Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2004/07/15

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Subject: [Leica] Walther Benser: A Memoir Posted By Permission
From: msmall at (Marc James Small)
Date: Thu Jul 15 18:23:11 2004
References: <>

Some 25 years ago I was doing my army reserve service in an ancient &
significant building adjacent to the wailing wall, in the old city of
Jerusalem.  One day a tourist rang the door bell and asked if he could come
in and take some photographs of the wailing wall from the building roof.
Well, I had strict orders not to let ANYBODY in, regardless of rank or
status, unless specifically cleared by the district commander. The guest
made no attempt to appeal (obviously not an Israeli...), but he seemed
genuinely disappointed.

We switched our conversation to German, and the gentleman produced a photo
album of  Jerusalem and showed me a picture which, he thought, must have
been taken from inside or top of that same building. He absolutely needed
to have some photos taken from the same angle, none other would do.

Now, by sheer coincidence, I had my trusty Olympus RC with me, and I
proposed to attempt to take some pictures on his behalf and send them to
him, to which he sized me up and said: "Better still, why not leave my own
cameras with you, and I'll come and collect them later. How long would you

That person was Walther Benser. All I knew from him then was that he owned
his own picture archive agency in Germany.
And so I found myself holding both a Leica SL set AND a Hasselblad, both of
which I had rarely seen, let alone used, before.

I tried my best, hanging out of the roof with my arms stretched as far as I
could without endangering the equipment (never mind about myself),
photographing the wailing wall compound from a bird's eye view. I was both
relieved and disappointed when Mr.Benser returned for his equipment. No
need to teach me about mixed feelings ever since...

Two weeks later I received a long and cordial letter from him, including my
'art'. It seemed the angle was still not the one hoped for, but quite
successful in every other way, and thank you so much again.

I concluded that the pictures he had shown me were taken with a longer lens
from a different building, a religious seminary, situated further back.

I must confess that I failed to keep up the correspondence with him. He had
also made some comments on Israeli politics in his letter, and I felt my
German to be insufficient for a serious discourse on a very complicated
subject (which, BTW, has not become any simpler since!).

Part two:

Years later, I was searching some info on a new type of screw &
screwdriver. The Internet had invaded our lives by then, and the search
results linked me to some, apparently gigantic, tools manufacturer in
America. For some mysterious reason the link landed me in the section
devoted to camera technician's tools, and you would be amazed at the
multitude and variety on offer. Among which was a book with the title "My
life with the Leica" by Walther Benser. I might have overlooked that item
entirely, had it not been for a very clear portrait of the author on the
front cover, holding a, you guessed it, vintage Leica. The short
description mentioned Benser's collaboration with Barnack, and it was only
then that the full significance of my encounter, all those years back,
became apparent to me.

Yair Sachs <>


Marc  FAX:  +540/343-7315
Cha robh b?s fir gun ghr?s fir!

In reply to: Message from timatherton at (Tim Atherton) ([Leica] enough digi-squawking - look as these pictures (not mine))
Message from mcintyre at (Jim McIntyre) ([Leica] PAW 28 (non-leica))