Leica: Witness to the Twentieth Century

Overview

The fascinating history of a twentieth-century icon—the first handheld camera—and the people who use it.
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 ...

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Overview

The fascinating history of a twentieth-century icon—the first handheld camera—and the people who use it.
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.

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Editorial Reviews

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 Gisele 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 9" x 11" 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. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393059212
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/19/2004
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 9.90 (w) x 12.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Alessandro Pasi is the author of Beetle Mania. He lives in Milan, Italy.

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Table of Contents

The birth of a star 10
Prehistory : the world in poses 12
Wetzlar, birthplace of the Leica 16
Leitz : quality as the objective 18
Oskar Barnack and Max Berek : the diabolical pair 20
Ur-Leica 22
The Leica is ready and goes into the streets 24
Leica I 26
Oskar's winning idea : "small negatives, large pictures" 28
The society debut 34
A pioneer forgotten and rediscovered : Paul Wolff 36
Ruedi, Feininger, Kisselbach 42
The Leica in the clouds : someone up there sees us 44
Leica II 46
Leica 250 reporter 48
Leica IIId 50
Alexander Rodchenko 52
Andre Kertesz 54
Henri Cartier-Bresson 56
X-ray of success : the power of advertising 58
Leni Riefenstahl 60
Gisele Freund 62
The Leica goes to war 64
The Nazi period : from apotheosis to disaster 66
Robert Capa 68
1939-45 : cameras in military uniforms 70
Signal : the hazardous birth of front-line reporting 72
USSR : Stalin wants it too : the production of Leica copies begins 80
1945 : the return to life and the rebirth of democracy 82
The difficult rebirth 84
Postwar hardships 86
The success is repeated : the power of the system 88
Magnum 90
Elliott Erwitt 92
Mario De Biasi 94
Piergiorgio Branzi 96
Robert Doisneau 98
The turning point : the Leica M3 100
Inge Morath 102
Ernesto Fantozzi 104
Surprises : Yul Brynner, actor and great photographer 106
Apotheosis and pride 108
Ladies and gentlemen, her majesty the Leica 110
Leica M4 112
The sixties 114
Gianni Berengo Gardin 114
Marc Riboud 118
Joseph Koudelka 120
The obligatory decision : leicaflex 122
Jim Marshall 124
Fred J. Maroon 126
Alberto Diaz Gutierrez 126
Leica M5 128
Mario De Biasi 130
Leni Riefenstahl 132
From here to eternity 134
Return to the origins : the revenge of the mechanical 136
Passage to a new world 138
Stefan Thonesen 138
Sebastiao Salgado 140
Luis Castaneda 142
Claus Bjorn Larsen 144
Mary Ellen Mark 146
Herlinde Koelbi 147
Andrea Battaglini 148
Alberto Bevilacqua 149
Fantozzi and Klein 150
Leica M7 152
The new millennium : the enduring fascination of the mechanical 154
The Leica family tree 156
Index of names 158
Photo credits 159
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