The Lions, Frankfurt am Main 1932

by Wilhelm Schack

Lions by Wilhelm Schack, Frankfurt am Main 1932

This photograph of the two legendary lions from the Frankfurt Zoo way back in 1932 made the Leica famous in its earliest years. The photograph was taken by Wilhelm Schack, who worked as a zookeeper at the time. As an optical print, as big as 60 x 80 cm, the photograph was presented to potential Leica customers at camera fairs starting in 1932. The print demonstrated impressively what the Leica camera was capable of. This made it famous quickly; at the same time, it silenced the critics of what was then considered a "miniature" photography, these critics preached that even when optically enlarged, the small negative from the Leica does not have enough resolution to meet the quality demands from professional photographers of the day. In fact, in the early Leica days the 35mm negative was not believed to be capable of high resolution – on the other hand, but this image of the two lions proved the possibilities of 35mm photography impressively.

Wilhelm Schack later became known as the author of various books. In 1937 he published the volume The Miracle of the Seagull’s Flight and in 1958 he Hunted the White Rhinoceros – With Camera and Flash in Zululand, featuring imposing animal photographs taken in South Africa. An enlargement of the lion photograph described here hung in Ernst Leitz junior office at Leica for many years. Today it forms part of the archive of Leica Microsystems.

Photo credit: © WestLicht Photographica Auction