A Masterpiece in the Making: The Leica M10

Richard Seymour is a UK based commercial and advertising photographer who specialises in the tech industries and what he calls ‘shooting the impossible’. Richard is known for his CGI and Virtual Reality work and is a Leica Ambassador for the Leica S camera.

We caught up with Richard and learnt more about his ambitions behind the celebrated ‘A Masterpiece in the Making: The Leica M10’ film.   

Back In January 2017 I attended the global launch of the new Leica M10 camera at Leica’s HQ at Wetzlar in Germany. Whilst in Wetzlar the conversation about a potential personal, 60-second film project initially started. I wanted to shoot a very specific part of the manufacturing process for the camera: two incredible ladies who apply the leather covering on the camera in about 90 seconds. It’s the most incredible spectacle of skilled precision. 

Conversations advanced quickly and before we knew it, we had our commission to shoot a film of the whole manufacturing process, from start to finish, running up to 4 minutes and with an original music score.

In April my camera operator Jack Webber and I returned for the shoot. By that point we had decided it would be great to keep it entirely in the family, so to speak, by shooting 4K on the Leica SL Pro camera system.

We were particularly keen on using Leica’s Summilux cinema lenses - the world’s best cinema optics – and were lucky enough to be presented with a set upon arrival. Included in this collection of lenses was the astounding Cine Macrolux diopter lens, which enabled us to shoot extremely close to the camera and the hands working on them. It also gives relatively shallow depths of field on wide shots, which have a unique look to them. 

My vision throughout was to work at a macro scale to really capture a sense of the highly detailed work involved in hand assembling these cameras by hand – each of which has no less than 1100 parts. 

We also wanted to demonstrate a human rapport with the assembly technicians who are, unsurprisingly, extremely proud of what they create. Everyone without exception agreed to be filmed.

The passion, commitment and skill that the technicians demonstrated were fascinating to witness. The sense that if it was not built to perfection, it would be a personal failing - everyone signs their name against each manufacturing stage as it is completed so it is not an anonymous process.

There is a lady in her 60s, who I noticed in particular. Towards the end of the manufacturing process, she completes a final sensor clean and quality control check. All I could think while filming her sequences was: “you’ve handled virtually every M camera used to record history over the past 2 decades - just think of the shots from 9/11, the Iraq Wars, Afghanistan, Obama… the list of key events captured on these cameras, built right here, is endless.“.

I felt it was vital that we emphasised the ‘Made In Germany’ aspect of the camera. The process is not robotics and vast multiple, long lines of assembly workers - this is a small group of highly skilled people building the world’s most coveted camera by hand. 

Much of my stills and motion work uses one point perspective and I wanted to incorporate this into the film. I have had a mild obsession with the work of Stanley Kubrick throughout my career, he was a great exponent of this shooting style and so the glorious white corridor in the middle of the Wetzlar plant was too good to ignore. It was an obvious start and finish to the film as both the empty silver Leica boxes and the finished, boxed product enter and leave along this corridor. 

I am very proud of my film, which has been celebrated on social media with over 250,000 plays in the first 3 weeks of release.

I would love to extend the series of films now by shooting the manufacturing process behind the Leica M lenses. This would be quite a different story as this procedure has more diverse stages but I’m confident we could give a continuity of style to allow fans of the Leica M the same behind- the-scenes-experience, capturing every aspect of their treasured camera’s construction. 

To watch the full film, visit Richard’s Vimeo account.

If you want to view more of Richard’s work visit his website or Instagram

Discover the Leica S-System here.