The legend : A Leica story By Yves Oliver

The legend : A Leica story

By Yves Oliver

I am an enthusiast 47 years old photographer. I live in Belgium, so forgive me for my possible bad english. But first, before the pictures, a true Leica story….or how I finally bought an M8.

Back to…1944 !

My father was a 12 years old boy and passionate about…photography. In 1944, that meant a foldable 6×9 Zeiss Nikon and, of course, black and white film. Living in a village in South Belgium, he was by far the only guy aware of photography. It was the end of the Second World War in Europe and the Germans were going back home. A German troop stopped in the village and an officer spent the night in my father’s house. He had a Leica (probably Leica III). It was the brand new top camera at the time coming from Germany : shiny, tiny and easy to use with 35mm film. My father had his eyes wide open. The next morning, the soldier left to join his troop and….forgot his camera on the kitchen table. My father was dying to keep it without a doubt ! These were dangerous time, the Germans were nervous because they were losing the war and the family could have been accused to have stolen the camera. You could be shot for nothing. “Too dangerous” said my grandmother who forced his son to run after the officer and give him the Leica back. You have to imagine the fear of the young boy among enemy soldiers, and his disappointment for holding a dream camera for a few seconds before giving it back.

10 years later, he had become an engineer and with his very first pay, he bought a Rolleicord 6×6. At the time, if you shot sport or actualities you used Leica, if you shot landscape you used Rollei. Simple. That was before Japanese cameras. He travelled, so he chose Rollei, but in his heart, he never forgot the Leica he once dreamed about during the war. He continued with Rollei, then Exacta, later with Olympus but never with Leica.

15 years later, he had a boy (me) and give him the photography virus. I learned with him, spent time in the darkroom with black and white prints, and with the years, I owned different cameras from Minolta to digital Nikon. When he died, I gave most of his old gear to a famous photography museum (except the Rolleicord I still use !). A part of my life had gone with him but I knew something was missing to close the circle . He had told me the story many times and, as a child, I also dreamed about the “legendary Leica from the war”. In memoriam to him, for my pleasure, and for the father and son dream could finally come true, I bought a used silver M8 with a Summicron 35 for my 45th anniversary. A real gem, he would have been happy for me.

I now have a 5 years old daughter who began shooting with a cheap Coolpix. I wander if the name of Leica will still mean something for her in twenty years…

Yves Oliver

Pictures on Flickr :[email protected]

General website :

Book :

Now, some of my pictures (Leica M8 + Summicron 35 mm, all processed with Silver Fx Pro)

Blankenberg L 25

Phil & Nils L 14

Krka 1


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  1. a wonderful story, glad you could finally close the loop, and acquire the leica your father lusted after.
    also, wonderful pictures, i like the first one of the girl, and the two guys on the bus.

  2. This is what photography means to me: story, passion and message. GREAT POST…which acted like a trigger for exciting and moving people comments! Thank you and to all people that share their life experiences!

  3. Wonderful story. I still have the exact same Zeiss Ikon 6×9 camera that I my father bought in Germany after the war when he was a refugee from Hungary. He brought it to the US when he emigrated here, and he taught me photography with it many years later. I recently found a photograph of him and my mother (she is still alive) that was taken in Boston with that camera in 1950 just after they came to the US. I happened to know the location and was in Boston in 2010 for work. I took a self portrait in the same spot with the same camera 60 years after the original photograph of my parents was made! My mother loves the pair of photographs framed together.

  4. Yves, a wonderful story and beautiful photography. My father purchased his first Leica in 1953, a IIIf, while a soldier stationed in Korea. I started using the camera when I was 15 and still have it to this day.

  5. Nice story and excellent photos -what must it be like to be under occupation during a war? -lets all hope we never know! The M8 really is excellent for black and white photography. I use mine likewise. Must give Silver Efex a try some time . It’s a comforting thought that photography has helped to make the horrors of war more real to people and so hopfully contribute to peace !

    Best wishes keep shooting -photos that is!

    • Being German, born 1945, after World War II, I still feel guilty for what the German people have done to our neighbors. Leicas have been showing the cruelties of many wars from their invention 100 years ago until today. So, they contribute at least a little to peace – hopefully.
      I have been using Leica M, Leica R for many years, nowadays a M9-P and a M7.
      In a way our passion, photography, helps uniting people across all borders. Just read all the contributions to Steve’s/Brandon’s blog, their effort is so helping making the world a better place – thanks them for this!

      • Thank you for this comment. I have just interrupted my husband to read this to him, very wise words. Very perceptive. We who read this blog just see things as they are, and hopefully do not judge.

  6. A really wonderful story about you, your father and photography. Quite moving!
    I’m sure your father would be proud of you.

  7. We have a few things in common, Yves. We’re both from Belgium, although you’re from the South and I’m from the North. And both our story starts with probably the same 6×9 Zeiss Ikon – in my case, my father learned me a lot with that camera.
    But we also have some differences. You moved towards Leica, while I always kept a big soft spot for Zeiss. Recently, to close “my circle”, I even bought a similar Ikon than the one that started it all. Just for old times sake and (like you) in rememberence of my father…
    Anyway, this was a great story and some very nice pictures!

  8. Very nice images and inspiring story, Yves.
    My father had a similar influence on me. BTW, my father (a young American soldier) was in Belgium during WW2 pushing out the Germans. His favorite place was Antwerp which I had the opportunity to visit a few years ago. Lovely city and great country.
    Keep up the nice work.

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