2018 in Wetzlar, Germany

Feb 13, 2019  By Keith Sbiral

The International Leica Society Annual Meeting

For any Leica user, Leica enthusiast, or Leica history buff, the Wetzlar meeting was precisely why we belong to the International Leica Society. It is the culmination of why so many people are lifelong members. It is why we are who we are. So, let me take a few paragraphs to summarize the 2018 annual meeting.

Nearly 130 members from 19 countries descended upon Wetzlar October 4-7 to find a Leica campus completely energized. Many attendees had been to Wetzlar before, some arrived for their first visit, some had visited Solms prior to Leica’s move back to Wetzlar, but few had been back since the opening of Leica Park III. The campus itself is a stunning veritable photographic buffet of architecture, nature, people and, well, Leica. The Ernst Leitz Hotel, Leitz Cine Wetzlar, Ernst Leitz Werkstatten, and of course the new Leica Welt building complete with training spaces, a museum, and the incredible Leica Archives create a lively and well-designed campus setting ideal for meetings or even just a visit.

DAY ONE From the opening reception to the opening session, the energy in the air made clear that this meeting was something special. In the works for over two years, the International Leica Society opened a meeting at the headquarters of Leica and the first item on the docket was a factory tour. The tour was conducted by tour guides who were very knowledgeable, explaining everything from glass production, lens grinding and polishing, assembly, and quality control to production of camera bodies and accessories. (Nevertheless, some guides confessed to being slightly intimidated by the vast knowledge of the tour participants; this was a community of Leica people, learning from each other.) For those who have not been to the headquarters building, it contains large open public spaces encompassing gallery exhibits, the Leica family tree of products, and of course a Leica Store where you can pick up that latest 50mm APO Summicron if you so choose.

Upon returning from the tour, participants were treated to an open forum with presentations and a question and answer session from Leica executives, including Stefan Daniel, the head of Leica’s camera business, Jesko von Oyenhausen, the M product manager, Stephan Schulz, the S and SL product manager, and Peter Karbe, who oversees Leica optics. Participants had an opportunity to ask anything they wanted directly to those charged with the future roadmap of Leica equipment. This was a very engaging session where attendees peppered the representatives with questions.

Before lunch, we were treated to Dr. Guenter Kisselbach discussing the vast array of photographic opportunities and historic Leica sites in and around the Wetzlar area. Lunch was alongside Leica employees at the Casino in the main factory building. Again, an exciting opportunity to have access to the
people who work for Leica every day. The interaction with Leica was not a typical scripted tour that you might get at any other factory, and it certainly wasn’t the closed off-campus reception you find when visiting the Apple headquarters in Cupertino. This event was more like a homecoming or a family reunion where everyone had a common connection and was genuinely interested in not only meeting each other, but having meaningful conversations about photography, cameras, travel, and an assortment of other topics as the week went on. The first day closed out with activities including an LHSA board of directors meeting, a walking tour of Wetzlar, and a reception in the evening, attended not only by members, but many Leica executives as well.

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