I was raised around Leica and with the LHSA. My father talked about it, my uncle talked about it, and many of their friends talked about it. People came to the house with camera bags over their shoulders and perhaps a box or two under their arm, to buy, to sell, to trade – or sometimes just to schmooze about Leica and photography. All were welcome; all were part of the community. The sound of that camaraderie was a near-constant din in the background of my family’s home in New Haven, emanating from the dining room, the den, the kitchen. I grew up hearing “LHSA” and “Leica.” They were synonymous to me, until I began to recognize each of these otherwise unfamiliar terms – Summicron, Hektor, FIKUS and FOKOS, and so on – and began to think of them as every bit as natural to a young boy as were terms like “pop fly” or “catcher’s mitt.” Leica and LHSA and all the funny terms that go with them are part of my natural lexicon and part of my natural community – my natural habitat, you might say.
In today’s electronic world, we can accomplish each part of the photographic process – from clicking the shutter to preparing and printing our own images and even creating our own gallery on line – and this means that we don’t have to engage outside of our own desk or living room. There is less of a sense of community. We used to talk to the store clerk, to the film processor, and perhaps to our printer. We talked to a gallery to try to secure an exhibit. We showed slides (remember the agony of those slide shows after dinner?), or we would meet face-to-face and show actual prints of our photographs, passing them back and forth across a café table. We talked on the telephone, we wrote letters. All of this meant that we made friends around our hobby; we were part of a community. Nowadays, it feels less like an actual community, and more like an amazingly long electronic reach.
Sure, you can ask Google. On Facebook and Instagram, you can “connect” with people halfway around the world. But you cannot shake hands, you cannot point to an item and ask about it in detail with lots of follow-up questions, you cannot see a smile or hear a laugh. Sure, emoji count for something, but until there is a “Hey you walked right into my shot” emoji, or a “What does this little doo-dad called a DOOLU do?” emoji, I’ll prefer a handshake and a laugh amongst friends – and to hear that wonderful din of camaraderie emanating from the next room. That’s how you know you are a part of the community and near to your friends. That’s the “LHSA,” the International Leica Society, and I hope to meet you in person there soon, wherever “there” happens to be – because all are welcome in the Leica community.