Street Photography with Barnack’s Handmuster


While the renowned Leica-Doctor Ottmar Michaely overhauled Barnack’s Handmuster Hans-Günter Kisselbach was playing with the idea to take photographs with this historical camera in our days and with modern film emulsion: Street Photography with the Handmuster, back to the very roots of photo journalism.

It’s important to remember that back in 1920 when Barnack had handcrafted this prototype camera any picture of high quality could only be taken with unwieldy plate cameras and tripods.

Kisselbach’s photographic journeys, however, show in an impressive manner his experiences and adventures with Oskar Barnack’s small camera and his pictures show something really special: this unique historical camera really accompanied him.

One example of his forays with the Handmuster is a photo reportage of the farmer’s market in Gießen – in rainy weather! Due to the light conditions he had to work with the lens wide open at aperture 1:3.5. These pictures show the spectacular rendering and capabilities of this very first Leica lens ever.

Wochenmarkt Giessen Bild 1

The farmer’s market in Gießen. Suddenly, a clown appears. Copyright © H.-G. Kisselbach

Wochenmarkt Giessen Bild 2

The clown entertains the people at the market with his jokes. Copyright © H.-G. Kisselbach

Wochenmarkt Giessen Bild 3

A boy lightens up incense sticks. The clown is busy and the photographer goes unnoticed. Copyright © H.-G. Kisselbach


The quality of the pictures is really extraordinary and with a beautiful soft rendering. It is clearly visible that already this first Leica lens ever was of a truly special quality and the true performance can only me maximized with modern film emulsion.

The Handmuster was more than a rare companion to Kisselbach on his journeys. Rather, he shows in his book “Barnack's First Leica” the versatile usability of the camera, including in the Reichstag Berlin, during the FIFA World Cup 2006 in Frankfurt and of course in and around Wetzlar. He also followed Barnack’s footsteps and took the same motives that the inventor had taken with his prototype camera almost 100 years ago.