Dressed in woollen breeches and hobnailed boots, photographer Hanson Leatherby and writer Oliver Carter-Wakefield set out to climb Snowdon in the footsteps of mountaineer George Leigh Mallory, and to capture the expedition with the Kodak camera of the day – the Leica IIIc. We caught up with Hanson to find out more about this robust, yet elegant, piece of kit.
For those unfamiliar with vintage cameras, what is a Leica?
The first 35mm film Leica prototypes were built by Oskar Barnack at Ernst Leitz Optische Werke, Wetzlar, in 1913. Intended as a compact camera for landscape photography, particularly during mountain hikes, the Leica was the first practical 35 mm camera that used standard cinema 35 mm film. Barnack conceived the Leica as a small camera that produced a small negative, with high quality lenses that could create well-defined negatives.
Tell us about the model you’re using – the IIIc.
My Leica IIIc was made in 1940. It's very small and portable with tiny interchangeable lenses that are really sharp and render beautifully with B&W film. They call it the 'Leica glow' with lenses from this era. The nature of shooting with a rangefinder urges you to frame in certain ways that give the image a particular style no other camera can give. This, as well as its portability, is why I chose it.
What should a user bear in mind when it comes to handling and operating this camera?
You have to cut the film leader to fit the film into the camera, which is a bit of a challenge. The shutter speed dial has to be operated after the film is wound on, not before.
How did you find using the Leica on the Mallory shoot in Snowdonia? Were there any surprises or challenges?
I have shot a lot with this camera so no surprises, really. As mentioned before, loading film is the main challenge as you have to cut the film leader to slide it into the body of the camera so that is doesn't foul the cloth shutter curtain. The curtain runs horizontally directly in front of the film plain, so when you slide film into the body of the camera it can hit the shutter curtain and cause damage or a jam.
Any other exciting shoots coming up?
The next shoot I have coming up is a Brassaï style nighttime street shoot in Paris, shot on film with models wearing 1930s clothing.
Hanson Leatherby is a Bebop fanatic, aesthete and an escapist. He is also a lover of cubism, sharp suits and industrial design. He shoots film on manual cameras to keep him sane.
You can read about Hanson and Oliver's experience walking in the footsteps of Mallory in issue 6 of Ernest Journal, on sale now.