Photography always had a role in my family, during the analogue 20th century and even into the 21st century. One of the earliest pictures we still have is a print of the first car my then 18-year-old aunt received as a Christmas gift in Berlin in 1925 – a Citroen (image 1). Definitely not shot with a Leica!
Therefore, around the time of my confirmation, like a good German boy in those days, I was gifted a camera – and it was not a Leica! Instead, it was a frugal Penti by Pentacon Optische Werke Dresden, produced in the German Democratic Republic, but sold mainly in Western Germany (image 2).
When I was around 19, I was engaged to a girl who was doing her apprenticing as a “Fotografenmeister,” which in those days meant three years working with a photographer who also owned a camera store. She bought a Japanese SLR with her first paycheck and showed me how to use it. One day she came home and said “Look at what I’ve got!” Without much interest I replied, “It’s a camera!” She spoke again, with greater intensity “No, look what I’ve got!” to which I replied “It’s still a camera!” She then said in a different tone of voice, almost reverentially, “It’s a LEICA.” That is when I realized that Leicas are probably very special! However, it took me several years before I obtained my first Leica. In between, I had two rather simple and sturdy SLR’s – a Pentacon Practica with a 50mm f/2.8 (image 3) and a Zenit with a Helios lens (image 4).