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The Collection of Cameras that Shot Some of the World’s Most Famous Photos

leica camera collection

William Eggleston is an American photographer widely credited for legitimizing and giving credibility to color photography as an artistic medium for display in art galleries.  His work is typified by unremarkable, ordinary daily subject-matter. It was the portrayal, however, of the mundane in such graphic clarity that brought Eggleston both his trademark style and critical acclaim. His rise into the public’s consciousness in the 1970’s for his chronicles of American life are all iconic images now.

vintage bicycle

Of course, those pictures were shot using different kinds of cameras from that era of film, and the master photographer was generous enough to share an image of his vintage gear with the Wall Street Journal. What we see are not SLRs, but rather a briefcase filled with rangefinders. Clearly Eggleston had a special affinity with Leica, particularly the Leica III series that were produced from 1933 to 1960. These were smaller and weighed less than the more commonly known M series.

back of woman's head

Towards the left of the case are a few Canon rangefinders that were very similar in design to their Leica counterparts of that period. This photo however only represents a part of Eggleston’s camera arsenal.  A footnote to this image is that even though he normally shuns working with digital, this particular shot was taken using a Fujifilm X-Pro1.

sign in the middle of field

The Wall Street Journal convinced him to share the photo for the WSJ June issue thanks to the coaxing of WSJ’s photography director, Jennifer Pastore and Winston Eggleston, the photographer’s son, who oversees the affairs and estate of his father. A collection of some of Eggleston’s works is currently on display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, called  At War with the Obvious.

coca cola sign

It is rare that you see the actual tools a master uses to express his art, and it was very generous of Eggleston to share this photograph. These cameras already have the same worth and artistic significance as a Hemingway-used Corona portable, or a John-Wayne-worn Stetson.

Those fortunate to view the collection see why he is considered a treasure. See some of his works here and here.

two men standing by white car

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Patricia Ramos the author

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.

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