everything they can day in and day out to improve their operations, even with a war raging in their country. To know they have the support of so many people overseas is a huge deal for them.
For those who don’t know what Iron Glass does, what is their background and what do they do?
Iron Glass is a team of vintage lens engineers specializing in modifying Soviet-era optics. In the last few years, they have branched out into the rehousing industry, allowing otherwise unusable optics to be used on professional sets.
A big focus for them has been rehousing more budget optics, at prices indie filmmakers can more easily afford. But they’re not just indie tools, as lenses modified and rehoused by Iron Glass have been used on recent movies such as The Batman, The Pope’s Exorcist and also The Creator, which is out in theaters right now.
A lot of people may not be familiar with IronGlass and know that they are a Ukrainian company. How have they been affected by the ongoing war?
The invasion understandably wrought havoc, at work and at home. When the invasion began and ballistic missiles were raining down, members of the Iron Glass staff and their families were living in the basement of one of the workshops for their own safety. Supply issues slowed down production. Shipping was impossible for months. Equipment maintenance became an issue. Even now, one of their two workshops and much of their earlier inventory remains in Russian-held territory. They have worked on it in spite of it all. You have to admire that resilience and dedication. I respect them beyond words.
How did you first hear about IronGlass and how long have you known the team there?
I think I bought my first Iron Glass lens for my Canon 7D in 2017. A modified Helios 44-2. I was in love with the thing from Day 1. It was only a couple of years later that Iron Glass and Alan Besedin over at Vintage Lenses For Video offered their first Helios rehousing. I have been an early adopter ever since. I have their Mk.II Soviet lens rehousing and they are a pleasure to use.
What do you hope comes out of what you did?
Above all, I want to see Iron Glass continue to thrive. The machine we managed to acquire will get even more lenses into the hands of DPs and ACs all over the world, and hopefully lead to more amazing optics lines being rehoused in the future. The Iron Glass team is ambitious and anything I can do to empower that ambition is worthwhile.
If other people want to make donations or help out in any way who can they contact?
I think the best way to support not just Iron Glass but the vintage lens movement as a whole is by getting behind fun projects like theirs and shooting on old glass we all know and love.
Iron Glass has just announced an incredible project rehousing old East German Zeiss Jena lenses that I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on. Their Mk.II housing they just debuted is phenomenal. I know they want more new machines to further improve production and efficiency, and if others want to help out Iron Glass the way I did I am sure they would be ecstatic!
Here are a couple of links to their most recent products:
Iron Glass is just one company and there are many people in the Ukraine who need our support. There are quite a few organizations out there that are taking donations, so if you are interested in helping out I encourage you to do some research to see what you can do.
Peter Cooper is a filmmaker and vintage lens enthusiast based in Tokyo. Though his primary work is currently in animation, he is regularly involved in the Tokyo independent film scene as well as consulting overseas, particularly in the realm of vintage lens rehousing. You can follow him on Twitter or Instagram.