Leica celebrates 100 years with vintage exhibition and auction

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Apr 21, 2014 - 20:42
  • Updated : Apr 21, 2014 - 20:43
Monochrome gelatin and vintage silver prints of subjects ranging from completely random strangers to some of the world’s most influential politicians were on display at the Coex Convention Center last week to celebrate 100 years of Leica photography.

The exhibition was held from April 17-20 and featured some of the German camera company’s most prized possessions, including 50 vintage cameras and 50 iconic Leica photographs.

The event featured an array of vivid, artistic photographs of icons like The Beatles, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, as well as notable political figures like Nelson Mandela and Richard Nixon. It also included the “Guerrillero Heroico,” inarguably the most famous shot of the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.
Visitors look at photographs and photographic equipment on display at the “100 years of Leica” exhibition at the Coex Convention Center on Thursday. ( Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

“Take the most stunning images you have in mind. Most of them were shot with a Leica,” said Alfred Schopf, CEO of Leica Camera AG, who attended the event in Seoul.

“This is a fabulous collection of photos and it really represents the 20th century and how important it was,” he continued. “Leica was always the enabling instrument for reportage photography.”

In celebration of its 100th anniversary, the company will be holding a special auction on May 23 at the home of Leica, in Wetzlar, Germany. Among the 50 photographs up for auction are two pieces shot in Korea, one in the 1930s and the other during the Korean War.

The items featured at the Seoul exhibition will be put up for auction next month, with bids for vintage cameras starting at 286 million won ($276,000) and above. The highest bid for a Leica came two years ago with a camera selling for more than 3.15 billion won. 
This vintage Leica II Mod.D Luxus camera is to go up for auction next month as part of Leica’s 100th anniversary celebration. (WestLicht)

According to Schopf, what sets Leica apart from other popular camera companies such as Canon, Nikon or Sony is the company’s heritage as the inventor of the 24x36 mm film format, which revolutionized handheld photography in a shift from the bulky Ernemann Liliput cameras.

Leica has been behind some of the most innovative photographic equipment ever, including the rifle camera ― a camera attached to a rifle stock, which keeps it steady and allows for photos to be taken swiftly.

“A famous photographer once said, ‘This is not a camera, it’s a prolongation of my hand and my eye,’” Schopf added.

While staring at the antique rifle camera in its display case, Schopf reiterated the important role that photography has played in world history and remarked that it is one of the most “powerful weapons on the planet.”

He noted that much like the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Phan Thi Kim Phuc (The Napalm Girl)” Vietnam War photo taken with a Leica ― in which a 9-year-old girl was photographed running naked on a road after being severely burned during a napalm attack ― one click, one shot, one photo and America’s perception of the war changed completely.

By Julie Jackson (