Friday, January 8, 2021



By Heinz Richter

One of the remnants of my former Leica collection is a rather unassuming camera case.  But it is rather special, to me anyway, because it was made by my dad.  I don’t know its exact age, but it is close to my own.

Before becoming a photographer, my dad was trained as a cobbler.  That gave him the skills to work with leather.  After finishing his education to become a master photographer in 1949 and after buying additional camera equipment the need of a camera case arose.

Down the street in our neighborhood was an old blacksmith’s shop which now operated a gas station.  Up in the attic they found a whole bunch of unused saddle bags.  Nobody needed saddle bags in those days so shortly after the war, but a lot of people needed shoes.  My dad, together with my grandfather volunteered to use the leather of those saddle bags to fashion shoes for many of the people in the neighborhood.

When I learned about this, I realized why so many people in our neighborhood wore shoes of the same color and style, something I had often wondered about.

Part of the agreement was that my dad could use some of the leather for his own use.  Besides shoes he decided to make himself a camera case to carry some of his Leica equipment.

The top of a Leica plastic case was used in between the two lens compartments to carry a fifth lens.

For a brief time I considered to resurrect that case for my own use, especially since it works perfectly with today’s Leica M cameras and many of the lenses, but after years of just sitting on a shelf, the leather has deteriorated and I decided to keep it in retirement.

I like the design.  It can hold a camera, with attached lens and at least three additional lenses with individual compartments for all.  For two of the lens compartments leather inserts were designed to accommodate lenses of different diameters  and by attaching one of the old Leica plastic lens cases which allowed the lens to be screwed into it, a wide angle lens could also be carried.  Part of the front of the case could be folded down for easier access to the equipment inside.  For extra protection the entire case was lined with a soft material.

Years ago I had noticed that this camera case as well as many of the shoes had some odd stich marks.  My dad explained that those were from the saddle bags.  In order not to waste any of the leather, they were simply considered unavoidable.

Unfortunately I no longer have the correct compliment of lenses for which the case was designed.  I had to use some substitutes.  But my Leica III with its 50mm f/2 Summar is definitely part of the original equipment as is the 135mm f/4.5 Steinheil Culminar.  This camera, the lenses and the custom case are my direct connection to my dad as a photographer.  A great keepsake indeed.

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