Leica advertising has always been stylish. Here’s two in particular that I admire. The first, above, is an early ’50s Modernist advert. Angular orientation with embedded triangles, sans serif typefaces coupled with old school italic script typeface…and the Piccadilly Circus Eros Statute. Eros is one of the primordial gods that emerged from Chaos when the world began, and is the driving force behind the unions of the primordial gods that initiated creation. Subtle. Well done. Someone was familiar with classic Greek mythology who expected his target audience to be so as well.
As for the camera, this “automatic focusing” Leica is an IIIa with a 50mm Summar. Beautiful.
Sixty years later and this ad for the M Monochrom. Monochrome (as in black and white) design can easily appear dull. But it’s perfect here (it is a Monochrom camera after all). This one cleverly uses font-weight to bold certain letters and make them stand out against the monochrome design. The bold camera and letters give a point of focus, while the small text does two things: It draws the reader in and helps align the bolded text. It’s “edgy”. It works.
In between these two are any number of inspired advertising designs. Here are a few more I like, all of them graphically simple while drawing your eye to where it needs to go:
With the exception of the Monochrom ad (a nice throw back to the glory days), the advertising wonks at Leitz who designed these are long gone, replaced by a new, hip generation of 20 something Parsons Design grads who have no conception of the incredibly rich history of Leitz they could draw on. Who’ve been educated, not with the Greek classics, but via Facebook and social media.
So we get the argument from authority sublimated via the cult of personality: famous people achieving their photographic vision with their newest Leica, Lenny Kravitz stalking his prey in the East Village while rocking his rosta hat and a camera designed by Jackson Pollock.
Photo by Lenny Kravitz. Leica gave This Guy a Show at a NYC Gallery. This was the Photo they Used to Advertise It. Seriously.
Erik van Straten. Exceptional.
Meanwhile, there are more than a few Leica users quietly producing stunning work. Look hard enough on the net and you’ll find them – not, mind you in some curated corner where money is looking to be made, or amongst the beautiful people of NYC or some self-appointed expert shill man looking to make a buck off the low-hanging Leicaphile fruit – but everyday people who’ve been using Leicas forever, producing bodies of work that should humble the “Leica Photographers” producing the banal shit above. Leica needs to start recognizing them, because they’re why Leica is famous. Leica should think about returning the favor.
Dragan Novakovac. Just a Guy With a Leica.
Tim, when you do these kinds of posts…it makes me smile.
I’m glad I make you happy, Lee.
Nothing beats HCB for being a Leica prop. Years ago they had him on the street in Paris with his M3. He’s Mr. Suave ducking, bobbing and weaving amid the stalls, it looked like you had to be a spy school graduate to street shoot.
It looked like Jacques Tati directed it, highly amusing and borderline absurd. But…it was entertaining and had some production value.
As opposed to the current jive.
Just by chance, I was having a look through my Willy Ronis book earlier today (Prestel publication), and that’s of whom I was instantly reminded on seeing the Dragan Novakovac photograph. (How do you discover these people?) It wasn’t even so much the characters, though they do very much feel as of an earlier time than ours, as the, well, spatial atmosphere, tonality (photographic) and emotional vacuum of such a pub that has been caught. Classical sense of an era… it could have been a pub anywhere in 50s Glasgow.
It has long struck me that British pubs are of a totally different breed to the contemporary European ones. I can’t comment on current UK pubs as I haven’t set foot in one in decades. I used to have daily coffees in one or another of the little local bars here in my end of Mallorca, pre-Covid. Now, I have just begun to trust one of them again, and lunch there three days a week. Not the quality of my erstwhile Frenchman’s place, but that requires a drive, and I have found, recently, that just the single permitted glass of red wine with lunch hits my head as did three some twenty years ago. This place, I can walk to in under four minutes or so. Oh well, better than doing my own cooking, even though I have learned a lot since Covid came along and closed down all the alternative, easy options!
Ronis could certainly give olde HC-B a good run for his money. I wonder if that’s why he was with a different picture agency… You know, looking at the work of these old guys soon reveals where much of today’s shooters found inspiration. I guess we really do end up reinventing wheels.
Yeah, Dragan’s work is a throwback to the great b&w tradition of Ronas etc. He was kind enough to send me a few of his prints which I proudly display. Hey, its not some guy in heels doing a handstand, but it’s exceptional stuff