The Leica camera craze was at its peak in the early to mid-1900’s and although popularity for the rangefinder has waned with the rise of the
single lens reflex (SLR) camera, Leica shaped some of the earliest days of photography and showed people a new way to look at the world, through a viewfinder. People relished in this new art form that melded what was at the time, the newest of technologies with the artistic eye. From the 1900’s, all the way through the 1940’s, photographers developed their style and many became famous for their talents with a camera. We are going to look at three such photographers who’s insight into the early world of photography influenced generations of photographers to come.
Three Famous Leica Photographers
Born in Britain in 1908 George Roger first learned how to use a Leica camera while a part of the British Merchant Navy. These skills later brought him to work as a photographer for magazines in London but his talents weren’t really brought to the world until the beginning of World War II. Soon after the war began Roger found himself working for Life Magazine as a war correspondent. He catalogued the second world war for five arduous years and gained much notoriety for photojournalistic skills. Roger was often invited to write and photograph in areas where no other journalist was allowed to enter. In 1945, this brought George Roger to Bergen-Belsen. He was the first photographer allowed to photograph the concentration camp there. Roger found this particular assignment to be too gruesome, and left his position as a war correspondent when the assignment was complete. The photos George Roger took during the war and after the war influenced photojournalists for years after they were taken and will continue to do so for years to come.
George Roger found many other photographic triumphs in his long career including many published works in esteemed magazines like National Geographic.
Known as one of the founding fathers of photojournalism, Tim Gidal showed the world what could be done with a handheld camera like the Leica. When Leica released its first handheld camera Tim Gidal took it almost immediately and subsequently taught the world what it could do. The photos he took in this first ten years as a photographer showed the versatility of the 35mm camera in extreme uses of angle and light. Although not really fully acknowledged at the time, these shots have stood the test of time and still influence photography students today. Tim lived in many places and held many different jobs but never stopped doing photography. Later in life he returned to photography as a full-time endeavor and although successful, he was never able to recreate the type of work he did when in his prime.
W. Eugene Smith
Mr. W. Eugene Smith is most notably known as the father of the photo essay but he was also known as a perfectionist and a man with a prickly personality. Like George Roger, Smith’s talent gained a large audience when he started working for Life magazine. Where Roger was well-known for photographing British forces, Smith photographed American forces and often Asian prisoners. Over the years Smith created many photo essays, the largest being tens of thousands of photos of Pittsburgh, which he took over a three year period. Much of this particular essay was published as a series of books since the essay was too large to be fully published.
Unfortunately, the life of W. Eugene Smith was cut short. Long-term substance abuse led to a stroke which ended his life at age sixty, but the legacy he left behind for the photographic world lives on in his photographs and essays.
Although not as widely used as they once were, Leica cameras are still around today and are sold in both digital and analog formats. Using a rangefinder camera can give a new perspective on a situation, a landscape or really, any type of photograph. These names are only a few who have become famous Leica photographers.