Before the annual conference in Dublin last week, the US-based LHSA (Leica Historical Society of America) changed its name to LSI, Leica Society International, to reflect the organisation’s growing international focus.
The four-day conference, which ran from Wednesday to Saturday, brought delegates worldwide to Dublin’s Davenport Hotel. It was the ideal scene for presentations by leading photographers, technical experts and Leica management, including Stefan Daniel and lens design guru Peter Karbe.
William Fagan, LSI Vice President and Treasurer, did a superb job organising and chairing the extensive programme of talks and activities, while the LSI’s Richard Rejino did an equally good job in handling the logistics of the event.
The sessions with world-class photographers, including Sarah Lee (who spoke earlier this year at the UK Leica Society’s meeting in Buxton), were a highlight of the week. They included Eric Luke, the Irish photographer and LSI member who won the World Press Photo News Award for an image of the funeral of Mother Teresa in Kolkata, and Ana Maria Gosen of Venezuela, who secured the LSI Grant in 2020 and the Leica Oskar Barnack Award in 2021.
On Thursday evening, we had the opportunity to meet one of Ireland’s leading photographers, Tony O’Shea, at the Photo Museum of Ireland, of which William is the chairperson. Tony is justly famous for his street photography depicting Dublin and Irish life and has been a Leica user for over 40 years. But, as William Fagan pointed out, this was the first time that he had spoken publicly about his work.
Monika Bulaj received this year’s LSI Grant Award during the final dinner on Saturday night. Judges and guests were entertained by a stunning portfolio of her work in recording the plight of minorities. Alan Weinschel, a former LSI president who was on the initial judging panel, said, “As soon as I saw Monika’s work, I realised it was exceptional. I had identified the winner, almost without needing to see the other contestants’ work.”
In addition to her $5,000 grant, Monika received a Leica M10-R with a special-edition 50mm lens donated by Leica USA.
This opportunity to celebrate photography at its highest level was just one aspect of the busy conference schedule. Robin Sinha from Leica UK’s Leica Akademie provided a fascinating, detailed comparison between two of the most popular cameras in the current line-up, the M11 and the Q2, and provided invaluable insight into making the most of both these cameras.
From Austria, we welcomed Michal Kosakowski of the Leitz Photographica Auction and Dennis Iwaskiewicz of Leica Classics GmbH. They provided an entertaining overview of the auction business, including the story behind Oskar One Zero Five, the camera that sold in June for €14.4 million. We also got previews of some of the valuable items that will be featured in the forthcoming November auction, which William Fagan will cover for Macfilos before and after the event.
Highlights of the week for many were the presentations by Stefan Daniel, Executive Vice President Technology and Operations at Wetzlar, and the legendary Peter Karbe, who took us through the history of optics from Isaac Newton to Carl Zeiss and the present day.
Peter is so obviously enthusiastic about optical design and the qualities of glass. Only he could go weak at the knees when describing his favourite glass, which he identified as No. 900 403. These six digits, he said, were constantly in his mind. As William Fagan said, Peter Karbe is not just one of the world’s foremost optical designers; he has now become part of the history of optics that he so ably summarised.
Stefan Daniel’s talk was intended to be an informal chat about current models and Leica’s approach to the market (he told me), but it turned into an absolutely fascinating 45 minutes, with a lively question-and-answer session. There was too much to summarise here so I will write a separate article on Stefan’s presentation for publication later in the week.
Leica’s chairman, Dr Andreas Kaufmann, had intended to be present in Dublin but was prevented from travelling at the last minute after feeling unwell. Instead, he sent a video to underline his continuing support for the work of the LSI.
In his closing address on Saturday, William Fagan thanked Leica UK and Leica Akademie UK for supporting Sarah Lee and Robin Sinha. He also thanked Leica Manchester and David Stephens for working with Leitz Auction and Leica Akademie Austria to provide a ‘Leica on Loan’ service at the conference. Finally, he thanked Stefan Daniel, Peter Karbe and Christoph Müller (Senior Product Manager, Leica M) from Leica AG for their contributions to the conference and for the company’s continued support for the Leica user.
Above: Leica M Product manager Christoph Müller and Peter Karbe, perhaps the world’s leading designer of photographic optics (Mike Evans)
He said he could not think of another manufacturer in this field where ordinary users had the opportunity to meet and quiz the people responsible for designing, developing and marketing their chosen brand.
William also paid tribute to the late Eamonn McCabe, who died just before the start of the conference. Eamonn was a giant of British photography. He was Sports Photographer of the Year four times and Picture Editor of the Year for a record six years in a row. He also gave Sarah Lee her first job with The Guardian and acted on the LSI Grant Award Panel in 2022.
Joining the LSI
The LSI is open to members from any part of the world. The annual conference is held in a different and interesting location every year, but there is a lively programme of member-participation events during the year.
Next year’s annual conference is set to be a very special occasion. It will be held at the Leica campus in Wetzlar for the first time since 2018 and will represent a splendid opportunity for delegates to see the factory and meet the people responsible for maintaining and developing this iconic brand.
Just when I was feeling quietly pleased with myself after putting this article to bed, Jonathan Slack sent me a few of his “snaps” of activities during the week, so I’ve incorporated some in the above article at the risk of upstaging my efforts. Thank you, Jono, for the great portrait shots you did of me. I will impose them on our long-suffering readers in the future.
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