How photographer Marco Zeller caught the Leica “M” virus…
by Christopher Osborne.
Photographer Marco Zeller on exploring photography with vinatge Leica’s. And how he caught the Leica “M” virus….
Marco Zeller has a passion for old mechanical things from the past. He collects and restores pre-war German bicycles, and attends period re-enactments.
And when Marco decided that he wanted to take photographs with a classic camera, the first decision was what camera to use. “I thought to myself, what is the best and most famous German camera. I realized that I should use a Leica. After searching eBay I ended up being the proud owner of a 1937 Leica IIIa”.
“This was the first camera I had ever used without a light meter, and I also bought a Sekonic light meter. I found myself in a completely new world. I go out, I look, I measure the light, I adjust the shutter speed and the aperture, I compose and focus using the two different windows. And then, click.
“It is a completely different world. I took the first images in my hometown. In three hours I managed to take twenty images. I can make twenty images on my phone in just ten minutes”.
“I watched a lot of YouTube videos on film development. I bought a Jobo developing tank and a bottle of Rodinal. I practiced loading the tank with an old Kodak film. After five practice runs then I was ready to develop a real film”.
“I wanted to see what the images were like, so I searched eBay-Kleinanzeigen (eBay’s German classified site) for an enlarger. I found one seller with trays, a clock, and a Leitz Focomat enlarger. Of course, this 1960’s enlarger was also built-in Leica’s Wetzlar factory. I cleaned and re-wired the enlarger which now sits in a small dedicated darkroom”.
“Printing is both cool and difficult. I learnt by watching videos, and so far have been printing with Foma fixed grade paper. The prints that I have made so far are quite small, and they have been mounted in an album. I am booked on a SIlvergrainAcademy film noir course in a few weekends. The second day which is darkroom based is what I am really looking forward to”.
During the interview, Marco is sharing images over Zoom. “Many of these were taken on a week-long break in Italy. We started in Verona and then travelled through Venice to Florence and on to Sienna. I only made images with my vintage Leica”. Marco is laughing as he describes measuring the light and composing an image on a gondola trip through Venice’s canals. He describes the gondolier’s reaction to his vintage camera. “What is this? I never saw anything like this”? Marco reflects, “This is another benefit of using vintage cameras. You connect with people in a way that you would not with a digital camera. People are not used to seeing pre-war cameras.
“The Elmar 50mm is an incredible lens. I took a shot in Florence with 100 ISO film in a scene which was very dark. It is perfect. And unlike the clunk of an SLR, the Leica just makes a little click”.
Last November, Marco was in Wetzlar for a vintage themed weekend. There were workshops on developing film by Jobo, and photo walks with Cinestill. The idea was to take photographs of the area. I started talking to a woman with a Leica M4. This was the first time that I had ever held a Leica M in my hands. The weight is perfect. It is like handling a piece of art. It is super nice. This is where I became infected by the Leica ‘M virus’”!
I am now selling my Canon collection to fund the purchase of Leica lenses. And tomorrow, my wife and I are travelling to Granada, Spain for a long weekend. The Leica is in the bag…
Images © Marco Zeller 2022.
You might also like this article on a baseplate for analogue Leica’s: https://silvergrainclassics.com/en/2021/06/leica-m-series-arca-swiss-tripod-plate/
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