Last month I attended the AGM of the LHSA — the International Leica Society — in Boston, Mass. I’d enjoyed last year’s outing at Wetzlar and made many new friends in the world-wide Leica scene, so I didn’t need much persuasion to make my plans to fly to the USA this time around.
At the annual dinner during the event, Dr Andreas Kaufmann, the Chairman of Leica Camera AG, showed the following slide, which featured, among others, Louis Armstrong looking into a Leica.
I am a member of the Louis Armstrong House Museum which holds Louis’s Archives, but I had never seen this before. I don’t believe that Louis ever had a Leica. The later jazz trumpeter, Miles Davis, had an M3 and famously always kept it on the settings suggested by the store clerk who sold it to him.
It is interesting that Louis’s picture is shown juxtaposed with that of actress Charlotte Rampling, who appeared, lolling around the floor, in Woody Allen’s film Stardust Memories, while Woody celebrated the perfect Sunday morning by listening to Louis’s version of ‘Stardust’, which was one of the favourite versions of the song’s author, Hoagy Carmichael.
M into the future
Enough about jazz. In his speech. Dr Kaufmann emphasised that the Leica M had an assured place in Leica’s future. He also congratulated the LHSA on the success of the joint venture with Leica whereby the introduction of special membership offers in Leica system camera boxes had resulted in a trebling of the membership of LHSA from about 800 to over 2,500. Here is a video interview, which Dr Kaufmann made with LHSA while he was in Boston
On the first day of the event, we paid a visit to the Leica Store and Gallery in Boston. Some of us decided to walk across Boston Common to get to the event. There I took this photo of my good friend and LHSA colleague, Wilbur Norman.
Wilbur and I, along with fellow LHSA member, James Handsfield, visited the graveyard near the Common where we saw this appropriately dressed young man showing the grave of John Hancock, the first (and largest) signatory of the United States Declaration of Independence.
Boston Leica Store
When we got to the store we met the much-respected Leica expert and author, Jim Lager, looking bemused at all the goodies on display and probably thinking, “it was not like this at Ken Hansen’s”.
With my new role as a director at the Gallery of Photography in Dublin, I was particularly interested in the Leica Gallery, which had an exhibition, called ‘Slant Rhymes’, by Magnum Photographer Alex Webb and his wife Rebecca Norris Webb.
According to a distinguished professor on our board in Dublin, ‘slant rhymes’ (also called feminine rhymes) are words and ideas almost, but not quite, the same. In the exhibition, the photos by Webb and his wife are shown side by side in pairs and featured common themes or colours or locations.
What amused me was when the manager of the Store and the curator of the exhibition gave us a little talk they were doing it side by side in the form of slant rhymes, almost but not quite the same.
The second day of the event started with talks by three photographers. First up was Pulitzer Prize winner (for his 9/11 photos for the New York Times) Ed Keating. I had met Ed in the hotel restaurant the previous night and we got on well, particularly when it emerged that his ancestors had come from Cork and he was wearing a Donegal wool pullover.
Ed started his presentation by saying that he brought no photographs and I could feel the sentiment in the room falling, but he then went to give us a most wonderful talk for an hour, straight from the heart, about his career and what photography meant to him, which earned him what was a ‘standing ovation’ by LHSA standards.
He started by describing a chance meeting with Richard Avedon and then went on to describe how he had got to work with Robert Frank. His speech was not mere name-dropping, though, as he went deep into what it meant to him to be a photographer.
Next up was Sean Patrick Reid, with no Irish connections despite the name1, who featured recently on this site, see his website. There is a paywall, but it’s worth every cent in my opinion. After Sean’s talk I discussed his sojourn in my country in the 1980s, as an artist in residence with the Arts Council, and he had even remembered some words of Irish relating to photography from that time
Finally, we had Constantine ‘Costa’ Manos, who is one of the most under-rated of the great Magnum photographers.
I had been familiar with Costa’s work for some time and had met him in Chicago in 2017. Like a fine wine, his work improves with age and, what is more, he is a complete gentleman, only too willing to discuss photography even with the most amateur of amateurs, like myself.
In the afternoon we went on a boat trip around Boston Harbour. Here is LHSA Executive Director Richard Rejino enjoying a well-deserved break at the start of the trip.
The members on the boat trip included Rosalynn Tay (below), a very talented photographer from Singapore who is a great supporter of the Leica brand. She will be featured in the next issue of the LHSA’s Viewfinder magazine and will even capture the front cover. She is a new member and cancelled her previous plans to come to Boston to be with the group.
There were some local members on the trip, including Sean Sweeney from Boston who enjoyed looking at his native city from the water.
I presume that I don’t have to say where his folks came from originally and we had a good chat while on the boat.
The craft in the harbour were many and varied and for a moment, with this one in the foreground, I thought that I was on the Mississippi.
The formal dinner that night, with the aforementioned Dr Kaufmann as the main speaker, was a good social opportunity to meet old friends such as Dan Tamarkin, the Leica dealer and auctioneer from Chicago.
With the meeting over, I stayed in Boston for a couple of days to see some of the sights, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, where I was moved by the truly magnificent photographs from the Howard Greenberg Collection. The main exhibition while I was there included treasures from ancient Nubia, but the building which houses the museum was also a treasure in itself.
After the museum, I went to see the Trinity Church in Copley Square and on my way in I noted a celebration of the life of Imam Husayn, one of the founders of Shia Islam.
On the way out of the Trinity Church I spotted another event in the square, a protest against the Government of Lebanon. Clearly, the right to free speech holds sway in Boston.
On my last morning in Boston I went for a walk around the neighbouring Beacon Hill to see the lovely houses and Autumn (Fall for the locals) leaves and seasonal decorations.
My journey ended at the Massachusetts State House, beside the home of the previously mentioned John Hancock, who was the first and third governor of the state.
As ever, the LHSA annual meeting was a very enjoyable event and I was also able to see Boston, a city with close ties to my country, in more detail than on previous short visits. Next year, the event will be in Seattle and in 2021 the plan is to have it in my home city of Dublin. Macfilos readers will be very welcome to come to see and enjoy Dublin. We are already working on a program for the event.
- [Editor’s Note]: William, you are failing. This is the very first time you have been unable to find an Irish connection to any camera, place, person or object on earth. I am disappointed. ↩