1928 - The Leica Story

Before you close this thinking,  "Great, another Leica fan boy post showing off his new camera"..... read on, hopefully you'll think differently at the end. 

If you follow my blogs, you'll know I like cameras.....and I own a few. Mainly film, with the exception of the 2 Fuji X series cameras. The main theme to my collection of late generally revolves around rangefinders. Recent additions have been the Bessa R3M and the Contax G2. But there has been a gap, an obvious gap...and this is where the story begins... 18th September, 1928.

Before you search the serial number archives, this isn't related a batch of Leica's made. This is the date one Kenneth John Villani was born.

 Kenneth John Villani: 18th September 1928 - 8th June 2011

Kenneth John Villani: 18th September 1928 - 8th June 2011

In a previous job I met someone who instantly became a great friend who stayed in touch long after I left, and we continue to meet up whenever time and geography is compatible. It was through this friendship that I learnt of his dad, who the more we talk about, the more incredible he sounded. Kenneth had an extraordinary range of interests (he was a cordon bleu trained cook, motorbike owner, writer) but I concluded, he had four main passions in... His wife, his children, motor sport (specially Ferrari and BRM) and cameras....lots and lots of cameras!

The collection amassed over decades is truly staggering, and hopefully one day if the family allow, I'd love to document this in more detail. I've seen probably 50% of it which includes Leica, Rolleiflex, Nikon SLR's, Canon SLR's....the list goes on. But, what is perhaps most telling is the detail paid to each of the systems. It's not simply a body and a lens......not for Kenneth....he had multiple lenses for each system, multiple viewfinders...multiple cases...all branded to the camera system...of course!

Sadly, on 8th June 2011, the collection could grow no more.....


During the last 3 years, thoughts turned to deciding what to do with such a collection. Clearly, something as impersonal as eBay was out of the question. Which brings me to 16th May, 2014. This was a date when geography and time was compatible and on a flight back from Moscow into Heathrow I managed to catch up with my old friend. He knew how interested I was in this collection and I ordered some film to be delivered to his house so I could test out some of the cameras. What actually happened was beyond my wildest dreams. Knowing my enthusiasm, and wanting the collection to be used as it should, I was asked if I would like to look after / borrow a Leica. More specifically the M2, complete with 35 / 50 and 90mm lenses.....I'll pause for a second whilst you comprehend how excited I was.....

Clearly, with such a kind gesture comes an element of responsibility. Yes, I'm still excited to have such a camera in my collection for now, but moreover I'm honoured to be able to use one with such a history. I'm not going to dwell on the functionality and build quality here, as I'm sure you've read all that before. I just hope I can do the camera some justice....Time will tell.