domingo, 26 de mayo de 2013



The Leica IIIa used by the great Alfred Eisenstaedt (the most influential photojournalist ever and one of the best photographers in history) to capture his famous image of the V-J Day in Times Square on August 14, 1945 has been sold for 114,000 euros during the 23rd Camera Auction held at Westlicht Schauplatz für Fotografie in Vienna (Austria) on May 25th, 2013.

Front view of Alfred Eisenstaedt´s Leica IIIa VJ-Day with later Leitz Summitar 5 cm f/2 and VIOOH finder Number 60637 with the lower area of a picture of him taken by Bill Shrout a few hours before he got his famous picture of the sailor and the nurse kissing in Times Square.

The Kiss worldwide famous picture taken with the Leica IIIa Number 238716 by the legendary Master of Photography Alfred Eisenstaedt in Times Square, New York, on August 14, 1945 during the celebration of V-J Day. 

Front view of Alfred Eisenstaedt´s Leica IIIa with a later Summitar 5 cm f/2. Mounted on the hotshoe can be seen the original VIOOH finder number 60637.

Face up image of Alfred Eisenstaedt´s Leica IIIa VJ-Day with Summitar 5 cm f/2 and VIOOH finder.

Aerial back view of Alfred Eisenstaedt´s Leica IIIa V-J Day with Summitar 5 cm f/2 and VIOOH finder.

Back area close-up of the original VIOOH finder Number 60637 of Alfred Eisenstaedt´s Leica IIIa V-J Day.

Aerial front view of Alfred Eisenstaedt´s Leica IIIa V-J Day with Summitar 5 cm f/2 and VIOOH finder. Eisie had previously used on this camera a one prism VIDOM finder which he didn´t like because it showed a reversed left to right image  and had to be adjusted each time he made a vertical shot, so in late 1939 he changed to a VIOOH finder, which has two prisms in the eyepiece and meant a significant improvement, since it was much easier to use on featuring lateral correction.

Front view close-up of original VIOOH finder number 60637 of Alfred Eisenstaedt´s Leica IIIa V-J Day. The quality of the mechanizing and thouroughness of manufacture, following very stringent craftsmanship parameters are simply gorgeous. Those were the times.

Alfred Eisenstaedt´s Leica IIIa VJ-Day with its leather strap.

View from top of Alfred Eisentaedt´s Leica IIIa VJ-Day with Summitar 5 cm f/2 and VIOOH finder.

Coated 7 elements in 4 groups and ten blades Leitz Wetzlar Summitar 5 cm f/2 Number 658134 lens of Alfred Eisenstaedt´s Leica IIIa V-J Day. The mechanizing ot the chromed brass of the lens and specially the painstaking finishing of the narrow knurled focusing ring are really superb. 

Diagonal left view of the original VIOOH finder of Alfred Eisenstaedt´s Leica IIIa V-J Day.

Top view of Alfred Eisenstaedt´s Leica IIIa VJ- Day. The very beautiful VIOOH finder with its superb construction and an amazing level of accuracy are a good example of the great manufacturing precision and use of the best noble metals that have been a hallmark of the legendary German photographic firm.

From scratch, it was clear that the auction of the Leica IIIa rangefinder camera used by Alfred Eisenstaedt to get the famous picture The Kiss in Times Square on August 14, 1945 during the celebration of V-J Day, would bring about very high bids, because of many different factors, among which highlighted that it was Eisie´s camera, that the 35 mm Kodak Super-XX black and white film negative 

rated at ISO 200, exposed at 1/125 sec and f/8 which captured the worlwide known image was inside this rangefinder Leica IIIa Number 238716 camera when this exceptional photojournalist, the most influential ever, took it in Times Square on August 14, 1945 (the 35 mm roll film was developed in D-76 for twenty minutes at 68 degrees Fahrenheit and the image published on page 26 of Life magazine August 27, 1945 number), and the not so known fact that amazingly, forty eight years later, in 1993, this Genius of Photography made the Clinton family portraits at the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury on Martha´s Vineyard (Massachussets) with this same camera, using only one 35 mm film spool!. 

And certainly, the  strong expectation that Eisentaedt´s Leica IIIa had previously generated, resulted in a tremendously disputed fight by discerning buyers, with some remarkable moments of bidding war, something frequent when items of this level are put on sale. 

Bearing in mind that the camera was not a limited production model or prototype, but made in great quantities (91,887 chromed units and 800 black ones manufactured between 1935 and 1948) and fetched a very high hammer price of 114,000 euros in Westlicht auction , it says very much about the immense prestige of Alfred Eisenstaedt as a photpojournalist and his gigantic figure

                                          © Claire Yaffa

Alfred Eisenstaedt inside his apartment/office on the 28th floor of the Time & Life Building in Manhattan. Claire Yaffa, a friend of his during three decades until the Master of Photojournalism died in 1996, made him this picture in mid eighties, and could realize that the genius Eisie had got thousands and thousands of prints of the pictures he had made during his career inside yellow cardboard boxes, and thanks to his prodigious memory he knew exactly the location of each one, also remembering with lavish detail the year and circumstances in which he got them.

in the History of Photography, since among many other things, this extraordinary photographer was the flagship in the golden era of photojournalism, 

making 92 Life magazine covers, 2,500 assignments and more than one million images.

The estimate price initially appearing in Westlicht catalogue for this historical camera was between 20,000-25,000 euros, and after an opening bid of 12,000 euros, in the twinkling of an eye Eisenstaedt´s Leica IIIa reached the figure of 
26,000 euros, 

quickly evolving into a full-fledged contended battle among bidders from all over the world.

Offers were soaring once and again.

It was apparent that this camera had become an exceedingly coveted item, so bids went on rising beyond 75, 000 and 80,000 euros,

until the figure of 95,000 euros was reached, producing moments of great thrill inside the auctions hall of Westlicht Schauplatz für Fotografie, and in spite of the pressure, the auctioning table of the auction (with the auctioneer Niki Schauerhuber, Jonny Glanz and Olivia Coeln) controlled the situation at every moment with outstanding professionalism and experience.

There were some inevitable seconds of stress, and finally a bid of 114,000 euros (premium included) was the  winner, and the attending audience burst into applause.

Copyright Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza