small camera – big man

Willard Morgan with Leica  in 1928

Toronto.It was spring 1925 when a new tiny camera was first marketed at the Leipzig fair by the family owned microscope manufacturer and optical institute, Ernst Leitz Wetzlar, Germany.

To most people, the Leica was a very expensive novel toy for those who had too much money. However, a silent, dedicated following began. These were photographers who realized that the Leica could take decent photographs after all and do so in many places where the bulky instruments of the day were too unwieldily or too visible.

Three years later, a tall inquisitive American by the name of Willard D Morgan acquired a Leica A and was mesmerized by the pictures it could make. Willard and his wife Barbara, negotiated with Leitz NY to get TWO Leica A’s in exchange for articles and Leica photos showing the little camera’s potential as a commercial instrument.

A video of the photos Willard and Barbara took in 1928 on their trip to the US Southwest is shown here on Vimeo. Willard joined Leitz NY and went on to create numerous magazines and books. He patented the first FocoSlide (see the 3rd edition of the Leica Manual). I have one – a ring held the camera body tight to one slide while the lens screwed in to the other. Willard arranged for Leitz NY to manufacture the clever accessory.

Willard joined forces with Henry Lester to found the Morgan & Lester publishers in 1934. The nascent  company produced books such as the Leica Manual, Graphic Graflex Photography, Stereo Realist Manual, Photo-Lab Index, etc. Years after his death, Willard was the subject of this  RIT Thesis.

Check out this page if you want to see the birth and death dates of Willard and the books published by him and his wife Barbara Morgan.

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