domingo, 25 de mayo de 2014


May 23, 2014. Leitz Park in Wetzlar (Germany). 8:00 A:M.

Twenty-three years ago, 626 kilometers from here, a dream began in Vienna (Austria) with the opening of the first Leica Shop in 1991. 

There had been difficult times for the German photographic firm during the first half of seventies because of the thriving Japanese dslr cameras thrust and the almost extinction of the Leica M lineage (saved by Walter Klück, President of Leitz Canada in Midland, Ontario, who managed to transfer the production of the Leica M4-2 to Canada in 1976 and avoided the end of the rangefinder M breed, historical cornerstone of Leica) until the launching into market of the Leica M4-P in 1980 and above all the Leica M6 in 1984 (would be produced until 1998), whose progressive worldwide spreading enabled a RF Renaissance which would go on with the arrival of other 24 x 36 mm format RF cameras like the Konica Hexar RF (1999), Voigtländer Bessa R (2000), Bessa R2 (2002), Leica M7 (2002) and Leica MP (2003).

Anyway, daring to create a special Leica Shop in early nineties was something deemed little short of chimeric by some people.

As a matter of fact, it was the only Leica Shop in the world for seven years.

But Peter Coeln, an Austrian photographer based in Vienna and a highly enthusiast expert on all kind of vintage analogue cameras and lenses of different brands and formats, had a great confidence in the virtues of classical Leica cameras and lenses: the precision engineering excellence, the product philosophy, the quality of the noble metals used in their construction, the duration in time after many decades of hard professional use, the flawless working beyond sixty years service and most times even more thanks to the masterpiece wholly mechanical shutters designed by Dr. Ludwig Leitz and Willi Stein, the accuracy of the Wetzlar made rangefinders, the horology like escapement mechanisms incepted by Oskar Barnack added from 1933 onwards and enabling slow speeds up to 1 second, their amazing compactness and light weight making a cinch their handheld use with top-notch results, the unique high quality image and aesthetics on photographic paper delivered by screwmount and M Leica lenses, the smooth working of their mechanical components, the unutterable beauty of their bodies lines from 1914 ushering in XXI Century camera profiles of different firms and others.

Therefore, year after year, through great effort and steadily striving after making known the Leica brand and its traditional values, Peter Coeln managed to expand his business, founding WestLicht Schauplatz für Fotografie on June 11, 2001, attaining to turn it into a very significant and renowned photographic gallery (as well as holding a unique Photography Museum along with a very comprehensive bookshop selling worldwide) currently being the most important international venue regarding the auction of cameras, lenses, accessories and pictures, as proved by the twenty-five Camera Auctions and ten Photo Auctions held till now.

Following it came the creation of OstLicht with its impressive library of 24,000 photographic books, the Leica Store Vienna Grand Opening on October 30, 2012 and other milestones within this scope, highlighting among others the selling of the most expensive photographic camera ever (a Leica 0 prototype, one of the 25 units made in 1923, which fetched a price tag of 2,160.000 euros), the Susse Frères Daguerrotype from 1839 with the original lens from Chevallier which was sold for 576,000 euros, Robert Capa´s Leica II (Model D) from 1932 with which he made his reportage of Leon Trotsky in Copenhaguen assigned by Berlin Dephot Photographic Agency director Simon Guttmann which achieved 64,000 euros, Alfred Eisenstaedt´s Leica IIIa which captured V-J Day Kiss in Times Square and reached 114,000 euros, the Leica M3 Chrome One Millionth presented by Willi Stein to Dr. Ludwig Leitz in 1960 which attained 840,000 euros and many others. 

Twenty-three years of toil, strenuous endeavour and love for the legendary German photographic firm have paid off and today is the date for a very special auction with attendees and bidders arrived from all over the world. 

May 23, 2014. 13:00 A.M. Only one hour remains for the beginning of the 100 Years of Leica Auction jointly organized by Westlicht Vienna and Leica Camera AG inside the new Leitz Park at Wetzlar (Germany), a historical event which is going to be the most important one ever held in its sphere.

The showing hall (displaying every camera, lens, accessory and photograph on sale) giving to the auction room is already overcrowded with people.

The visitors fill the adjacent areas to the auction room, talking one another and watching the great quantity of items to be sold, divided into two categories: cameras, lenses and accessories (a total of 100 pieces) and photographs (also 100 units). 

This Leica 100 Years Photography Auction has raised great levels of expectation and at 13:30 A.M, half an hour before its beginning, the door zone linking the main lobby of the Leitz Park Wetzlar building and the showing hall leading to the auction room are crammed with people coming from the five continents.

Lars Netopil, world class expert on Leica topics and history of the brand. Chief Editor for the Technical Section (Lots 001-100) and curator of photographic technology of the auction, is constantly walking to an fro advising bidders, collectors and attendees, providing them with lavish information.

An absent-minded visitor thrilled while watching pages 100 and 101 of the fabulous 100 Years of Leica Catalogue depicting three Summar 5 cm f/2 lenses from 1933 and in-depth information on them by Lars Netopil. 

On the right of the image can be seen some samples of the number 106 of Vidom, the magazine of the Leica Historica e.V. including a very interesting article titled Max Berek, Pioner del Leica Objektive written by Peter Karbe (Head of the Optical Department of Leica Camera AG and best lens designer in the world) and two pictures made by Lars Netopil, one of Peter Karbe beside a Max Berek statue and a second one depicting Dr. Knut Kühn-Leitz (son of Kurt Kühn and the legendary Elsie Leitz, founder of the Wetzlar Cultural Association and a key figure in the History of Leica, who was beloved by all Leica employees because of her fight to get the best possible working conditions for them), Andreas Kaufmann Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Leica Camera AG), Karin Rehn-Kaufmann (Art Director and General Manager of the International Leica Galleries of Austria) and Alfred Schopf (CEO of the Management Board of Leica Camera AG).

Hans-Michael Koetzle, a world class authority on History of Photography. Chief Editor and Curator for the Photography Lots (Lots 101-200) of the auction with the gorgeous catalogue book of this once in a lifetime event.

One of the highlights and most coveted items on sale during the 100 Years of Leica Auction: Elliott Erwitt´s black Leica MP with Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 and his Magnum Agency Press card from 1953 signed by Robert Capa.

Elliott Erwitt, legendary photographer of Magnum Agency and one of the best photographers in history, who was present in the Leica 100 Years Auction. He stated that he has been a Leica M photographer for 60 years and doesn´t see any reason to change.

Another of the sensations on sale during this unforgettable auction: Henri Cartier-Bresson´s Leica M3 Black Paint from 1960 with Black Paint Summicron 5 cm f2 

Leica M6 Historica Set from 1995 of the Leica Historica e.V, made up by a Leica M6, a Summicron-M 50 mm f/2, a Tri-Elmar 28-35-50 mm f/4 ASPH and a Leicavit M. The labour of this organization founded by Theo Kisselbach and Willy Hahne in 1975 and featuring in its ranks such knowledgeable Leica experts like Wolfgang Netolitzky, Dr B. Bawendi, Axel Rosswog, Lars Netopil, Claus Walter, Walter Michel, Ottmar Michaely, Hubert Mouget, Dirk Daniel Mann, Rolf Adam, Georg Steinmetz, Michel Specklin, Dieter Dosin, Olaf Nattenberg and others has been laudable throughout forty years.  

René Burri´s Leica M3 Chrome from 1958 with Summicron-M 50 mm f/2.

The great Italian photographer Gianni Berengo Gardin inside the showing room of the Leica 100 Years Auction holding a Leica vintage advertisement from thirties. He has been a Leica rangefinder user since fifties.

A group of visitors watching the front area of a Leica M3 Display Model from 1954 with Summarit-M 5 cm f/1.5 lens.

Spectacular appearance of the Leica M3 Display Model from 1954 with Summarit-M 5 cm f/1.5 lens handheld by a member of the auction staff. 

The 100 Years of Leica Auction inside the Leitz Park Building of Wetzlar has just begun.

The room is overcrowded with bidders arrived from all over the world (collectors and investors alike) and personalities of the history of Leica brand and photography: Elliott Erwitt, Thomas Hoepker, Hiroji Kubota, James L. Lager, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Lars Netopil, Peter Coeln, Ottmar Michaely, Mayumi Kobayashi, Zoltán Fejér, Peter Báki, Jo Geier, Martin Kollar and others.

There´s an atmosphere of collective excitement and great interest for the items, because the auction is made up by two hundred treasures:

a) 100 items from every period of technical development in the history of Leitz (mainly rare and highly valuable cameras, lenses, accessories, telescopes, microscopes and original vintage advertisements) with highlights like a Kellner telescope from 1852, a Leica I Model A with Anastigmat 50 mm f/3.5 lens from 1925, a Leica II Model D Luxus from 1932, a Ernst Leitz New York Leica Gun rifle from 1937, a Leica 250 GG with MOOEV motor from 1941 in A/B condition, a Leica IIIc W.H. Rundbildkamera E2 from 1944, a Summitar 5 cm f/2 in Compur shutter from 1950, a Leica 72 Midland from 1955, a Stereo-Elmar 3,5 cm f/3.5 from 1940, a Leica M3 Prototype and early screwmount Summicron 5 cm f/2 from 1953, a Leica MP Black Paint from 1957 in almost mint condition, an Elcan 90 mm f/1, a Leica M6 electronic prototype from 1979 and many others, together with a fantastic bonus: the different models of Leica M cameras belonging to legendary Magnum photographers (Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt, Ian Berry, René Burri, Bruno Barbey, Abbas, Paul Fusco) and Herbert List.

b) 100 iconic pictures made by famous Leica photographers and which have become visual historic landmarks and part of our collective memories, in the way of rare vintage prints of photographs by Oskar Barnack, Lothar Rübelt, Alfred Eisenstadt, Paul Wolff, Alexander Rodchenko, Ilse Bing, Robert Capa, Werner Bischof, Ernst Haas, David Douglas Duncan, Elliott Erwitt, Mark Riboud, René Burri, Thomas Hoepker, Josef Koudelka, Kryn Taconis, Dmitri Kessel, Inge Morath, Hiroji Kubota, Chris Steele Perkins, F.C. Gundlach, Robert Frank, Lisl Steiner, Hiroshi Amaya, Bruce Davidson, Erich Lessing, Franz Hubmann, Gianni Berengo Gardin, Dennis Stock, Tazio Secchiaroli, Jeanloup Sieff, William Klein, Alberto Korda, Ian Berry, Bruno Barbey, Philip Jones Griffiths, Abbas, Chris Steele-Perkins, Jürgen Schadeberg, Barbara Klemm, William Eggleston, Jane Evelyn Atwood, Shoji Ueda, Ralph Gibson, Bruce Gilden, Mary Ellen Mark, Nobuyoshi Araki, Alex Webb, Michael Agel and many others. 

This is probably the most impressive assortment of timeless and defining images ever gathered in an event of this kind.


A moment during the bidding of a Leica I Model C Non Standard Outfit from 1930. It would fetch a hammer price of 19,000 euros.

The bidding war for the Leica IIIc W.H.Rundbildkamera E2 from 1944 at full blast. It would reach 200.000 euros. The starting price had been 50,000 euros.

The bidding for the Summitar 5 cm f/2 Aluminium Rim who had initially belonged to the collection of Theo Kisselbach has already brought about a high interest among bidders and quickly arrives at 13,000 euros. It would get a hammer price of 24,000 euros.

The VIOOH Round Body auxiliary viewfinder from 1936 bidding starts at 800 euros. One of the most remarkable stages of the auction is about to unfold.

This is a highly interesting an coveted item, because it´s in very good B/A condition with a gorgeous cosmetic appearance in which the superb mechanizing of the nickel stands out and above all, very few specimens exist of it, so very quickly the bidding gets 3,400 euros.

The fight intensifies. Both collectors and investors crave for this jewel and the bids keep on raising, reaching 4,000 euros.

This is going far beyond expectation. It is a very exotic and beautiful item and a bidder offers 5,000 euros, getting this wonderful piece of history.

The Jewel of the Crown of the 100 Years of Leica Auction inside the Leitz Park of Wetzlar: a gorgeous Leica 250 GG with Leica Motor MOOEV from 1941in A/B condition, virtually like new.

The bidding begins at 120,000 euros, but in the twinkling of an eye it reaches 260,000 euros.

The auction room begins pervading with indescribable thrill. This is a very amazing piece. Some sighs and pants can be clearly heard.

The battle goes on. Nobody wants to give up. The consecutive biddings happen in a very fast way. Inevitably, stress soars and the unpredictability factor is already reigning supreme. 

A bidder offers 360,000 euros. The telephones are already burning with calls from bidders from all over the world.

The 400,000 euros plateau is crossed and a kind of collective excitement is begotten. The item is in fantastic cosmetic condition and has been preserved in almost mint condition for 73 years. 

This kind of items experience a significant resale value through time and besides, it´s in flawless working condition.

Suddenly, a bidder stakes all and offers 460,000 euros.

An utter silence presides over the room. Some seconds elapse and it´s impossible to foresee what´s going to happen.

The phone rings again. Another  bidder offers 480,000 euros (576,000 with premium) and gets it.

The bidding for a Summarex 8,5 cm f/1.5 from 1943 begins with a starting price of 6,000 euros.

The lens is in excellent B/A condition. Very quickly a discerning bidder offers 8,500 euros (10.200 with premium) and prevails.

Final stage for the bidding of an amazing Leica MP Black Paint from 1957 with Summicron-M 5 cm f/2. It is in A- condition, almost brand new, and has been expertised by Leica mechanics pundit Ottmar Michaely, which is always a guarantee, so a fast bidding war has developed among some attendees from the starting price of 140,000 euros until reaching a hammer price of 340,000 euros (408.000 euros with Premium).

Leica Mechanics Master Ottmar Michaely, world class authority in Leitz components of analogue both screwmount and M cameras manufactured  by the German photographic firm since 1925 and a highly skillful expert in their repairing, CLA and even exquisite replacement of missing or harmed pieces of leather with modern vulcanite . He is also the archivist of the Leica Historica e.V.

He has imparted historical lectures in the Wetzlarer Hof Hotel showing the working of Leitz 16 mm movie projectors (another field he masters) like the Leitz-Schmalfilm-Theater Maschine G1 from early fifties for 1200 film spools with Leitz Eikinon 35 mm f/1.5, Leitz Elkinar 50 mm f/1.3 and Leitz 200 mm lenses.

He usually inspects and expertises analogue Leica cameras for Westlicht and Lars Netopil.

He checked personally and approved some of the cameras on sale in this 100 Years of Leica Auction.

The Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 Black Paint from 1958 fetches 12,000 euros (14,400 with Premium) after a disputed fight from the starting price of 3,000 euros.

Magnum Photographer Abbas  Leica M3 and M4 cameras from 1962/69 and his four books Iran: La Revolution Confisquee, Retornos a Oapan, Return to Mexico and Iran Diary signed by him.attain 75,000 euros (90.000 with Premium).

Magnum Photographer Bruno Barbey Leica M2 Black Paint from 1962 with black 8-element Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 and his famous books Les Italiens and Maroc reach 24,000 euros (28,800 with Premium).

Magnum Photographer Ian Berry Leica M Cameras from 1962/67 and his book The English signed by him bidding has just reached 65,000 euros. It would fetch a hammer price of 70,000 euros (84,000 with Premium).

Magnum Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson Leica M3 Black Paint from 1960 and black paint Summicron-M 5 cm f/2 fetches a hammer price of 44,000 euros (52,800 with Premium).

A historical moment: The bidding war for Elliott Erwitt´s Leica MP with Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 and his first Magnum Agency Press card signed by Robert Capa one year before his death reaches 22,000 euros (it would fetch a hammer price of 26,000 euros). The great Hiroji Kubota, utterly concentrated, photographs the Maestro with an analogue Leica M6 and film.

After a hard fought bidding war, an Elcan 90 mm f/1 from 1970, one of the most amazing optical designs by Walter Mandler at Midland, Ontario (Canadá) fetches a hammer prize of 110,000 euros (132,000 euros including Premium). The starting price had been 40,000 euros.

A moment during the intensive bidding war for another of the highlights of this historical auction: a Leica M6 Electronic Prototype with Motordrive from 1979, designed by Peter Loseries reaches 220,000 euros. It would get a hammer price of 280,000 euros (336,000 premium incl.)

Elliott Erwitt holding a picture taken on January 22, 1958 during a visit by some Magnum photographers to Wetzlar. From left to right can be seen: Elliott Erwitt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brian Brake, Erich Hartmann and Theo Kisselbach.

Andreas Kaufmann (Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Leica Camera AG) with the great pundit on Leica topics James L. Lager and an attendee a few minutes before the beginning of the Photographies Auction which followed the Leica cameras, lenses and accessories one.


Famine in Bihar, India 1951 by Werner Bischof fetched a hammer price of 4,600 euros (5,520 incl. Premium). The starting price had been 3,000 euros

Publisher Eveleigh Nash at Buckingham Palace Mall, London 1953 by Inge Morath attained a hammer price of 3,400 euros (4,080 incl. Premium) from a starting price of 2,000 euros.

Marc Riboud with his Leica M4, Paris 1980 by Yvette Troispoux reached a hammer price of 5,500 euros (6,600 incl. Premium) from a starting price of 1,400 euros.

The Kitchen Debate (Nikita Khrushchev, Richard Nixon), Moscow July 24th, 1959 by Elliott Erwitt achieved a hammer price of 15,000 euros (18.000 incl. Premium) from a starting price of 8,000 euros.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy, New York September 1960 by Alfred Eisenstaedt fetched a hammer price of 8,500 euros (10,200 euros incl. Premium). The starting price had been 6,000 euros.

The overcrowded auction room during the final stage of the bidding for the aforementioned vintage silver print of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his wife by Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Anita Ekberg and husband Anthony Steel, Rome 1958 by Tazio Secchiarolli reached a hammer price of 16,000 euros (19,200 incl. premium). The bidding had started at 10,000 euros.

Tae Song Dong, South Korea 1961 by René Burri fetched a hammer price of 10,000 euros (12,000 incl. premium) from a starting price of 6,000 euros.

Muhammad Ali, Chicago 1966 by Thomas Hoepker attained a hammer price of 15,000 euros (18,000 euros incl. Premium). The starting price had been 8,000 euros.

Thomas Hoepker, legendary photographer of Magnum Agency, getting pictures during the 100 Years of Leica Auction inside the Leitz Park of Wetzlar with his Leica M9-P and Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 ASPH Silver Chrome.

Muhammad Ali, Chicago 1966 by Thomas Hoepker attained a hammer price of 15,000 euros (18,000 euros incl. Premium). The starting price had been 8,000 euros.

Mekong River, Vietnam 1967 by Philip Jones Griffiths got a hammer price of 4,000 euros (4,800 euros incl. Premium) from a starting price of 2,000 euros.

Nelson Mandela in his Cell on Robben Island (revisit), 1994 by Jürgen Schadeberg reached a hammer price of 2,600 euros (3,120 incl. Premium).

A moment during the final stage of the bidding war for Nikon Camera Club, Tokyo 1980 by David Douglas Duncan, which attained a hammer price of 16,000 euros (19,200 euros incl. Premium). The starting price had been 3,000 euros.

Michael Agel reached a remarkable success during this Leica 100 Years of Photography Auction held in the Leitz Park of Wetzlar, since his Portraits of Ralph Gibson, René Burri, William Klein and Mark Riboud with their Leica Cameras fetched a hammer price of 6,000 euros (7,200 incl. Premium) from a starting price of 2,000 euros.

Michael Agel is a versatile reportage photojournalist and great available light concert photographer using the Leica M System of cameras and lenses shooting handheld, with a deep involvement in the event context, using highly luminous primes and steadily striving after capturing the true atmosphere and most interesting fleeting moments, following the trail of the great Jim Marshall.

He has photographed live concerts of Leonard Cohen, Metallica, Kimbra, Buddy Guy, Ericah Badu, Francois and the Atlas Mountains, Luiz Melodia, Hugh Laurie, Jamie N Commons, 69 Chambers, James Carter, M.I.A , Red Hot Chili Peppers, Motörhead, Jamie Cullum, ZZ Top, Editors, The Hives, Green Day and others.

And among his reportages are those made to Macallan Distillery, Wacken Open Air, Mozarteum, Leica lenses manufacturing stages, Deutscher Fussball Bund, Park Wood, Valbray, Leitz Park and others.

This historical and unforgettable auction has just finished. Peter Coeln hugs his daughter Mona while Auctioneer Nikolaus Schauerhuber´s countenance reveals satisfaction because of the amazing success of the event.

The great 100 Years of Leica Photographic Auction Catalogue Book, a unique work in its genre in which Westlicht and Leica have made a strenuous effort to offer an eouvre matching the huge significance of the celebration.

It is a milestone featuring nothing less than 423 pages, a top-notch very thick and sturdy binding, first-rate paper and an awesome photographic reproduction in large size of every camera, lens, accessory, advertisement and photograph sold during this historical auction held on May 23, 2014 inside the Leitz Park of Wetzlar, with preface by Dr. Andreas Kaufmann (Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Leica Camera AG), Alfred Schopf (Chairman of the Executive Board, Leica Camera AG), Markus Mittringer (Expert in Contemporary Art, collector and usual writer in Der Standard, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the art magazine Monopol), Ulf Richter (Author of the Book ´Oskar Barnack - Von der Idee zur LEICA´ ), Hans-Michael Koetzle (Author, Curator and Journalist), Peter Coeln (MD, Westlicht Auctions, Leica Shop Vienna).

On the other hand, this catalogue book is a real treat for any enthusiast of photographic technology and iconic pictures,

because of the wisely chosen format of one photographic item (pages 22 to 221) or iconic photography (pages 224-423) appearing on each right page and the corresponding text with in depth, highly valuable and greatly unknown information on each left page, thanks to the great experts Lars Netopil (Vicepresident of the Leica Historica e.V, an authority on Leica topics, Leica Camera AG Consultant for its Department Museum and Historical Archive and Chief Editor for the Technical Section) and Hans-Michael Koetzle (an authority on History of Photography and author of a number of books on it and also on great photographers).

The texts written by Lars Netopil and Hans-Michael Koetzle are fruit of lifetimes devoted to research, very hard work and love for their scopes and make up a wonderful source of information of what has been the Golden Era of Leica cameras and lenses and the halcyon days of timeless images that were made with them.

© Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza