CamerAgX

September 12, 2009

Leica, Witness to a Century (book review)

Filed under: Books and magazines, Leica Cameras — Tags: , , , — xtalfu @ 12:00 pm


“What camera took these pictures?”


That’s the question that photographers hate the most. Nobody ever asked Picasso what type of brush he was using to paint “Guernica”, and photographers believe they are the ones taking the pictures. For them, their camera is just a tool, that they use it to communicate their vision.


Well, it’s not completely true. Granted, the camera is a tool, and tools don’t create. But the camera’s characteristics, its size, its weight, its ability to withstand adverse environmental conditions, the number of manual steps needed to take a picture, the performance of the shutter, the aperture of the lens, all limit the ability of the photographer to take a usable picture of what he’s witnessing, or to convert his vision into an image. Every now and then, a breakthrough in the design of cameras gives photographers more opportunities to report what they see. Whenever a new generation of cameras hits the market, photographers start experimenting, and in the process, harvest a new crop of pictures, which sometimes, will change the way they show the world to the rest of us, and ultimately, change the way we all see the world.


Few cameras had an impact comparable to that of Leica cameras’ in the first half of the 20th century. The originality of Alessandro Pasi’s book – “Leica, Witness of a Century”, is that it’s an attempt to show how the Leica changed photography, and how photographers still use it today to make different pictures.


Leica - witness of a century (Alessandro Pasi)

Leica - witness of a century (Alessandro Pasi)


Alessandro Pasi’s book is organized is six chapters, each covering a different period, and showing in detail the most emblematic Leica camera of the era, as well as the pictures taken with it by the most prominent photographers of the time.


There will be no striking discovery for the well learned Leica aficionado. The cameras shown here have already been described in detail in many books, and at least half of the photographs assembled by Alessandro are well known “classics”.


But the author also included less known pictures taken by Italian photographers, as well as family snapshots taken by amateurs over the course of the century.


The texts are well written and informative, the layout is clear and the pictures are always given the priority.


This book is a very good illustration of the saying about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.


It’s a pleasant voyage through one century of photography, an homage to the ingenuity of the creators of the Leica, and the proof that sometimes, “what camera took these pictures?” is not as stupid a question as it sounds.


Leica, Witness to a Century, is available in brick and mortar book stores, and also at Amazon . 159 pages. $35.00



For the 75th anniversary of the Leica, in 1989, the Leica Camera Group published “75 Years of Leica Photography”, which showcases more than 300 pictures taken with Leica cameras, from the test shots of Oscar Barnak in 1914 to the fall of Berlin wall in 1989. A very interesting follow up if you liked Alessandro’s book. It can still be found – used – for a bit less than $100.00

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