A rather inconspicuous family home. One like there are many in bamberg. And yet it houses a "treasure" that is unique in almost all of germany. If you climb the narrow spiral staircase up to the roof, you will reach one of the largest private collections of historical cameras. Hundreds of cameras are neatly labeled and lined up in a confined space. Among the 750 exhibits, which are all originals except for one single replica, are cameras from the beginnings of photography up to modern digital cameras.
Coincidence played a role
proud owner and passionate collector of these partly noble pieces is the bamberg wolfgang hossfeld. More than 40 years ago, he discovered his passion for cameras by chance. "I was a young journeyman optician at the time. We purchased many of our eyeglass frames from the manufacturer rodenstock. By chance, I then found out that this one not only produces visual aids, but also brought a bellows camera onto the market", remembers the collector. He really wanted to have this. And with that, he joked, fate took its course. It didn’t stop with the one camera, a second and third followed. Meanwhile, hossfeld’s collection is slowly but surely approaching the 1000 mark.
Its oldest camera dates back to 1841. So almost from that time, when the frenchman louis daguerre invented the first practicable photography process in 1839. "The fascinating thing about my hobby is that there is an interesting story and sometimes many fates to each of my cameras", reports hossfeld. In addition, he says, the various models can be used to document the development of photography very well: from the wet plate process to the first paper pictures (around 1888) to modern digital photography.
Many cameras owned by the collector are unique, but others are mass-produced – like the polaroid instant cameras. The collection also contains valuable pieces as well as some exotics. "Since the beginning of the 19th century. In the twentieth century, it was a mockery to photograph women in public, so they just did it secretly", tells wolfgang hossfeld. That’s why they simply built a camera into ties, which they could then use to take photos without being observed. Hossfeld also owns cameras built into book spines and binoculars, and those that never made it to market.
Collection not yet complete
the collector finds his exhibits at flea markets, in newspaper ads, at auction houses and on the internet. And even though the upper floor is slowly but surely being filled to capacity, his collection is far from complete. "I am still missing about 60 to 70 cameras that I would like to have. I also want to continue to expand my image collection of historical photographs", he describes. He spends about five to six hours a week on care and documentation. Hossfeld does not have a favorite camera. Nor is he mourning the loss of analog photography.
Hossfeld was also a bit proud and very happy when the club daguerre held its annual meeting in bamberg some time ago, and its members visited his collection on that occasion. The club daguerre is an association for the preservation of the historical aspects of photography. Hossfeld is also a member there.