Barnack’s First Leica - Hans-Günter Kisselbach - ebook
Opis

Much is known about the Leica and its history and numerous publications have appeared over the years. It thus seems incredible that a camera handmade by its inventor Oskar Barnack in the early 1920s – the “first Leica” – could re-emerge after having fallen into oblivion. This test camera finally evolved into the Leica over the course of various enhancements, leading to a very impressive success story. Encounters with landmark events in the history of technology – the first microscope, the first calculating machine, the first explosion-proof miner’s lamp, the first steam engine, the first train, the first telegraph, the first car, the first light bulb, the first radio, to name just a few randomly selected inventions – are always ambivalent. The fascination of the “first step” competes with misgivings regarding the “teething troubles” of the prototypes, which are only cured by subsequent improvements. When Dr. Günter Kisselbach found a relatively unknown Leica prototype, “Barnack’s handmade prototype” in his father’s Leica collection, the history of development of the 35mm camera from Wetzlar had long been written. Fortunately, the wealth of established knowledge did not deter the photography enthusiast from finding out himself that substantial “blind spots” still existed in the source area of the Leica history. His fascinating report of his experience with the camera proves conclusively what this early personal model belonging to its inventor Oskar Barnack was capable of achieving. However, this only became apparent when the handmade prototype was subjected to practical testing and had to demonstrate the requirements it was equipped to meet and the points where it reached its limits, which it was only able to overcome in the course of further development. This book provides answers to intriguing questions: - what happened to Oskar Barnack’s “forgotten test camera”? - what technical secrets does this camera hold? - can it still be used to take photos? - what is its position in the Leica lineage?

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BARNACK’SFIRSTLEICATHESECONDLIFEOFAFORGOTTENHISTORICCAMERA

Much is known about the Leica and its history and numerous publications have appeared over the years. It thus seems incredible that a camera handmade by its inventor Oskar Barnack in the early 1920s – the “first Leica” – could re-emerge after having fallen into oblivion. This test camera finally evolved into the Leica over the course of various enhancements, leading to a very impressive success story.

This book provides answers to intriguing questions:

what happened to Oskar Barnack’s “forgotten test camera”?what technical secrets does this camera hold?can it still be used to take photos?what is its position in the Leica lineage?

I

About the Author

Photo taken by Ulf Richter with Barnack’s handmade prototype from 1920

Dr. med. Hans-Günter Kisselbach was born in 1950, and is an ear, nose and throat specialist living in Wetzlar. He has been a member of the Leica Historica society in Germany for many years. The son of author Theo Kisselbach, he was passionate about photography and the Leica from an early age. His idea of testing a modern color film in “Barnack’s first Leica” led to intensive activity with this camera, with which he became increasingly fascinated and which accompanied him over the next 4 years. This book is the result of his work.

About the book

Encounters with landmark events in the history of technology – the first microscope, the first calculating machine, the first explosion-proof miner’s lamp, the first steam engine, the first train, the first telegraph, the first car, the first light bulb, the first radio, to name just a few randomly selected inventions – are always ambivalent. The fascination of the “first step” competes with misgivings regarding the “teething troubles” of the prototypes, which are only cured by subsequent improvements. When Dr. Günter Kisselbach found a relatively unknown Leica prototype, “Barnack’s handmade prototype” in his father’s Leica collection, the history of development of the 35mm camera from Wetzlar had long been written. Fortunately, the wealth of established knowledge did not deter the photography enthusiast from finding out himself that substantial “blind spots” still existed in the source area of the Leica history. His fascinating report of his experience with the camera proves conclusively what this early personal model belonging to its inventor Oskar Barnack was LoremipsumLoremIpsum

capable of achieving. However, this only became apparent when the handmade prototype was subjected to practical testing and had to demonstrate the requirements it was equipped to meet and the points where it reached its limits, which it was only able to overcome in the course of further development. This book proves convincingly that right from the beginning, Oskar Barnack’s 35mm camera with Max Berek’s lens possessed a development potential way beyond the requirements that can, in retrospect, be deduced from the contemporary film footage and the artistic demands of the early 1920s. What the Leica was actually capable of, before it received its name and went into production in Wetzlar in 1925, unfolds step by step as an exciting adventure in this “back to the roots” expedition. Hartmut Schmidt Former director of the Wetzlar Museums

II

As author of the book “Barnack’s erste Leica“, I have often been asked if an English version of the book is planned. I now have decided to publish an English language version of the book as an e-book and the result is “Barnack’s First Leica”. However, if you would like to have the printed version of the book too I recommend the German edition“Barnacks erste Leica” - ISBN 978-3-89506-282-7. The layout corresponds to the e-book. The book has been produced with a high print quality so that the photographs in particular can realize their full impact.

III

BARNACK’SFIRSTLEICATHESECONDLIFEOFAFORGOTTENHISTORICCAMERA

Translation: Katherine Quinlan-Flatter, B.Sc.Hons.

1

For my father Theo Kisselbach

2

Contents

In the City of Wetzlar, Home of the Leica

5

Theo Kisselbach: Leica Expert · Photography Instructor · Author of Books

9

The Exhibition in 1979 on the Occasion of Oskar Barnack’s 100th Birthday and “Barnack’s Handmade Prototype”

29

Ceremonial Address on the Occasion of Oskar Barnack’s 100th Birthday

33

20 Years Later …

55

Time for Oskar Barnack

67

The Freewheel Clutch

87

A Treasure Hunt · The Wetzlar Gallus Market Fox Hunting Near Wetzlar · Weekly Market in Giessen

91

Visiting Ottmar Michaely at “Wetzlar’s Precision Mechanics Shop”

103

An Afternoon in Darmstadt · Photo Session with Vera Dance Tournament in Wetzlar · A Weekend in Berlin

117

A Time to Make Friends. The 2006 Football World Cup in Germany

147

The 2006 Oxen Festival in Wetzlar and Oskar Barnack · Nightglow

159

Back to the Original Idea. An Invitation to Visit the Leica City of Wetzlar

171

Searching for Clues

181

Snapshots, Impressions and a Summary

193

Picture Credits, Acknowledgements, Imprint

212

Orientierungsmarken

Title Page

3

4

In the City of Wetzlar, Home of the Leica

When Oskar Barnack’s Leica camera was first presented to the international public at the Leipzig Spring Trade Fair in 1925, nobody could have foreseen that this little camera was about to cause a revolution in photography. In the meantime, the Leica camera has been manufactured for 92 years and its success story continues up to the present day with the digital Leica M10. An entire region has benefitted from the invention and the Leica has provided work for several generations.

Living in Wetzlar, one was always involved with the Leitz company and the Leica in some way. The same was true for me, from my earliest childhood, as my father Theo Kisselbach was head of the Leica Technology department at Ernst Leitz. His job and indeed his vocation was the Leica, and he was able to participate in the global success of this camera for many years. When I first saw the light of day in the early 1950s, there were many causes for celebration in the Kisselbach family – my LoremipsumLoremIpsum

Hans-Günter Kisselbach

Advertisement for “Das Kleine Leica-Buch“ (“Pocket Leica Book”) by my father Theo Kisselbach in the shop window of the photography store Weizsäcker in Stuttgart in 1952

6Chapter 1

birth as the third child, the start of construction on our new family home and my father’s publication of Das Kleine Leica-Buch (Pocket Leica Book) as his first work. The book became a great success. After my two siblings Wolfgang and Herta, I might not have been a first work myself, but I believe that I had my parents’ best wishes for success and happiness in life. After more than 50 years, this book is now my first work, and I hope it is blessed with the same good fortune as Das Kleine Leica-Buch all those years ago. With all the photographic expertise in our family, it is remarkable that I only started to use a camera when I was 12 years old. My first camera, which I received from my father, was a Leica M2. You can imagine that he was a strict taskmaster. It took quite a while for me to fully understand the meaning of double and quadruple exposure time. I also found it hard to grasp that a 27 DIN film (a 400 ASA today) was four times as sensitive as a 21 DIN film (a 100 ASA today). The shutter speed and aperture settings were also mysteries to me initially. My father would ask, “If you set the shutter speed to 1⁄125 seconds and the aperture to 11, what do you need to set doubling the exposure?” (The answer is “1⁄125 seconds and aperture 8 or 1⁄60 seconds and aperture 11”). I took my first photos, which were of course in black and white, under the critical eye of my father. I can still remember one thing he told me back then: “If you can get two really good photos from one film of 36 exposures, then that’s enough”. Between 1964 and 1965, when I was 13 and 14 years old, I attended the St. Christopher photography courses held by Professor Stefan Kruckenhauser at Arlberg in Austria together with my friend Albert Mülln. The main focus of our coursework was the “self-created image”, and thus “learning to see”. Our excursions into the magnificent mountains of the LoremipsumLoremIpsum

Tyrol provided ample themes. Professor Kruckenhauser summarized the most important rules of photography as follows: a large image, shapes, lines and contrasts. In addition, you can divide the photo into “thirds” when you compose the image – for example, one-third landscape and two-thirds sky, or vice versa. “Clear-cut photo technology is always the basis for success, which is why every beginner has to spend quite a bit of time in the darkroom during the course”, stated the brochure for the “St. Christopher Photography Courses”. Even now, in the era of digital photography, I am glad of that experience of darkroom work. At the end of the photography courses, each student presented their portfolio with their own black and white photos enlarged to 18 × 24 cm for the critical appraisal of the instructor and the other students. We were still young, but we were determined to stand as adults. I continued to be a keen photographer and regularly took part in the Deutscher Jugendfotopreis (German Youth Photo Prize) as well as other photographic competitions. I often won a book or once even 100 Deutschmarks (50 Euros today) as prize money, but unfortunately I never hit the jackpot. LoremipsumLoremIpsum

Arlbergpassstrasse in Austria above Stuben. Photo: Hans-Günter Kisselbach, 1964

Chapter 17

With some envy, I must remember that my friend Albert Mülln once won a trip to the Spanish island Ibiza. Even during my time in the German Armed Forces, I always had my Leica with me. The black and white photos were well received on the market; however, I had to spend time in the darkroom on the weekends to enlarge the photos. People were keen to employ me as a reporter for weddings and family celebrations. Photography thus was and has remained my hobby. I was interested in the old Leica models from my father’s camera collection at an early age. As a child, the Reporter LoremipsumLoremIpsum

Leica, the Leica 250, particularly fascinated me because of its gigantic appearance. But the Leica 250 was not the only camera in my father’s collection – it also contained this book’s “headliner”, a camera that my father called the “Barnack handmade prototype”. This camera impressed me because it was made of brass, and was unvarnished so that it looked technical. I knew from my father that this was a very special piece … The next chapter is about my father Theo Kisselbach, who bought his first Leica as a young man at the age of 20, and how the Leica influenced his life.

Leica 250 from 1934 – the reporter camera, able to record 250 photos on 10 m film

Barnack‘s handmade prototype – the chief protagonist in this book – from the collection of Theo Kisselbach

Europe comes together at an early stage – European Youth Prize for Photography and Film 1965

8Chapter 1

Theo Kisselbach

Leica Expert · Photography Instructor · Author of Books

Theodor (Theo) Kisselbach, born in 1908, bought his first Leica in 1928. Together with its case and rangefinder, it cost over 250 Deutschmarks, which was a lot of money back then. The Leica was to substantially influence his life. In 1931, he became a factory photographer at the company Dr. C. Schleußner AG (later known by their film brand ADOX). In 1935 he started at the Vocational Art School in Frankfurt and two years later passed his Master Craftsman’s Certificate in Photography. He told us later that it was unusual back then to submit enlargements of 35 mm film with the Leica format 24 × 36 mm for this examination. However, the quality of his photos was very convincing.“Do you want to sell small negatives or large photos?” That was the argument he presented to the examination board. In early 1937, the company Ernst Leitz in Wetzlar was LoremipsumLoremIpsum

looking for a “young photographer as an assistant for the teaching laboratory” and following his application, Theo Kisselbach was hired for the position. On April 1, 1937, he became an employee at the Leica School, under its then LoremipsumLoremIpsum

Theo Kisselbach (right) as a young employee of the Leica school in 1938

Advertisement in the magazine: “Die Photographische Industrie” of March 17, 1937. Theo Kisselbach applied on the same day and got the job.

From the reception records of Leitz: On March 19, 1937 Theodor Kisselbach was received by Mr. Dumur, Leitz’s commercial director, for an interview – two days after the advertisement had appeared and Theo Kisselbach had applied for the job.

The entry on March 22, 1937 shows another prominent visitor, Dr. Paul Wolff.

10Chapter 2

director Heinrich Stöckler (from 1949 to 1973 editor-in-chief of the magazine Leica-Fotografie (Leica Photography)). In 1940, my father was drafted into the army, and he was grateful that he was able to survive the war period as a photojournalist. In January 1946 he continued at Leitz. In addition, it was his Leica that enabled him to provide reasonably well for his family in the first post-war years. My mother had hidden this Leica in the mattress of my brother’s baby buggy and thus saved it from the Allies’ military control. Photos, in particular passport photos, were in great demand at the time and my father was very busy. Payment was made in butter or eggs. The housing conditions were initially extremely cramped, but fortunately this soon changed. In August 1947, he wrote to his friend Professor Stefan Kruckenhauser:“We have now moved into our new apartment and it is a relief not to have development containers, cooking pots and chamber pots all under one table at the same time”. The Leica Technology department was created at Leitz in the same year and Theo Kisselbach managed this department until his retirement in late 1971. Courses and trainings for photo retailers were an important area of responsibility of LoremipsumLoremIpsum

Leica Technology and the Leica, with the Leica system, were the focus of these courses. It is a pleasure to read about Theo Kisselbach in the book 50 Jahre Leica M (50 Years of Leica M) by Günter Osterloh: “He was an expert in darkroom technology and an excellent photographic technician. Using his knowledge and ability, he created a unique global competence center for applied 35 mm film photography”. Theo Kisselbach worked together with various prominent photographers and photojournalists during the course of his career: Dr. Paul Wolff, the Leica pioneer and his employee and subsequent business partner Alfred Tritschler, with Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ernst Haas, Dr. Walter Boje, Professor Stefan Kruckenhauser, Liselotte Strelow, Lothar Rübelt and Emil Schulthess, to name just a few. We can witness a piece of film history in Leica Technology’s guest books. International course participants have immortalized themselves in these guest books with some very funny texts and extremely original drawings. However, they also contain entries by eminent personalities such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Ernst Haas.

Left: Thanks from Henri Cartier- Bresson to Theo Kisselbach “with very cordial memories …” Center: Second from left H. Cartier- Bresson, far right Julius Behnke, a well-known Leica animal photographer Right: Left H. Cartier-Bresson Right Theo Kisselbach Center Julius Behnke

Chapter 211

Theo Kisselbach in his department Leica Technology during a training course

Shared experiences with people who worked with the Leica also inspired Theo Kisselbach in his other book publications. Many of these books were also published in English. In 1955, Das kleine Leica-Buch was followed by Das Leica-Buch (The Leica Book), and in 1956 by Fotokurs in Farbe (Photo Course in Color), together with co-author Theo M. Scheerer. The Dunkelkammerhandbuch (The Darkroom Manual) appeared in 1960, Das Leicaflex-Buch (The Leicaflex Book) in 1966, the revised edition of the Neue Foto-Schule (The Manual of Modern Photography) by H. Windisch in 1969 and finally the books Leica CL (Leica CL) and Die Leica R4 (The Leica R4). Theo Kisselbach had the ability to explain complicated facts in easy terms and to reduce them to rules of thumb. What always amazed me was what a good mathematician he was. Perhaps that was the reason he qualified as a bank clerk directly after leaving school. In meetings with scientists at Leitz, he was proud of the fact that he could perform complicated calculations quickly in his head, without the need for a slide rule or a calculator. He was particularly close friends with Professor Stefan Kruckenhauser. They met each other through photography and the Leica, and “Kruck” called his friend “my tall brother”. Professor Kruckenhauser is well-known as a Leica photo- grapher (including Verborgene Schönheit – Bauwerk und LoremipsumLoremIpsum

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