Leica Camera: Creating History of Photography for Another 100 Years

Leica Akademie Italy

The Ur-Leica, first 35mm camera

Close to Duomo di Milano, next to top galleries and museums of Milano, in Via Giuseppe Mangoni 4, you will find the gallery-store of Leica Akademie Italy, a must-visit photography spot in Milano. The gallery has a lot to offer to those interested in photography and even just the passers-by. It accommodates a photography bookstore, an exhibition area with works of great masters and young photographers, and a store of Leica camera with rather non-ordinary services.

Leica Akademie was founded in Italy in 2012 with stores in Firenze, Roma, Bologna, Torino and the only gallery in all over Italy in Milano, where permanent and temporary exhibitions are being hosted.

Inspired by the Leica gallery activities, we’ve decided to dive into the history of Leica to discover why it has changed the course of history of photography and what it offers now.

History of Leica camera

Founded in 1869 in Wetzler, Germany, Leica (former name — Leitz) was initially producing microscopes and binoculars in general. It is actually the first producer of microscopes. The name of Leica is closely related to the name of Oskar Barnack, the inventor of the first full-frame 35mm.

Oskar Barnack was asthmatic and had a lung ailment, which made it very difficult for him to go out and take photos. Since 1905, Barnack had the idea of reducing the format of negatives and enlarging the photographs after they had been exposed. At that time cameras were heavy, difficult to transport and had to be supported on tripods. The luxury of printing a photo with larger dimensions is the merit of Oskar Barnack whose motto was “small negative, large picture”.

Driven by the need of spending much time in nature, especially in the mountains and capturing life with a camera without the usual heavy equipment, in 1914 Barnack designs the first ever portable full frame camera of 35m, with a 34x36mm double frame width instead of 18x24mm. In his notes, Barnack refers to the first prototype as “liliput camera” which is better known now as Ur-Leica. Barnack was a film lover, thus the first model of Ur-Leica designed in 1912–1913, had the purpose to test film for movies.

Despite its compactness, Leica camera was capable to fit a very high-quality lens, allowing photographers to work with very minimal effort outdoors, without any equipment, from any angle and without prior preparation.

It is worth mentioning also the name of Max Berek, whose role was instrumental in developing a 50mm lens for the camera which is up until now a standard for Leica camera.

The birth of portable camera opens a new page for the world of photography. It gives start to a new genre of photography where the man documents nature and environment. Barnack’s series of photos of nature are the earliest illustrations of the man-nature relationships.

The production of Leica camera starts in 1925 reaching from 100 to 1000 samples per month.

Selection of Leica Cameras since 1914

Legendary photos done with Leica camera

Leica is one of the most celebrated names in photography. Many memorable photographs and historic moments, have been created with UR-Leica.

Leica sparks also the growth of Photojournalism of 20th century.

Needless to say, that Barnack himself was the first user of his miniature camera. Among portraits and group photos, there is also an extensive number of events, landscapes, mountains captured by Barnack. The floods of the Wetzlar, where under difficult conditions, Barnack captures the devastation caused by the flood, is the first photo series done with 35mm.

© Leica Camera AG, Flood in Wetzlar 1920, Oskar Barnack

Some iconic and historical done with Leica camera

© Leica Camera AG, |left to right| The flag of victory — Yevgeny Khaldei, 1945; At the Marne — Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1938
© Leica Camera AG, |left to right| LZ 129 “Hindenburg” at its mooring mast at Rhine-Main airport — Dr. Paul Wolff and Alfred Tritschler, 1936; Le Peintre de la Tour Eiffel — Marc Riboud, 1953
© Leica Camera AG, |left to right| Self-portrait — UMBO (aka Otto Umbehr), 1952; V-J Day — Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1945

Leica Akademie in Milano

Leica Akademie in Milano is a unique spot in the city centre, as it combines the Leica history and heritage with the pursuit to continue to impact the photography culture. “The best image as the motivation” motto comes to say that Leica aims at creating history of photography for another 100 years.

Driven with this motivation, Leica Milano has grown into a non-formal educational hub: it accommodates an exhibition area with permanent and temporary exhibitions of masters of photography and young photographers.

Leica Akademie delivers online and offline courses, master classes and workshops covering different genres and techniques of photography for beginners in photography.

The Leica library is another great source to discover the history of photography and see the masterpieces of great photographers of 20th century.

Leica customer services truly helps you to understand what Leica camera is about. The staff gives technical insights to discover all the secrets of Leica cameras and lenses. To educate the beginners and reveal the Leica functionality, Leica store gives out the camera to its customers for a free testing session in the city of Milano!

The Master course in Photography at Raffles Milano is in collaboration with Leica Akademie Italy.



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