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48 hours in Porto with Leica
Celebrating Leica’s 50th Anniversary in Portugal
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Last week, I got to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the Leica factory located in the Vila Nova de Famalicão production site, north of Porto. We had a packed schedule but what really makes these experiences valuable is the time shared with members of the Leica family. Here’s a look at what happened over the better part of two days.
I’m gonna start with the morning of day two, because it was pretty damn awesome. I got a private tour of the Leica Store in Porto and this place felt more like a museum than a store.
Sure, you could pick up the latest in Leica gear but there was a massive collection of vintage cameras and lenses that I’ve never seen in a single store outside of Wetzlar.
With the help of the Store Manager, Paulo, I got some context around interesting pieces that I’ve never even heard of before. Let alone seen in person.
As a proud Canadian, this Leica M4-2 celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Leica in Canada caught my eye. It’s hard not to appreciate some of the unique pieces that mark notable moments in photo history.
Check out this extremely rare Leica M6 “Colombo” edition, still sealed. With platinum plating and deep green wrap, it’s a striking body that’ll make any photographer swoon. The context behind this one is worth reading up on.
There was also a display of accessories and trinkets, not all of which were for sale. Look, I know there’s something to be said about being reserved and pragmatic with how you decide to collaborate as a luxury brand. But I’d love to see an annual drop from Leica that celebrates the company with various lifestyle pieces.
Not unlike this VICTORINOX Swiss army knife here.
It wasn’t long before the bus arrived and we had to head out for the reception and factory tour. Let me ask you something, when you’re on these group buses, are you a talker or sit-by-yourself-silently type?
There was a tent waiting for us with some light refreshments but what you don’t see is that the factory is almost entirely surrounded by massive solar panels. Very cool to witness these being integrated into this historic production facility.
Can we just take a moment to recognize how wild it is to successfully run a factory for 50 years? Especially one centred around imaging and optics? ESPECIALLY one that survived many economic obstacles including a national revolution?!
I made a critical error in not asking who put this art piece together. Composed of brass components produced at the factory, this installation had everyone’s attention.
The event was littered with unique Leica pieces that photographers have owned and customized over the years. A great example of this is Pat Domingo’s Leica M10-D with a custom, burgundy leather wrap. And check out the patina on that classic Summicron!
We sat through a handful of speeches and the biggest takeaway I got was how closely the factory here and the one in Wetzlar work together. In the eyes of leadership, there is just one Leica, not two factories. The production site here produces so many components and pieces that organically feed into products being assembled in Germany. For example, this factory in Portugal has produced roughly 500,000 housings and components for M cameras over the last 50 years. A product that many believe is the heart and soul of the company.
I sat down with several leaders from Leica and they all shared the same sentiment: Leica is Leica. Though they may operate in multiple countries, there is no change in quality, standards, and expectations. Portugal was chosen to host a second site because of the skilled workforce that could thrive in an environment that focused on manufacturing with high complexity, low automation, and low batches.
After the speeches, we got a tour of the factory but unfortunately, we were not allowed to film or photograph anything we saw. But boy, did we see some cool sh*t. Anyway, since I can’t show you anything from the tour, let’s flip back to the day before when we got to enjoy the city of Porto.
I made an effort to get out and explore the city of Porto myself. I’ve been here before and my memory of the city came flooding back. It’s a great place to put your phone away and just wander around because it’s not so convoluted that you’ll get lost. On a beautiful day like this, you’ll turn the corner and see these pops of colour that really stand out. Just be prepared for a lot of walking uphill. That joke of walking uphill to school both ways? That was invented here.
Later in the day we had a sunset boat ride planned. Now if I’m being honest, I would’ve loved to just stay on the streets with a camera in hand but the value of these experiences is being able to connect with people you may have never met before…
Or reconnect with old friends. For those of you that know Take Kayo, you know that he’s always got a great story to share.
There were people from all over the world I got to meet for the first time but I won’t lie, there was some energy missing that night. Half a dozen attendees from the North American side were not able to make the trip because of a flight cancellation and their presence was missed.
As the boat docked, we noticed these kids just leaping off the pier into the river. Now the group had already started moving to dinner but your boy here was not gonna miss an opportunity to speak to some locals and get a shot. Shout out to Kevin here for allowing me to capture this moment.
Dinner that night was at the Palácio da Bolsa, a 19th century building that was—from what I recall—a stock exchange palace. The building was rented out for the evening and made the celebration feel that much more epic.
It’s the dinners like these where you get to really collide with all kinds of creatives. I’ll never take for granted the opportunity to connect with artists and hearing about what drives them, how they’re navigating their journey, or where their next adventure is taking them.
Being a part of this celebration was a once in a lifetime experience. From photographers, to planners, to designers, to decision-makers, this trip was made special by all the people that got to share it.
And look, I was on the fence of whether or not I should share the details of this trip. But I figured, why the f*ck not? Not many people get to visit the factory of their favourite camera brand and I’m sure there’s some of you may be curious about what the experience was like.
Though being the son of refugees, it’s not lost on me the amount of privilege I’m afforded by winning the lottery of where I was born. And that perspective shapes a lot of what I do. It’s a large reason why I started the the Church & Street Foto Club; to share unique stories and experiences in an effort to bring more transparency around my life as a photographer. So yea, while there’s no lesson or technique to take away this week, I hope that a few of you got to enjoy this little look into a special trip I had.
Each month, I run a contest for the Church & Street community and try to feature something that I think people will appreciate.
For September, I’ll be giving away the MTW Backpack from Moment. This is a super versatile backpack that can adapt to just about any kinda lifestyle you throw at it. I have one myself and love using it for times I’m mixing laptop work and photography.
How am I picking the winner? All you have to do is be a member of this community and you’re automatically entered. As with every contest, I’ll be randomly picking one person, confirming they meet the requirements and then contacting them directly before announcing the winner publicly.
Once again, this contest is void where prohibited by law. Good luck!
My thanks to the team at Moment! Not only for this contest but for being the longest supporter of my work online. They’re a lean team of passionate creators that truly believe in supporting other creators on their journey. Whether it’s a new camera, lens, workshop, or just some great articles, visit ShopMoment.com today.
I had this big trip planned where I would jump between Taiwan, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka for two weeks but after a sudden postponement of a show I was covering, the entire trip got cancelled. And look, the old me would’ve been bummed about that but I’m sitting here just content with where my life is at right now.
When things like this happen, I’m realizing more and more the power in ownership, especially ownership of your time and resources. But let me put a pin in that and save it for a future post.
See ya next time!
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