Andreas Kaufman (Leica Bigwig) and Lenny Kravitz Share an Inside Joke
“The Leica M-P “Correspondent” is an homage to Lenny’s lifelong passion for photography that started with the Leicaflex he received from his father on his 21st birthday.” – Kravitz Design. One question: How does one start a “lifelong passion” at 21?
Here’s the “unboxing” video of the Lenny Kravitz MP. The camera and lenses of the Kravitz set are identical to the production MP’s technical specifications i.e. the only difference is the faux wear and the Lenny Kravitz stamp of approval. Give Leica credit: only Leica could introduce an artificially worn camera named after a B-grade rock star, label it the “Correspondence Edition”, require that it be handled with white gloves, charge 3 times the price of the normal petty bourgeois version ($24,500 US), and sell them all.
Make Sure You Wear Those White Gloves While Handling That Old, Beat Up Camera!
Apparently, Leicaphiles eat these absurdities up. In doing a Google search on the camera’s introduction, I can find nothing but breathless fawning by people who should know better – PetaPixel, Leica Rumors, Steve Huff Photo, et al. Critical thinking has always been in short supply among the secondary Leica press. Lesson to be learned: just know when you read these sites that you’re not getting objective information; you’re getting recycled press releases and boot-licking sycophancy whose main objective, as best I can tell, is to stay on the good side of Leica in hopes of catching some scraps from the table.
You may have noticed that I’m seemingly on an extended Lenny Kravitz rant. To clarify: Lenny Kravitz is a very talented guy, much more so than I could ever be. He’s not some self-promoting hack hawking the illusion of his own competence; he’s just a guy who’s outside of his lane when it comes to photography, hawking a vanity project with the complicity of Leica who makes money from it. Apparently, his dad was a professional photographer who used a Leica. His dad gave him a Leicaflex when he was 21 and he’s had an interest in photography since that time. All perfectly legit. He’s also a famous musician…which he’s parlayed into his gig with Leica, and Leica has pimped him as a photographer, giving him exhibits and publishing his vanity project – “Flash” – whose print run, except for a bunch given away for promotional purposes, has probably long ago been remaindered and pulped.
The secondary press has actively promoted the whole schtick, often with great enthusiasm, which says a lot about what they must think of you, their reader. You’d think at least one critic, someone with a media platform like the ones above, would question the whole thing – or at least not smugly play along – but apparently no one did. The reality is this: those sites are just further marketing arms for camera manufacturers, Leica foremost among them. They’re not there to look out for your interests. They’re parasitical to the whole Leica marketing enterprise, there to manipulate your interests and make money doing it.
The Re-Introduced Leica M6
And Yet. If you can get past all the nonsense – what I like to refer to as the ‘Overgaardization’ of the brand – Leica continues to do some pretty remarkable things. The reintroduction of M6 production, almost 40 years after its initial offering, is a case in point. What other camera company is producing and marketing mechanical film cameras in 2022? Nobody. Now, with the new M6, Leica offers three (yes, 3) mechanical film cameras, the MA, the MP and the M6. And they sell every one they produce. As I understand it, Leica is now more fiscally healthy than it’s ever been, whereas twenty years ago they were on the verge of bankruptcy. Cleary as a money-making operation they are wildly successful. And they deserve to be, given their continued commitment to what got them here i.e. mechanical film cameras.
Who’s buying these currently offered film Leica’s is anyone’s guess. Professionals? I doubt it. Old, crusty guys looking to relive their photographic youth? Maybe. Are a lot of them being used to create really shitty “street photography” i.e. seemingly any picture taken outdoors with a Leica? No doubt. Are some people using them to produce meaningful work? Of course. In this respect, the Leica buyer’s demographic has changed little in the last 40 years.
It will be interesting to see who buys the new M6. I suspect it will be one of two types: 1) Younger people who’ve never shot much film and want to engage with, and learn, film photography and 2) everyone else who’ll buy it and never take it out of the box. As for the former, good for them. If your goal is to get back to the basics and cultivate film photography as a viable medium – and you’ve got some disposable income – a new M6 is a worthy way to go about it. I also suspect that, after the initial, all too predictable post-release feeding fenzy, in a year or two you’ll see a lot of ‘Mint’ new M6’s for sale on the secondary market, digital-age photographers having discovered that the reality of film photography and its theoretical allure are often two different things.