For those of you who don't know me well, I've been a photographer about twice as long as I've been a writer, and for many of the 43 years I've been making pictures, my camera of choice has been Leica. I love their precision, I love the quality of their lenses, I love their balance, and the way they feel in my hands.
Photographers who have driven a 911 understand this; and 911 drivers who have shot with Leica M cameras get this: The Leica M is the 911 of photography. Throughout this three-plus week work trip so far, the similarities between the two companies and these two products has struck me repeatedly. What each of these machines do is remind you that you can do better, either to make better photos, or to drive better through a turn. They force—okay, I'll use a bad pun, they drive you—to do better at what you're doing.
My friend Jerry Reilly shares my fondness for Leica and he arrived in Germany with a couple lenses and two Leica M digital bodies, one of which quit on us soon after he arrived. Porsche's head of archives Dieter Landenberger is a talented, energetic, and accomplished photographer himself (he won best of show in the annual Auto Motor und Sport photo contest, top prize for which was a Leica!) and he recognized our challenge. We wanted to make a big series of photos of each interview subject so we can have recent photos of each individual for this book, and possibly stitch them into a kind of video an e-book version of Porsche Racing History further down the line.
Dieter phoned Leica, north of Frankfurt, and today was our day to Journey to Mecca. Andreas Dippel, manager for Press & Public Relations, treated us royally, getting us first to customer service where the shutter of Jerry's M9 was pronounced dead-on-arrival. Andreas hurried us through the process, introducing us to the head of M9 technical repairs and the camera goes under his surgical care first thing Thursday morning.
The last photos I'm including here is one that shows how we are doing this book at this point. I record each interview on Olympus digital voice recorders - that way, if one fails, or if a battery dies, I have the words on the other recorder. On top of that, I tested both of them thoroughly before I came over and each records voices slightly differently. With sometimes challenging accents, it's a real help to have two versions of the same word or phrase. Dieter has essentially turned over the archive library to us for our interviews. Yes, others work in there, researching various projects, but the cooperation we have gotten from archives staff and our interview subjects has been incredible.
On the right, Porsche engineer Hans Mezger returned for a second conversation with us Tuesday, and he brought us up to date with his racecar and racing engine developments till his retirement in 1993. The good news for Porsche fans is Mezger continues to this day as a paid consultant and he joked with us that he works longer hours now than he did when he was still an employee.