Chasing Stories: ‘Eyes wide open! 100 years of Leica photography’ featuring Julius Huisgen The stories behind the images, by curator Hans-Michael Koetzle at Eyes Wide Open! in Madrid

Following its enormous success in Germany, Austria, Belgium and Portugal the spectacular exhibition ‘Eyes Wide Open! 100 years of Leica photography’ is now visiting Spain on the next stop of its tour and can be seen in Madrid from May 11th to September 10th, 2017. More than 400 original prints are being shown in Madrid. Photographs by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Nick Út, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Robert Lebeck, Julia Baier and François Fontaine document significant moments in the history of art and culture from 1914 to the present day. The exhibition showcases significant moments of the past century of Leica photography. Chasing Stories are written by curator Hans-Michael Koetzle and the exhibition will take place at Espacio Fundación Telefónica in Madrid.

© Leica Camera AG - Julius Huisgen, Oskar Barnack at his workplace in the Hausertor Works, 1934
© Leica Camera AG – Julius Huisgen, Oskar Barnack at his workplace in the Hausertor Works, 1934

Julius Huisgen: Oskar Barnack at his workplace

Hausertorwerk, Wetzlar, 1934

He could have worn a more agreeable expression, he could have been beaming. However, at the time his colleague Julius Huisgen took this portrait, a victory pose was not part of Oskar Barnack’s gestural inventory. In fact, the technician and design engineer had every reason to celebrate; after all, his invention of the 35mm film camera was a stroke of pure genius – a technical marvel that was also a commercial success. He had completed the first model in 1914. By 1925, the camera – by then known as a Leica (Leitz + Camera) – had hit the commercial market. This photo was taken in 1934, and Barnack had been working continuously on his creation. Above all, the screw thread, the development and introduction of interchangeable lenses of varying focal lengths, and the integrated, interlocked range-finder were milestones that cemented the Leica as a prototype for a high-performance, universal camera. The image shows Barnack working at his desk in the Hausertorwerk. There is a humble atmosphere in the air: a telephone, a calendar, a camera body on the table; and we like to imagine that Barnack is in the middle of further developing his creation. On the wall are the memos entrusted with his constructive ideas. Yes, his gaze is serious. Is it his illness? Since his youth, Barnack had been suffering from a serious lung disease. Had it become worse? Two year later Oskar Barnack was to die at the early age of 57. At least he still got to experience the success of his creation.

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