Leica Camera AG, Sölms, and Louis Vuitton Malletier, Paris, have combined their respective talents to produce this unique and distinctive camera and presentation carrying/display case.
In conjunction with Christie's South Kensington the set is being offered at auction with the proceeds being donated by Leica and Louis Vuitton to the French international charity les petits frères des Pauvres. For the first time Henri Cartier-Bresson, arguably the twentieth century's greatest photographer, and a leading Leica user, has agreed to endorse the camera and has allowed his signature to be engraved on a camera.
Leica, as a camera manufacturer since 1925, and Louis Vuitton, as a maker of fine custom-built luggage since 1854, have unsurpassed reputations for the quality of their products and this camera and case mark a high-point for both firms. The camera and case are unique and no further examples will be made - making this an exceptional opportunity to acquire the ultimate Leica collectable, while at the same time benefitting a charity that works in Europe and the Americas to combat the isolation and exclusion of the under-privileged. The charity has used photography and its own Paris gallery to raise funds and the auction of this camera is an extension of this.
Camera and case
From its origins and the start of commercial Leica camera manufacture in 1925 the company and its products have been associated with very high production standards and reliability. The current production camera, the Leica M6, can trace its lineage directly back to the Leica I of 1925 and the Leica M3 of 1954. It says much that many of these earlier cameras are still being used to make photographs.
The Leica M6 Cartier-Bresson camera has been hand-made to the same very high standards. A single Leica M6 camera was specially produced and parts platinised. It contains 1000 individual components. The lens was similarly constructed from eighty parts. The original lens design dates to 1957. This example is unique and has been specially constructed in homage to Henri Cartier-Bresson who has always worked with 50mm. lenses which he regards as most closely representing the human eye.
The camera and lens both carry the serial number 22-08-1908 which is the birth date of Cartier-Bresson.
The special presentation case has been designed and made by craftsmen within Louis Vuitton's workshops. The one-off case will display the camera for exhibition and protect it during transit. It also contains storage space for the key fob and certificate of authenticity.
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-)
Cartier-Bresson is feted as the twentieth century's greatest living photographer. He has been a Leica user for over forty years having taken up photography seriously in 1930. He was strongly influenced by Man Ray and Eugène Atget and he later credited André Kertész as his 'poetic source'.
Cartier-Bresson's purchase of the 35mm. Leica camera formalised his approach to photography. The small, inconspicuous and quiet camera allowed him to merge into a situation becoming oblivious to his subjects. He called the Leica an extension of his eye, one through which he could perceive and organise a scene with the speed of vision itself, and capture the 'decisive moment'.
In 1937 he began photographing picture stories for magazines and newspapers and continued working with photography until the 1970s when he started concentrating on his painting and drawing. He was a founder member of the Magnum photo agency in 1947 and remained a member until 1966. The agency still represent his work.
1998 has seen a number of major exhibitions celebrating Cartier-Bresson's work and his ninetieth birthday.
See front cover illustration