HRH Queen Elizabeth’s Leica

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HRH Queen Elizabeth's Leica
HRH Queen Elizabeth's Leica

Elizabeth II's camera is AnOther's most Loved product of the week

June 2 celebrates Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne, equalling Victoria as the only British monarch to have reached a Diamond Jubilee. In anticipation of next month’s momentous occasion we are all feeling rather patriotic: voting in HRH Queen Elizabeth’s Leica as the most Loved product of the week on AnOther Loves, chosen by fashion designer and founder of 1205 Paula Gerbase.

One of the world’s most photographed women, it is a rare moment to see the Queen on the other side of the lens – pictured here using the King of Leica (M3). A collector of the high quality and sophisticated cameras, she was given this particular model, which features special engravings, by the Leitz camera company in 1958. And, when asked to choose a stamp image to commemorate her 60th birthday in 1986, she chose this specific image above.

Leica cameras, produced by the German optics company Leica Camera AG (formerly know as Ernst Leitz GmbH), are renowned for producing optimum picture quality and also for being very expensive. Notably used by legendary photographers Annie Leibovitz, Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier Bresson, William Eggleston and Wim Wenders, to name a few, the iconic image of Che Guevara (taken by Alberto Korda in 1960) was taken on a Leica and as was the sailor-kissing-nurse V-J Day in Times Square (taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt in 1945).

Here we speak to Gerbase, a third-generation Leica user and designer, about her timely AnOther Love, why she chose it and what she would do if she was the Queen for a day…

What made you choose to Love this image of HRH Queen Elizabeth’s Leica?
The Queen is using a camera to record her own personal vantage point. Although there are probably hundreds of cameras taking pictures of this particular occasion, I like that she has chosen to record it herself, in a very personal way. It would be very interesting to see what she has chosen to focus on with her Leica, how she has framed the image, and what she will do with the picture afterwards. The Queen has been seen on many occasions throughout her reign with her trusty Leica; perhaps she keeps her own very personal album of things she has seen, places she has visited – a secret scrapbook of her reign seen from the other side, a more human side.

There is also the element of contrast: the jewels, the matching suit and shirt with covered buttons, the perfectly set hair, and such a functional, mechanical object, which gives the image a real modernity. Although surrounded by history and protocol, Queen Elizabeth seems a very modern lady.

Are you a fan of Leica cameras?
My family have been using Leicas for generations – I inherited two Leicas from my German grandfather: one R3 Electronic (bought in 1976), and a Leitz Leicaflex SL2 (from 1974). He was a stickler for buying the best possible quality you could afford and these particular purchases have proven his theory – he enjoyed them, his children enjoyed them and now a new generation and beyond will appreciate them in the future. I also inherited a bag full of lenses (Macros, tele-lenses etc), as well as filters, which we are still trying to figure out how to use to their full potential.

Are you a photography enthusiast? What do you shoot on?
I am constantly taking photos, mainly on my iPhone. I have so many pictures stored on the phone that all other functions have now started failing! It has become a vital visual note taking tool for the collection, as it records my entire design and development process in pictures: from shooting daily inspirational images, to fabrics, to my cutting process, to fittings and then the final garments, each season the entire process is recorded in pictures.

What is your all-time favourite photograph and why?
I don’t think I can pick just one, but I think everyone has images that mark certain periods in their lives. I have images that mark certain periods of specific inspiration for me. At the moment it is an image from Marcel Gautherot’s book Building Brasilia: it’s a contact sheet of several views of the construction work on Nossa Senhora Aparecida Metropolitan Cathedral. I love the transparency of seeing his contact sheets: a work in progress of the work in progress!

A very timely AnOther Love, how will you be celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee?
The Queen’s Jubilee and its Bank Holiday is a perfect excuse for me to indulge in one of my other passions – cooking. We’ll get some friends together and I’ll use them as guinea pigs for some new recipes I’ve not tested yet.

What do you most admire about the Queen?
I admire her respect for the position she has inherited, she is the ultimate professional in her role and has not wavered in 60 years. Her sense of modernity and real personality in the unique way she dresses is also admirable – she was doing colour blocking before most of us were even born!

If you were the Queen for a day what would you do?
I would dress the entire Royal Family in 1205 bespoke suits and summon them for a traditional group shot in the Throne Room – a more androgynous take on the classic Royal Family official family photograph.

Text by Lucia Davies