The Fitted Case - Camera Luggage As A Status Symbol

on August 17, 2015

Look back into the literature of the 1920's, 30's and 50's and you will see a remarkable thing - the fitted case for system cameras. Leather boxes put together with all the cunning of medieval artisans and meant to contain the finest photographic gear.

We still see them here when old collections arrive for valuation. The leather is generally extremely good quality and is frequently a rich tan colour. The stitch work is prominent but if you examine it closely you will see that it follows the best pattern; angled awl slits and double tensioned waxed thread.

Linings are frequently flock over internal divisions in thin wood. These may suffer over the years with mildew or dirt but can be recovered to some extent. Indeed, even if original stitching has deteriorated it can frequently be re-stitched. Leather work shops carry craft books with instructions for this, as well as diamond awls and saddler's needles. If you set out to reconstruct a fine camera case of the period expect to end up with tired fingers and several punctures in the fingers...

Most of the cases have specific spaces for equipment. And frequently this means that the camera bodies were meant to be slotted in with no straps attached ( Why?) and with body caps on. You can still do this with digital cameras but remember every time you take off a lens you risk sensor dirt.

Are they bound to be practical? Probably not. Were they ever so? Again, probably not - assembling your Leica or Contax every time you opened the case and then disassembling it would have been a major time waster. But perhaps the people who had these cases - the elite of Europe and America - had a great deal of time to waste. And the case, however heavy, could have been carried by lackeys - along with the steamer trunks and fitted leather suitcases that were carried in he Packard.

Pip pip.