Over the years, Leicas have developed a reputation for being superb imaging devices. These days, they’ve become objects of desire, more to be possessed than used, but it wasn’t always so. They weren’t the first to adapt 35mm cine film to still photography, but they had the first practical and commercially successful implementation. Compact and robust at a time when cameras were generally much more cumbersome, they quickly became the tool of choice for – amongst others - photojournalists and street photographers who often needed to be fast and discreet. The ranks of Leica shooters through the first half of the 20th century (before the rise of the Japanese giants) is a roll-call of greats. Ray, Capa, Cartier-Bresson, Arbus, Winogrand and Newton and many others used them to great effect.
I first shot this little classic a few months ago, but wasn’t completely satisfied with the result. At the time I included a light meter in the composition, but despite being more than 50 years old, it looked out of place with the 30s vintage camera. I decided to have another go. I often find that when I try re-shooting a scene, I have trouble improving on the original. I think I’ve managed it this time, primarily because I left out the obviously plastic light meter.
Handling this gem from another era is a tactile treat. It has a satisfying solidity and heft that’s most modern cameras lack, and I feel lucky to have been trusted with it. I wish I was game enough to put a roll of film through it and see what It can do, but I think that would probably be taking things a little too far.
Once again simple diffuse window light has proved very effective, with a piece of white card to bounce some light back into the shadows. I wanted to keep the books in the background blurred, and while I could have done that in post to some extent, I prefer natural lens blur if I can get it. I took several shots at a relatively wider aperture (f5.6)and stacked them in Photoshop.
Olympus E-5, Zuiko Digital 12060mm lens.
Leica Model II (Introduced 1932), 50MM F2.5 Hektor lens, original cable release and yellow filter.