Wednesday, November 22, 2017


My first Leica
Leica III with 50mm f/2 Summar

In retrospect, I guess I was destined to become a photographer because I grew up in the photography business of my father, a Meisterfotograf (Master Photographer) in Germany.  He hoped for me to eventually take over the business once he retired.  Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans.  I had decided to marry a woman from the US who I had met in Germany, and to move to Minneapolis, Minnesota.  But no worry, my father's business lived on under the leadership of my sister and her husband, herself a Meisterfotograf.  They eventually moved the business from my hometown of Barntrup in northern Germany to Weilburg, just outside of Frankfurt, less than 15 miles from Wetzlar.

Starting early with a Leica
This photo was taken by my father.

SchloƟ von Kerssenbrock (Castle) from 1577 
in my hometown of Barntrup, Germany
Two interesting facts: Baronin (Baroness) von Kerssenbrock, who originally commissioned 
the building of the castle, is depicted by a small bust above the entrance door on the left.
The lower door in the middle is the entrance to the wine cellar, as depicted by a servant poring
wine from a pitcher above the door.
Leica Digilux 3

Rathaus (City Hall) in my hometown of Barntrup, Germany
Leica Digilux 3

Marktplatz in Weilburg
My sister's studio was in the building in the center.  Her display windows are the three arched widows at the lower right of the building.
Leica Digilux 3
Once I arrived in Minneapolis, it was time to look for a job.  I was lucky and found work within a day of looking at Jay's Camera.  I worked there for several years, during which time I elevated the store to become the largest Leica dealer in the area.  Hopes to eventually buy the store didn't materialize because the owner decided to sell the place to a nephew.  Blood being thicker than water came to mind.  It was at that time that I decided to put my photographic skills to work and I started my own photography studio.

During the many years of my career as a professional photographer I also taught two professional photography courses for 13 years.  That made me think of the old saying that “Those who can - do.  Those who cannot - teach” on many occasions and often wondered if that is an accurate statement?  I think ultimately that depends on the individual.  Many well know photographers have also been involved in teaching.  I consider it quite honorable to pass on one’s experience so that others may benefit from it.  Subsequently I have to reject the basic message of that statement as far as myself is concerned.

I have edited this blog for almost seven years now.  During that time I have occasionally posted some of my work here.  A while back I began to wonder what I might consider my favorites, the best images I have taken over the years.  As it turns out, that is not an easy thing to do.  The photographs that I have kept in my files are all ones that survived considerable scrutiny.  With other words, I have only kept what I consider my best work.  To scale that down to a small number of favorites is actually quite difficult.

Reggi Anderson, Artist
I got the idea for this portrait from a photograph Yusuf Karsh had taken of
John F. Kennedy.  Karsh worked almost exclusively with large format cameras
and I wanted to see how close I could come in terms of sharpness and tonality.
Leica M6, 135mm f/2.8 Elmarit, Agfapan APX 25

Looking over my work, I noticed one common fact.  With very few exceptions all my photographs have been taken with Leica equipment.  That is hardly surprising.  My father gave me my first Leica for my 5th birthday.  That does not mean that I have not owned other camera equipment.  Especially during the film days, it was expected that a photographer would use at least medium format, if not large format cameras to satisfy his clients.

For that reason, my Leica equipment used to be accompanied by a Rolleiflex SL66 system, and for mostly nostalgic reasons my dad’s old Plaubel Makina outfit.  I also worked with 4x5 large format equipment which consisted of a Sinar and a Plaubel camera.  Even my Leica cameras were augmented at one time with a Zeiss Contarex.  But my favorite always has been the Leica.

Melanie was one of my favorite models and I photographed her on numerous 
occasions.  Unfortunately that came to an end when she moved back to London.
Leica M6, 90mm f/2.8 Elmarit, Agfapan APX 25

Leica M6, 50mm f/2 Summicron, Agfapan APX 25
cropped to 1/4 of the total negative ares.

Now that I have totally switched to digital, all my old analog equipment has been sold.  My work is now done exclusively with Leicas.  That isn’t to say that the Leica is best suited for everything.  But for the work I do, I cannot think of any other camera that would serve me better than my Leica M240.

Kallie and Mike, Rainy Lake, Minnesota
Leica Digilux 2

Rolleiflex SL 66, 80mm f/2.8 Zeiss Planar, Agfa Optima 100

I always avoided specializing too much.  For that reason my work covered a wide range of photography from portraits and weddings to model photography.  Another important aspect of my work was architectural photography.  In my free time, I added travel photography, street photography and a variety of art photography projects, including artistic photography of the female nude.

I am not beyond criticism, as a matter of fact, I welcome it.  Look at my work and feel free to criticize it.  Accepting constructive criticism is also part of the learning process, and even after having done this for 50 years, I am still learning.

Leica Digilux 2

Brentwood Estate, Alexandria, Minnesota
Leica Digilux 2

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Sinar 4x5, Schneider 210mm f/5.6 Symmar, Kodak Ektachrome

Ice Castle, St. Paul, Minnesota Winter Carnival
This ice castle was built of large ice blocks harvested from nearby lakes.  An interesting fact is that the dark spot in the upper section of the tallest tower is a fish frozen in the ice.
Plauble Makina III, 10cm f/2.9 Plaubel Anticomar, Agfa Optima 100

Koenigsee, Bavaria, Germany
Leica M8, 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit

Leica M8, 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit

The last time I visited Venice, I decided to stay away from the typical Venice 
photographs of the well known landmarks in that city.  Instead I tried to give
an account of the less visited areas which have a charm all their own.
While I do prefer to shoot black and white, there are definitely times when color
becomes an integral part of the photopgraph.
Leica M8, 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit

Leica M8, 28mm f/s.8 Elmarit

Market in Venice
Leica M6, 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit

Well, I had to put in a tourist shot after all.
This image required considerable cleanup work because a railing went all the way 
through the lower half of the picture.
Leica M8, 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit

Newtonfork Ranch, Hill City, South Dakota
Leica M8, 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit

Headwaters of the Mississippi, Lake Itasca, Minnesota
Leica M8, 50mm f/2.8 Elmar

Mississippi River at Bemidji, Minnesota
Leica M8, 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit

Restaurant in Buch am Erlbach, Germany
Leica M240, 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit

Moon over Munich, Germany
Leica M240, 890mm f/2.8 Elmarit

Leica M240, 50mm f/2 Summicron

Weilburg, Germany
Leica M240, 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit

View from the Kehlstein Mountain onto the Koenigsee
Leica M240, 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit

Leica M6, 50mm f/2 Summicron, Agfapan APX 25

Leica M6, 90mm f/2.8 Elmarit, Agfapan APX 25

Leica M6, 50mm f/2 Summicron, Agfapan APX 25, No Photoshop

Modified Polaroid Transfer.  The original photograph, taken with aLeica R4, 50mm f/2 Summicron on Kodak Ektachrome, was projected on a modified Polaroid film holder.  After the transfer image on watercolor paper finished developing, the image dyes were carefully removed with a soft brush.  The remaining image is a stain from the dyes on the transfer paper

All photographs by Heinz Richter unless noted otherwise

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