Dr. Wolff’s First Leica Exhibitions

Jul 25, 2018  By Ed Schwartzreich

In the years 1933 to 1935, Dr. Paul Wolff, with the advocacy and assistance of Ernst Leitz II, mounted his famous traveling exhibition of Leica images to popularize the Leica camera and its capabilities. The 200 images traveled across western Europe and to both the United States and to Japan. A similar exhibition was also presented in France but was shown along with other images by another Leica photographer.

These images astounded the public, who could not believe that the gigantic enlargements had originated from postage stamp-sized negatives. The public was also taken with the fact that the pictures were not the usual, rather static images taken with larger format cameras, but showed more of daily life as it was happening.

Through the years, I have collected the catalog brochures from this exhibition and now can present five of them from different countries. Note that each of the catalogs has a different title for the exhibition. (The Japanese title ライ力 作品展覧曾 translates as “Leica Work Exhibition). The texts inside the brochures, mostly written by Dr. Wolff himself, appear to differ somewhat from version to version, and both the Japanese and French brochures may be still more different from the rest. The interiors of the catalogs have halftone prints of about six images, and the specifications for all the images in the exhibition: title, lens used, f/stop and so on. Of the Japanese catalog, I only have scans of the cover, text, and partial contents, but have full printed versions of the others.

I am curious whether our readers might be aware of additional catalog brochures from other countries for this exhibition. Is there a specific American one, or did Leitz simply use the British version? Other than German, English, French, Italian and Japanese, Dr. Wolff had material published in Spanish, Portuguese, Finnish and Swedish during his career. There is even some material in Turkish! Please let Editor Rosauer or myself know.


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