Leica Camera opened their new flagship Leica Store and Gallery Los Angeles today. Located at 8783 Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood, the 8,000 square-foot space is an art gallery and store in a beautifully designed space. It’s walking distance to LA’s best restaurant, Matsuhisa. The Beverly Center shopping mall is a couple of blocks away. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is across the street, in case you feel heart palpitations of excitement at the $1 million Yibai Liao“Fake Leica” sculpture sitting in the entrance.
The store carries all Leica cameras and accessories, photography books, a library, printing and rental services, and select third party accessories.
The exhibits today featured photographs by legendary Mary Ellen Mark, including her iconic Brando and Hopper portraits from “Apocalypse Now;” Seal, the singer, writer and “photography geek;” and Yariv Milchan, talented photographer and studio executive.
I asked Yariv Milchan what the magic was with Leica rangefinder cameras and the new M and Monochrom.
Yariv said, “The magic is, first of all, the M system in general. It’s the way the M works in general. Which is unlike any other camera. The M works in a different way than an SLR or anything else: the manual focusing and the rangefinder puts your head in a different space. What happens when you work with these cameras is that it requires you to be a little bit more connected to what’s going on around you. Because you need to focus and you need to anticipate. You get very connected to what’s happening right now and try to see what’s coming. It’s different psychologically. Which is nice because it forces you to be in the moment.
“It requires you to be a little bit more engaged. And that is a real pleasure. When you get the image you feel like something special happened. The new M and the new Monochrom let you shoot in lower light with a higher ISO; this is very much improved. The color of the new M is incredible. I think it’s a richer, deeper. There’s something about the sensor.”
Mary Ellen Mark shared her feelings about Leicas, “The rangefinder provides another way of looking at things. I’m faster with it. I learned to be very fast with it. I’m faster focusing with it than an autofocus camera. And I think more about the content when I’m shooting with a rangefinder. Because you’re not as seduced by the image. There’s another thing with digital. I tell my students that I want them to cover the back of their camera so they don’t look at the monitor. If they just look at the monitor, they don’t know how to read light or use a lightmeter. I tell them not to look at the back of the camera because the image is small, often in direct sunlight, and they shouldn’t judge the image until they see it on a good, large screen.”
In response to a question about how the LA Store began, Alfred Schopf, CEO of Leica Camera, said, “We wanted to integrate not only camera and optical technology but also present the results. For us, the results are stunning images. The lenses and cameras are the enabling tools. This is actually the first store where we have integrated books as well as some accessories, a Leica Academy, and a printing service. So this is our first really integrated approach. And that’s the reason why we needed to go to a great city to, to a great location. And we have found it.”
The Hollywood motion picture connection was evident. Side by side with stars, studio tycoons and still photographers, prominent cinematographers were hovering around Summilux-C lenses on an ARRI Alexa, and what appeared to be an imminent Summicron with PL-to-Leica mount on a Leica M. In the slideshow above, Gerhard Baier and Erik Feichtinger, Managing Directors of the Cine Lens Division, are seen with Richard Crudo, ASC (President of ASC), Steve Poster, ASC (President of ICG), among many others. The black & white images were taken with the Leica Monochrom.