Design and quality. The Leica name stands for workmanship made in Germany. Without Leica, the history of photography would have to be rewritten.
It was a new way of looking at the world. With »Behind the Gare St. Lazare«, Henri Cartier-Bresson shot one of the most influential photographs of all time; »The Falling Soldier« on the battlefields of the Spanish Civil War made Robert Capa a household name; and the iconic image of Che Guevara by Alberto Korda would not have been possible without this innovation.
In the early 1930s Leica became the first practical compact camera that made it possible to document life in real time. Photographer René Burri called it the »most magnificent shooting equipment« in the world. Leica marked a paradigm shift in photography that would change not only the early picture journalism of the 1920s and 1930s, but photography in its entirety. A similar revolution would not be seen again until decades later with the arrival of digital photography and smartphones.
And to think that the first Leica was something of a byproduct. Ernst Leitz Wetzlar GmbH, the predecessor of Leica Camera, originally developed optical instruments such as telescopes, episcopes and epidiascopes as well as professional film cameras. At the beginning of the 20th century Oskar Barnack, head of the company’s film camera development, came up with the idea for a compact camera that would make test exposures on standard 35 mm cinema film in order to avoid having to open the main magazine for the necessary exposure testing.
Barnack quickly realised that the compact camera was capable of making truly good photographs and in 1914 he built two prototypes of a snapshot camera with the 24 x 36 mm format. The only surviving example, the Ur-Leica, has an insurance value of about two million euros, presumably making it one of the world’s most expensive cameras.
Today Leica photographers exhibit their works all over the world and the people behind the camera are as famous as some of their subjects.
One of the most prominent Leica photographers is Lenny Kravitz. The rock star saw his first Leica when he was six years old, when his father brought one home from Vietnam. He later began taking photographs himself, including pictures of those people who were taking pictures of him: fans, paparazzi and photographers. »Turning my camera on these people helped me to get a better look at myself and at my own crazy life,« he said. In 2015 the exhibition »Flash by Lenny Kravitz« celebrated its German premiere. In Wetzlar, of course.
Even the café at Leica Gallery Prague is a photogenic place.
LEICA GALLERY WETZLAR: Leica Camera AG, Am Leitz-Park 5, 35578 Wetzlar, www.leica-camera.com >> Leica Galleries
VIENNA HOUSE EASY LIMBURG: Schiede 10, 65549 Limburg an der Lahn
LEICA GALLERY PRAGUE: Školská 28, 110 00 Prague 1, www.lgp.cz
ANDEL’S BY VIENNA HOUSE PRAGUE: Stroupežnického 21, 15000 Prague 5
ANGELO BY VIENNA HOUSE PRAGUE: Radlicka 1g, 15000 Prague 5
VIENNA HOUSE DIPLOMAT PRAGUE: Evropská 15, 16041 Prague 6
VIENNA HOUSE EASY CHOPIN PRAGUE: Opletalova 960/33, 11000 Prague 1
TRZECIE OKO. PHOTO GALLERY: ul. Bocheńska 5/2, 31-619 Cracow, trzecieoko.com
ANDEL’S BY VIENNA HOUSE CRACOW: ul Pawia 3, 31-154 Cracow
VIENNA HOUSE EASY CHOPIN CRACOW: Przy Rondzie 2, 31-547 Cracow