Leica: Witness to a Century

Leica: Witness to a Century

Leica: Witness to a Century The Leica is both a product of the twentieth century's inventive spirit and the means by which that spirit could be documented for posterity. As the first handheld camera, the Leica made possible a new kind of documentary photography, and included among its devoted fans are many of the century's greatest photographers. Its combined qualities of precision and compactness made it an essential tool for photographers everywhere, and today more than ever the Leica is prized by collectors.

From Publishers Weekly

With the development of the 35mm Leica camera in 1913-1914 by Oscar Barnack at the Ernest Lietz factory, in Wetzlar, Germany, photography became portable, a lens through which the rapid change of the 20th century could be observed and recorded on the fly. Used by the likes of American war correspondent Robert Capa, anti-Nazi sociologist Gisèle Freund and revolutionary photographer Henri-Cartier Bresson, the Leica also attracted Nazi sympathizer Paul Wolff, controversial Third Reich documentarian Leni Reifenstahl, and the German military.

This 9½"×11¾" history of the Leica includes, among 120 color illustrations, a full-size color photograph, published in a 1944 issue of the German magazine Signal, of German soldiers riding on a tank's shadowy bulk past a burning house on the Eastern front. This is one of the most chilling photos in the book and one of the few full-size selections that is not a "best of" rendered slightly threadbare through over-reproduction. One page later, a strikingly undersized reproduction of a concentration camp is the only evidence of how, according to the text, the SS "photographed in great detail [using the Leica] the inhuman barbarities committed in the concentration camps throughout Europe"-a questionable juxtaposition at best. The text, by Italian journalist Pasi, is stilted to the point that it is often difficult to follow the history of the Leica's evolution or the significance of its innovations; however, there is enough technical information, with enlarged photos of each model and explanatory notes on lenses, viewfinders, range finders, film speeds and shutter-release buttons, to satisfy professionals and devotees.

While the selection of smaller photographs is extensive and varied, the unpredictable sizings and intrusion into large photographs by small photographs and information boxes often detract from the photographs' impact. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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