In 2014, Leica Camera AG will be celebrating 100 years of Leica photography
The year 1914 saw the birth of 35 mm Leica photography as we know it today. Oskar Barnack made the Leitz Camera, the very first Leica, 100 years ago. And now, in 2014, Leica Camera AG is celebrating the centenary year of this occasion with numerous events, exhibitions and exciting new products. The slogan for this centennial celebration is ‘100 years of Leica photography’.
Oskar Barnack, an employee of the Leitz Werke Wetzlar and a pioneer of photography, invented and constructed the first still picture camera for the 35 mm film format (24 × 36 mm) in 1914. The construction of this so-called Ur-Leica according to Barnack’s philosophy of ‘small negative – big picture’ revolutionised the world of photography with vastly increased creative scope for photographers who, up until then, had had to rely primarily on cumbersome plate cameras for their work. Barnack therefore originally gave his compact and highly portable prototype camera the name ‘Liliput’, as is noted in the company archives in a document dated March 1914: ‘Liliput camera completed’. The original is still in the possession of Leica Camera AG, together with the negatives and prints of the first exposures captured with the Ur-Leica – including pictures from a trip Ernst Leitz II took to the United States in the summer of 1914.
In 1925, following inevitable delays as a consequence of the First World War, the Leica finally set out to conquer the world of photography and founded the legend of the brand with a multitude of iconic pictures that have profoundly influenced our understanding of the world. Examples of these include Robert Capa’s ‘Falling Soldier’ from the Spanish Civil War, the famous portrait of Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara by Alberto Korda, the naked and burning young girl Kim Phúc, photographed by Pulitzer Prize winner Nick Út during the Vietnam War, and the photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt which captured the celebrations on VJ day in New York’s Times Square in 1945.
Dr Andreas Kaufmann, chairman of the Supervisory Board and majority shareholder at Leica Camera AG, summarised the history of the company as follows: ‘No other brand has so crucially shaped and influenced the past 100 years of photography like Leica has – by continuing to provide photographers with the best tools and superb lenses to match them. For this reason, it is only logical that we will be celebrating our centennial with numerous renowned photographers from around the globe and shining a spotlight on their work.’
Alfred Schopf, chairman of the Executive Board at Leica Camera AG, also announced a range of product highlights that will accompany the celebrations of Leica in the centennial year. ‘That Leica today, as in the past, is still synonymous with high-end, handmade products, iconic design, technical innovation and better pictures will be confirmed by the selected products we will be presenting in the course of our centennial year.’ This campaign will be accompanied by a series of cultural projects, photography exhibitions and competitions, book presentations and a special issue of LFI with the title ‘100 years of Leica photography’.
Another highlight of the centennial year is the relocation of Leica Camera AG to the new, ultra-modern factory and administrative complex in the Leitz Park in Wetzlar, which will be officially opened in May 2014.
About Leica Camera
Leica Camera AG is an internationally operating, premium-segment manufacturer of cameras and sport optics products. The legendary status of the Leica brand is founded on a long tradition of excellence in the construction of lenses. And today, in combination with innovative technologies, Leica products continue to guarantee better pictures in all situations in the worlds of visualisation and perception. Leica Camera AG has its headquarters in Wetzlar, in the state of Hesse in Germany, and a second production site in Vila Nova de Famalicão, Portugal. The company operates branch offices in Australia, China, France, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, South Korea, UK and the USA. New and innovative products have been the driving force behind the company’s positive development in recent years.