A 1935 Leitz Photo Exhibition

Jun 7, 2016  By Ed Schwartzreich
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In Viewfinder 36/3, 2003, I wrote about a 1935 French photo salon, sponsored partially by E. Leitz Wetzlar, which promoted the work of Dr. Paul Wolff and also Alfred Person, both of whose new books with Leica photos were about to be published.  I had done this because I had received, from member Pierre Jeandrain, a facsimile of that exhibition’s catalogue, which was in the same format as that from the more famous 1933 photo show by Dr. Wolff: Meine Erfahrungen mit der Leica.  Pierre wrote me that he had discovered information about this salon “in the French magazine ‘Leica’ No. 8 for April, 1935”.

Last year April, at what some of us have termed “The Louisville Box Festival”, a partial run of that French magazine turned up in one of LHSA’s historical boxes.  Not only was the issue that Pierre had seen there, but also another one devoted to images by Dr. Wolff.   The author of the text in both cases was the indefatigable polymath Marcel Natkin, also written about in Viewfinder pages (39/2, 2006).  I scanned those pages for my files, and felt that a brief Viewfinder article was in order,  to show us how things looked “‘way back then”, and to share the flavor of the writing.

In his article about the Salon, Natkin begins by gently teasing the proud new owners of Leica cameras – which likely included himself – who descended on the scene with their equipment, even though a portion of the salon was not Leica-related.   He goes on in the same vein:  “A veritable labyrinth of photographs was spread on 400 meters of surface surrounding the Leica booth, where we were able to admire the latest novelties relating to our equipment”.  He then speaks of Dr. Wolff’s current notoriety, goes on quite a bit about being impressed with Alfred Person’s pictorial images (powerful portrait heads twice life-size, catching fugitive expressions, mastery of detail in still lives, and so forth), and finally devotes the major portion of his two-page write-up almost entirely to the Leica’s advantage over larger format cameras.   “But the goal was not to prove that Leica can do the same and often better than a big device.  We just had obvious proof that the majority of the subjects dealt with here could only be managed with the Leica”.  (This was due to issues like DOF, camera portability / maneuverability, or the speed of shooting).    The reader actually hears very little about the salon, its Leitz booth, or the images; rather it is the magic of the Leica camera in the hands of the knowledgeable photographer that has impressed him.   Natkin does say the display images from the two Leica photographers are in 50 x 60 cm format (approximately 20 x 24 in): no slouch, but hardly the 2 x 3 meters of the Meine Erfahrungen exhibit of two years earlier.

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