For December, museum volunteer and keen photographer, Andy Essex has chosen our object of the month…
“Leica have made some of the best cameras and lenses in the world for over 100 years, and pioneered high quality 35mm photography.
This 24 carat gold plated Leica M6 camera with a Summilux lens, also 24 carat gold plated, is just as capable of high quality photography – but I doubt I would take it out into the street to shoot with.
The Sultan of Brunei commissioned a Leica M6 special edition for his 50th birthday. The top-of-the-line special edition M6 for the Sultan’s birthday was the Leica M6 Platinum-plated. Each camera body came with a brilliance-cut diamond planted at the center of the top plate.
Then came a 24 carat gold plated M6 with diamond.
Here at the museum, we have the less ostentatious 24 carat gold plated version without diamond.
It was presented to the then Chief of the Defence Staff, Field Marshal Peter Inge. As a Green Howard, the museum was the natural choice for Field Marshal Inge to display the camera.
The Leica M6 puts the least complexity between the user and the image and therefore takes consistently very good pictures with minimum set up.
Even if a gold plated camera is not a very practical one for everyday use, it would certainly do everything a normal Leica would.
The name Leica is a combination of the first three letters of Ernst Leitz surname and the first two from the word camera; lei-ca, simplicity itself in the name, and the cameras.
Another thing I like about Leica is their progressive employment policy. Ernst Leitz II took over the company in 1920. He responded to the election of Hitler in 1933 by helping Jews to leave Germany, by ‘assigning’ hundreds of individuals to overseas sales offices (many were not even actual Leica employees) where they were helped to find jobs, and given a stipend until they did. The effort intensified after Kristallnacht in 1938, until the borders were closed in September 1939.
The extent of what came to be called the ‘Leica Freedom Train’ only became public after Leitz’ death, well after the war had ended.”
You can see the camera on display in the Normanby Room.
Andy is currently photographing many of the pieces in our silver collection ahead of a research project in 2016. This will lead to the creation of a new interpretation display so visitors can find out more about the items in our collection.