When I look across the clutter of our spare room we call the library, my eyes frequently fall upon my 1930s-era camera. I should put that up for sale, I frequently think to myself. Oddly, I don’t even see everything else in the room, my eyes are drawn to the shining chrome.
Click on any image in this article to see it full size, then scroll through a slideshow of all photographs
So I pick up the small object to move it aside and everything changes. For some reason, it just feels so good to hold: The same illogical reason why I purchased it years ago in the first place. There’s some satisfaction in just touching this quality object. A connection with the past perhaps?
The next evening, a conversation with my friend turns to this subject and I’m explaining the tail-chasing spin about this particular object of desire. Putting energy into thinking about simple, physical objects is sometimes an escape from the more difficult, abstract and unsolvable circles in our minds. And sometimes it is the cause of those empty circles as well. There is an appeal of minimalism here.
I pause for a moment and look at my friend, who has been through this before. He calmly says, “Dan, some things are simply nice to have.”
Somehow, that justified everything. Since then, I have put this object in the hands of the many people I meet. For a moment, there is an expression or appreciation that they are holding something solid and unique. “It’s built like a steam engine,” a new friend marvels. Sharing a small, simple moment of connection is something nice to have!
Collaborators, above: Jimmy James (in tee-shirt), Emily Wilde (finger framing), Tooby (model with orange hair), Geiko Toshimana & Maiko Fukuno arrangements by Maiko Net
Takis Astrodakis, a long time Leica Society member, talks about his perkonal quest:
“I was looking for a camera of the month and year I was born. Upon obtaining the camera, I wrote to the factory (Leica Wetzlar) who provided the date it was made, despatched and where it was destined.
“My pristine 1941 Leica IIIc camera was sent to occupied France, a Paris news agency.
“Then one camera just led to another.”
It’s been five years since I thought of clearing the room out and selling off more cameras. Nothing has changed, but I found joy in using 1930s Leica as a handsome prop.
What is your favourite or most interesting piece that you cannot justify owning? Perhaps Some Things are Nice to Have is enough.
Nice idea Dan. Where can I get the model with the rear screen that the chap with the upturned lute is using? The young guy with the beard reminds me of the photo that the young Stanley Kubrick took of himself in a mirror with an LTM Leica in the late 1940s. Were you trying to channel that?
Similar to our mutual friend Takis, I have a lot of c model Leicas from 1949, the year I was born. The closest I have come with my collection is a Leica IIIc that was delivered to Hamburg, just 3 days before I was born. I handed that camera loaded with film to a good friend and asked him to take my picture with it for my 70th birthday last year.
In my case, the collector disease has gone so far that it is better to ask what ones could I not justify letting go of. In my case it would be my father’s Super Baldina, the afore-mentioned IIIc, a Leica II Model D, which was delivered in Dublin in the Summer of 1932 and which is engraved with the name and address of the Dublin dealer who sold it and, of course, my brass Grubb Aplanatic lenses which were made in Dublin in the 1850s and 1860s. All of them have a personal and location connection for me.
re: Stanley Kubrick style portrait – we actually weren’t aiming for that, but the motivation for the shoot was to promote a Gatsby themed charity ball targeted at film makers. The green on the side of his face was inspired by ‘the green light’ passage in the book.
For your collection, you can change the perspective that your 500 cameras are just one item that is nice to have and that is a collection of cameras!
Thanks Dan. Yes, the Gatsby green light works well. I must think about that 500 cameras target for a while, before I add to my collection again. I am doing a Zoom Webinar for LHSA in August called ‘Choosing and Using Old Leicas’. Perhaps I should change the name to “Choosing, Using and Losing Old Leicas’.
I look forward to meeting you again in Buxton, next year.
William, you forgot to mention the photo next to the one you describe. It has a woman taking close-up images of flowers with the IIIc and standard 50 Elmar. Sorry to say, her picture will not be in focus. The only thing worse is to not have the lens extended to taking position.
There is a commercial airing here in America with similar user errors. It depicts an older woman using a ltm Leica taking close-ups of her grand daughter with a butterfly on her finger from less than 12″ away. Again, good luck with those images!
Thanks Bill. I know Dan for some years now and what I said was meant to be a humorous exchange among friends. I wonder if Jack Nicholson was taught how to use the Leica which he had in ‘Chinatown’? He was shooting with a 135mm Hektor or Elmar if I remember correctly. They were the not easiest lenses to use. Certainly Stanley Kubrick was able to use a Leica and was actually using the one that he took a photograph of himself with. That young man in the ‘Gatsby’ shot above would look like a young Kubrick if he shaved off his beard. Speaking of film and TV, it would be nice to actually own a Leica that appeared in a classic film if it were possible to confirm that. That is my ‘inner collector’ coming out.
Hope all goes well in Chicago.
Wonderful images Dan.
Your use of varied subject lighting is special.
An old Leica like this is certainly a substantial and iconic piece of design, I had a 1932 Leica iii for a while, and kick myself for selling it when I think about it.
A slightly more modern one like the c or f is something that is on my “to find” list, since not only are they photogenic, as tools they are very practical too. I even have a good 1949 example of the 50mm Summitar waiting for it.
They don’t make them like this any more!
Stunning images Dan. A great piece of art.
What a wonderful series of images, all built around that amazing historic prop.
I loved this, and the images are just exceptional.
Thank you for cheering up my day.
Wow! I love your creative and skilled talent at portraits. You inspire and yet intimidate me with your gorgeous images. I want to pursue portraiture in the future and you are certainly a master to be my muse.
Terrific article! Bill R saw that commercial got give em 5 points for trying! When lady time u saw film camera on tv? Anyone got one from
Oct 47, they want sell, that’s working. Like that birthday idea. Thanks for the portraits.
Should read last time.
Nice variety of subjects. And background. And colour.
You used a vintage Leica to take the photos as well?
They weren’t taken with a vintage Leica, but all of them were taken with a Leica M9 or M10.
Thank you everyone for your supportive comments.
I have more portraits from this series here: