Allen's Blog

Pssst… Hey Buddy, Wanna Buy a Leica?

Many years ago, in New York City, I used to get my hair cut every two weeks by a guy who was a great barber but a terrible horse player. I can’t recall him ever being happy about a big win… it was always a tale of woe about his bad luck and how the bookies were after him. Of course, this was in the days before legalized off-track betting.

Leica Super-Angulon 21mm f/3.4 lens

One day, John (knowing that I was a photographer) asked what kind of cameras I used. This was a strange question, coming from a guy who wasn’t all that bright, and, to the best of my knowledge, had no outside interests except the horses. Anyway, I told him that I made my pictures with Leica cameras. About two weeks later, very late at night, I was awakened from a sound sleep by a phone call from John. He was asking whether I could use any of the items on what was obviously a shipping manifest of Leica equipment. Deep in debt to the bookies and looking for a way out, he had gotten connected with a stolen shipment of cameras and lenses.

It wasn’t easy to hear him try to pronounce words like ‘Summicron,’ but when he finished a very long list, I gave him the bad news that I wasn’t interested. I wish I could say my response was motivated by nothing but personal integrity. But I was in my 20s and barely making a living as a photographer, and it was just as much the knowledge that if I did buy anything on his list, I’d never be able to get it maintained or repaired by Leica.

I still have much of the gear I owned then and used for decades afterward. There was, and is, a ‘feel’ to those Leica rangefinder cameras that no other company has ever quite equaled.