One of the reasons I loved my Leica was that nobody noticed it. After all it was not like 10 years ago when you walked around on the street with a huge DSLR with an erect zoom lens sticking out of it and everybody would yell “nice camera” as you walked by trying to appear cool and distant. My cover was blown every time. So in 2009, I bought a Leica M9. I would walk around the street with it and nobody said a word because nobody knew what it was. I was invisible again. That is until last week in Denver when it started again. As I got out of my rental car when checking into the hotel, the car attendant asked “Is that a Leica?” It happened again when some young kid stopped me on the street a bit later and asked the same question. I guess they have done a good job of promoting their brand.
Years ago when I was a small kid who was just getting into photography, I knew of this camera but was so out-of-reach. There was a camera store down the street from where I lived called NDG Photo and I would go there every now and then to get my Kodak Tri-Chem pack of developer, stop bath and fixer for making my little 4×5 prints. At the end of the store there was a glass counter and under the glass was a Leica lllG and an M3 and two lenses on a red velvet mat. There was also a salesman by the name of Terry who had a distinct British accent, a handlebar mustache and always wore a green turtleneck wool sweater. He was very knowledgeable about the cameras and was always very helpful to potential customers but me, being a know-nothing 15 year old was not worthy of his attention. I would have given my right arm to fondle that M3 but it was not to be. As I would edge over to the counter to get a closer look , he would shoo me away, fearing that I would negatively affect a future sale.
It was years before I was able to purchase my first Leica—in fact another 40 years would pass. When I did, there was nothing else, and I loved my 2 M7’s—that is until digital came along and I saw the writing on the wall. I was forced to sell them in 2006 when my favorite paper developer was no longer available, ands I switched to a huge digital DSLR. It was OK, but I really missed that small, sleek, black rangefinder. I missed the simplicity, the lack of endless never-to-be-used features, bells and whistles that Leicas represented. So I waited for technology to catch up and eventually in 2009 it did.
The photo above is from my Cuba series from a recent visit. The nicest part of it was it was a place where nobody knew what it was—it was just a camera and I loved that. It was simple, subtle and invisible and I loved that. Did it help me take better photographs, not really. It was just more comfortable to carry around, and it certainly felt better in my hands. That to me is worth a lot.