Visit Leica, the mythical camera that saved lives

The entire complex is thought, conceived, created, designed, distributed and built with exquisite taste. It would be said, but no, it cannot be said, that everything is excessively handsome, modern, perfect, impeccable. But that’s how it has been leica since it was created, since oskar barnackan expert in inventing microscopic, convinced his boss, Ernst Leitzback in the year 1914, that the future was in that chamber Ur-Leica that he had just invented and with which one could capture, kidnap, obtain photographs that, over the years, would end up becoming authentic works of art and, above all, essential material for people to know what was happening in the world, had memories of his life and, despite the appearance of television, more or less in the early 1950s, remained a unique instrument, even now that mobile phones exist, to communicate sensations and provoke the tingling of the people by seeing the images it produces analogically or digitally.

beautiful complex

If you have lived your childhood, youth, adolescence and profession surrounded by Leica cameras, cabinets full of Leica cameras, in Ronda Universidad 23, that is, ‘La Ronda’, you cannot help but take advantage of the transfer, the trip, the displacement of Sachsenringformer German Democratic Republic, to AssenNetherlands, from one grand prize to another, to visit, once again, the Leica factory, the mythical camera that rivals the Japanese (now Sony has taken a good bite out of all of them, especially Canon and Nikon), whose precious The complex is located in the German town of Wetzlar, a small city of 50,000 inhabitants, very close to Frankfurt.

It is a spectacular complex, with a hotel and cinema included, of course a beautiful gallery, a no less interesting Ernst Leitz museum (the name of leica comes from the union of I READtz and ACmera), a Vienna House and the factory itself full of highly sophisticated technology, of enormous precision, such as the optics, binoculars and microscopes that Leitz manufactured before making the leap to analog cameras, which would be popularized by the best photographers in the world and which are still now they serve to capture the best images, often in black and white because, as my father used to say, “life is in color, but photos have to be in black and white.” And if not tell the teachers Henri Cartier Bresson, Sebastião Salgado, Robert Cape, Thomas Hopker either albert korpaamong the many that appear on the walls of this wonderful complex, which, seen from the air, resembles immense binoculars.

historical portraits

When you enter Leica you enter a unique world where the first camera, with a 35-millimeter lens, that is, the closest thing to the human eye, mixes with the latest digital camera, a system that many believed would never apply the mythical German firm. It is curious that the first slogan, the phrase with which the already legendary Ur-Leica, invented by Oskar Barnack, was launched on the market, to the world, was “small negatives, large images”.

As big as that portrait of Che Guevara by Alberto Korpa; that ‘napalm wounded girl’ of Huynh Cong Ut, who has just turned 50; ‘victory day kiss’ by Alfred Eisenstaedt; ‘the death of a militiaman’, by Robert Capa or the impressive portrait of Muhammad Ali, fine fist, focused, face, serious, determined, aggressive, out of focus, by Thomas Hoepker.

One walks through the immense spaces of the Wetzlar’s Leitz Park and its spacious rooms, its impeccable walls dedicated with care to the best photographs in history (or a good part of it) and, above all, it stops at its showcases, beautiful and cleanly lit, where each and every one of the works of photographic and optical engineering that have turned Leica into the perfect machine and, as master Cartier-Bresson said one day, “in the extension, of my eye & rdquor ;, and ends up stopping at a counter, in the center of the main room of the Leica Gallery, which is almost impossible not to see.

It is something that, as I would say Johan Cruyff, causes you “fur chicken & rdquor ;. It is a Leica M4, from 1968, without a lens, silver and black, as Leicas should be, as Leicas always were, with a bullet impact, or several shrapnel impacts, or a burst of machine gun fire at the same point, near , very close to the viewfinder, which saved the life of John A.Schneiderphotographer of Newsweekin the meaningless years of the vietnam war. The camera, whose reverse bears the initials JAS, demonstrates, among other things, not only how strong, how tough, how resistant, how well made it was made, but also the fact that it, its predecessors and subsequent Leica cameras were, not only witnesses, but vital pieces so that seasoned photojournalists could (sorry, can) show the world the atrocities that occur in wars.

It is possible, yes, and all this is embodied in this complex surrounded by wonder and magic, that the idea that Barnak projected at the time of inventing the first Leica, in his curious work table, worthy of a writer more than a scientist of precision and optics, is perfectly suited to the instrument that every reporter needs: a small, fast, manageable camera that can be hidden and that captures several shots at once. That was what ended up making Leica the paradigm of journalistic, instant and author photography.

Leica changed everything

Not too long ago, at the opening of an exhibition in Brazil, a tribute to the Leica masters, someone wrote: “More than 100 years ago, something drastically changed the course of photography. The first Leica was born (…) Leica took the camera out of the studio and into real life. Decisive moments, known as snapshots, began to recreate our lives. We have been able to see, feel, smell thousands of moments. The camera, especially Leica, became an extension of the photographer’s eye. The joy, the pain, the everyday scenes, the good and the bad, the horrible, the fear, the losers, the winners, the misery. The war from within. One image contaminating the others. The most iconic images in history, even those that were not taken by a Leica, were taken ‘because of’ Leica & rdquor ;.

There is not much color on the walls of the Wetzlar’s Leitz Park nor in the perfect and inimitable buildings of Leica. There can’t be. Leica is history and history is analog. And in black and white. And the portraits that hang on the walls of the Leica Gallery are shocking. And not only that Che Guevara, That it is; that black fist, almost blue husband, threatening Muhammad Ali, That it is; that girl burned in napalm, which is; that machine-gunned militiaman, which he is, too, and, of course, that immense photograph of a man urinating in a public bathroom, on the walls of which there are four portraits, each one more beautiful, of the very Marilyn Monroemischievous, smiling, in black and white, which it is.

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Strolling through the Leica complex in Wetzlar, you don’t quite get the idea that the master Sebastião Salgado he could be right when, just five years ago, he sensed that photography was ending “because what we see on the mobile is not photography, no. Photography has to materialize, you have to print it, see it and touch it”.

This is how this beautiful Leica house is, the camera that has become eternal, an icon, an emblem, a way of living and telling and/or denouncing and/or enjoying what happens. The camera capable of saving lives.

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