I’m not a fan of people who collect rare Leica cameras and gear. When I was still shooting professionally, I couldn’t afford to buy Leica. I suppose if I really wanted one, I should have made it enough of a priority to actually acquire one.
Back in the day, I was sitting with my friend Matt. We photographers were discussing how much we disliked the fact that people who didn’t actually make photographs drove up the price of professional Leica gear by doing silly things like buying a new Leica and never—ever—taking it out of the box. We talked about how some collectors collected one of every Leica item available for a specific year. Every camera, every lens, every lens hood, lens cap and lens filter Leica made for that year. We talked about how some camera models are considered more desirable than others due to paint finish vs. chrome finish, which optical designer was responsible for which lens, whether the film advance was a single or double stroke, etc. This is all well and good until you begin to realize that these people are buying these ultimate photographic tools because they’re pretty, because it ‘feels good in the hand’, or because it represents the ideal of mechanical design perfection, but not necessarily because it is capable of making striking photographs.
Needless to say, us poor working shooters were most unhappy about this state of affairs.
I had an idea.
"Hey Matt," I said, "What if we held an auction for the scarcest, most desirable Leica collector’s item ever. Like an original Barnack prototype or something." Matt listened as I continued, "We could gather all the most hardcore collectors from around the world and get them frothing at the mouth at the chance to own this penultimate collector’s jewel."
I paused for effect.
"Then what?" Matt asked.
"When they’re all in the room, and that camera is on a raised pedestal, under glass, I would walk into the room… lift the glass case… and smash it to bits with a sledgehammer as they watched helplessly.”
I busted out laughing at my own joke. I do this regularly, actually.
Matt pondered this a moment.
"No, no—you’re taking entirely the wrong approach," he said.
He proposed his own end game.
"At the end, when they’re all in the room?"
"You lock the door. Announce that under each chair is a hammer," Matt said slowly, a thin smile building on his face.
"Why would you do that?" I asked, puzzled.
"Because then you announce… that there is no auction, but the survivor gets the camera for free!”
In retrospect, I’m sure this is offensive to many, especially those who just like to collect cool things. We laughed our asses off anyway.
I haven’t talked to Matt for a long time, not since his wedding. I kinda miss him.