Leica’s Celebration of Photography Event Nourishes a Creative Community

Friends, family, media and photographers joined together in Wetzlar, Germany for a four-day program

Last month at Leica‘s headquarters in Wetzlar, Germany, the camera brand proved once again that it’s more than a company; it’s a community. They have been manufacturing precise, high-end instruments (cameras, lenses and more) of exceptional quality for 150 years, and those who adore their products seem to organically gravitate to each other. Appreciating this sense of community, Leica invited friends, family, media and photographers to Leitz-Park, Wetzlar for the launch of new and reissued products, this year’s Picture of the Year, the Leica Oskar Barnack Award, and various events and activities as part of their Celebration of Photography.

The products launched—the Leica M6, a non ASPH version of Leica 35mm Summilux f/1.4, and the Leica SL2-S Reporter—all continue the brand’s legacy and reputation. Each one leans back upon the company’s heritage to varying degrees.

The Leica M6, a 35mm film camera, was originally manufactured from 1984 to 2002, and enthusiasts all over the world are thrilled by the 2022 reissue. While there have been a few upgrades, the M6 thankfully looks much like the original—a sleek, classic look that will never go out of style. Much like vinyl in music, there’s been a massive return to film in the photography world, with enthusiasts embracing the more tangible, tactile practice and resulting images. Not choosing to modernize or “improve” something that was already great has garnered much respect. Joe Greer, who we worked with on a program for Land Rover in 2019, is among the photographers who’s been shooting an M6 for years and Leica tapped him to be one of three partners for the launch and his video summarizes the emotion of this re-release succinctly.

The Leica 35mm Summilux f/1.4 lens is another reissue, with the original first released in 1961. Compact and efficient, the lens was the fastest wide-angle lens in the world. While similar in construction as the original, this new iteration has 10 aperture blades, unlike its predecessor’s nine. This means an improved bokeh (the blur produced in out-of-focus sections of photographs) which can drastically alter the aesthetics of an image.

The rugged Leica SL2-S Reporter—limited to 1,000 pieces—has been given an even tougher exterior, making it ideal for on-the-fly, journalistic-leaning photography and video. It features a scratch-resistant dark green finish and an aramid fiber coating. It repels dust and water, and can endure all kinds of tricky conditions and less-than-delicate handling.

Each year the Leica Oskar Barnack Awards (LOBA) honor contemporary documentary photographers for their outstanding work. Nominees do not need to have shot their images on a Leica—another testament to the brand’s commitment to this medium. “When everyone runs one way, I go the other,” says Kiana Hayeri about her approach to capturing moments while reflecting on winning this year’s top prize. Hayeri’s series Promises Written on the Ice, Left in the Sun documents the changes in Afghanistan that have arisen since US troops withdrew and the Taliban reclaimed authority.

Valentin Goppel won this year’s Newcomer Award for his series Between the Years. The 22-year-old photographer documented his peers and family throughout the pandemic capturing shots in the moment and recreating shared memories with a bit of staging. He was a writer before he began photographing and feels very strongly about presenting text alongside his pictures, given their subjectivity. He says, “It’s important to clarify because otherwise in full journalistic context they could be misunderstood.”

A bus was passing by and I saw this strange poster for Pepto-Bismol; I shot one picture and forgot about it. Weeks later, when I looked at my contact sheets, I noticed that the man and woman in the bus looked a bit as though they suffered from indigestion. I like strange and funny photographs!

The Leica Picture of the Year 2022 was awarded to iconic Magnum photographer, 86-year-old Thomas Hoepker—who describes himself as an imager maker—for his 1963 photograph “Advertisement and passengers on bus” taken in NYC. The image was captured as part of Hoepker’s assignment for Kristall wherein he explored the US. The image conveys the hustle and bustle and movement of NYC, while capturing a moment of stillness, curiosity and maybe even discomfort. “Sometimes you get lucky as a street photographer. In 1963, I was walking in New York with my Leica camera,” Hoepker says in a statement. “A bus was passing by and I saw this strange poster for Pepto-Bismol; I shot one picture and forgot about it. Weeks later, when I looked at my contact sheets, I noticed that the man and woman in the bus looked a bit as though they suffered from indigestion. I like strange and funny photographs!”

While there was plenty going on during Celebration of Photography, the through line of the event was an authentic love for photography—something everybody in attendance shares. Between (and during) visits to the factory, archives and museum, we all had the opportunity to photograph together and share stories, tips and techniques. It was a delight to be among such an open, caring and non-competitive community.

Images and videos courtesy of Leica