Remembering Tom Abrahamsson

Feb 16, 2017  By Richard Rejino

Photo Credit: Joe Biegel

Photo Credit: Bill Royce

 On Friday, January 6, 2017, LHSA  lost a beloved member, friend, and mentor, Tom Abrahamsson. Tom had recently fallen and became ill. He was hospitalized and due to go home the day he passed away.  Tom loved Leicas and was the inventor of the Rapidwinder for film Leicas.  Black and white film photography was his passion and he was a good friend to many of us in LHSA.  He is survived by his wife, Tuulikki, to whom LHSA extends deep condolences.  
Below is a biography written by Tom himself. In it, you can hear the joie de vivre in his voice, which will be sorely missed.  Tom’s passing is a great loss to the worldwide Leica community.
Born in Sweden in 1943 – so I am getting on in age! Started taking pictures in 1957 (beaten up M3 and TriX rated at 200 asa then). Studied and got various degrees, Journalism, chemistry (it was the 60’s after all), industrial design. Married a Finn, Tuulikki in 1967. Moved around a bit, 2 years in Helsinki, 2 years in Copenhagen, a couple of long trips (around the world in 1970/71) and in 1974/75 another long trip around US/Mexico/Canada. Settled in Vancouver in 1975 and worked as a photographer/writer until 1982 when we took 18 months off and went to Paris, just for fun. to read more of his biography, click here.
Tom had many friends in LHSA and in the Leica community. Michael Levy, LHSA member, shares a memory of Tom.

Every Friday morning, Tom would be at Zen Cafe in Vancouver, where other Leica enthusiasts would join him. He often brought unusual lenses with him. I have a couple of pictures of Tom taken at Zen Cafe. I have included some screen grabs of the photos I took with my Top 262, starting in late March 2016. Mostly, these were taken using lenses that Tom lent me to try. I was incredibly lucky to find out about the Zen Cafe gatherings. Tom was a wonderful and generous man, and I learned a great deal from him in the short time that I knew him.

The images below are from Michael Levy. (click to enlarge)

Recently, Taniyama Sawako wrote a personal tribute to Tom.

This is written in memory of Thomas Abrahamsson and as a tribute to Tuulikki Abrahamsson.

Tom was an inventor, a traveler, a marvelous storyteller and a kind, humorous and generous soul.  He will be remembered for his creations: the Rapidwinder, in all of its manifestations, the Softie soft-release buttons, the Rapidgrip, and his photography.  A modest man, he never sought celebrity and was largely indifferent to it.

The Rapidwinder is a streamlined and brilliantly simplified and more efficient version of the old complex, fragile and discontinued Leicavit. The Rapidwinder created enough of a sensation among Leica rangefinder users that Cosina Voigtländer was inspired by the Rapidwinder to make the Triggerwinder for its Bessa rangefinders. Leica came out with an improved Abrahamsson-inspired Leicavit and honored Tom by giving him a specially engraved Leicavit.

The Rapidwinder initiated my friendship with Tom and Tuulikki.  It started with an inquiry from me about the Rapidwinder’s function on the M6.  I followed this up with an order for a Rapidwinder to go with my M2; I picked it up in Vancouver as I would be there for a few days.  Tom and Tuulikki invited me to dinner and then to dinner again the following night.  Our friendship was enhanced when Tom and Tuulikki met my wife, Sawako

Photo Credit: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Through the course of a decade all four of my M2s, two of my M6s and my M7 were graced with Rapidwinders. Don Goldberg modified my M4 to accept an M6 style Rapidwinder.  The Rapidwinder I especially cherish is the prototype for Barnack  Leicas that Tom gave me in exchange for a test report. 

Tom’s creations owe much of their success to Tuulikki Abrahamsson’s business acumen and devotion to T&T Abrahamsson – One-Off Industrial Designs in Vancouver, Canada.

Tuulikki is an accomplished photographer.  While Tom shot black and white (“99.9% of the time”) Tuulikki is a colorist.  Tom shot mostly in analog.  Tuulikki embraced digital when it came along.  Tuulikki keeps her equipment simple.  She often teased us gearheads about our never-ending search for new and used camera equipment.  One of my fondest memories of Tom is when I took him on a “magical mystery” tour of Osaka’s camera shops.

Tom had two rules about camera equipment.  The first and most important rule was that camera equipment was to be used and not simply displayed; the more weathered from use a

camera was the more beautiful it was.  His second rule was that any piece of camera equipment that he did not use for a year would be sold or traded.

Tom and Tuulikki were enthusiastic travelers, whether trekking across the Australian and Sahara deserts or living amidst the bustle of Paris.  They often came to Japan, where they had many friends. They stayed with us once in Akashi.

Tom won his decisive battle against melanoma thanks to the medical facilities in Vancouver and Tuulikki’s steadfast devotion. Though the melanoma had taken a certain physical toll, Tom refused to allow it to get in the way of his exuberant lifestyle.  He walked, photographed, met friends in cafés and traveled to Europe, Asia and Japan with Tuulikki.  His custom-made titanium walking stick accompanied him on all his peregrinations.

Tom Abrahamsson left us all too soon. Sawako and I extend our deepest condolences to Tuulikki Abrahamsson and to her and Tom’s family members.

The great and warm spirit of Tom Abrahamsson will live forever in our memories.

The images below are from Stephan Daniel of Leica AG. 

The following images are from LHSA member José Manuel Serrano Esparza, and a friend of Tom’s.



Richard Rejino
Richard is the Executive Director of LHSA - The International Leica Society and a part-time professional photographer. He is also a classically trained pianist, writer and published author. His book, "What Music Means to Me" is available from Hal Leonard Corporation.


So nice words about my lovely uncle, I smiled when I read the text.
Regards from his niece in Sweden

Very sad!

Brian, Thank you for your comment and the lovely memory of Tom. He continues to be missed. Best wishes to you – Richard

So sad to hear of Tom’s passing. He was the first person I met when I came to Canada, a true gentleman who was passionate about photography and Leica.

When I read of Tom’s passing it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had occasion to talk with him a few times online over the years. To me Tom was a pillar of the Leica photography community. And he was a fabulous machinist. Having been elected to county-level office I became laser focused on my job and have been away for a while. Tom, thank you for the joy, expertise and sense of community you brought to our lives. Your passing is a huge loss. May the good Lord bless you always. Paul.

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