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The Story Behind That Picture: "A Photography Jewel in Asia"

By: Thorsten Overgaard


A few days ago I visited the newly opened F11 Photographic Museum in Hong Kong which is a fairytale come alive in more than one sense.


Fist floor of the F11 Photographic Museum features the first Elliott Erwitt solo exhibition in Hong Kong.


As so often before it started with a small pea under ten pillows. Douglas So was gifted a Leica M6 from his wife in 1997, and soon the interest for the Leica brand and photography at large grew into a photographic kingdom.

This October 2014 Douglas So and the family merged their interest for Hong Kong landmarks and heritage with the collection of cameras and original signed photographs. It all came together in the new F11 Photographic Museum, located in a classic Art Deco building restored back to its greatness.


Everyone can visit the F11 Photographic Museum in Hong Kong after making a booking on their website.


The project easily adds up to HK$ 100 million with building, renovations and the collection inside. I never asked Douglas exactly how many cameras he has, somehow I am sure the answer is both embarassing and admirablly impressive.

There is a camera exhibition and a photography exhibition at the same time at F11. The very first photography exhibition is of original Elliott Erwitt prints from 1980. In fact, it turns out F11 bought a collection of 150 Elliott Erwitt prints, and in the archive is already many other rare and beautiful prints of Henri Cartier-Bresson and many others that might end up on the walls for later exhibitions.


The F11 Photographic Museum currently feature the first Hong Kong solo exhibition of Elliott Erwitt. The museum have acquired a collection of 150 of Elliott Erwitts prints, including California Kiss from 1955 that was hidden in the Magnum Photography archives for 24 years untill Elliott Erwitt discovered it and out in into an expo in 1980.


The first Magnum press card of Elliott Erwitt (1953) is on display on the second floor of F11 with the black Leica M3, surrounded by the Elliott Erwitt exhibition and 59 other Leica M3 cameras.


The other exhibition is a 60th Anniversary exhibition celebrating the Leica M3. The third floor is dedicated to an orgie of 60 Leica M3 cameras with exotic heritage and unique serial numbers and stories to them. Not to mention that they all have lenses attached to them!

Overall, this building dedicated to Leica and photgoraphy surpasses many other official Leica installments and the F11 goes straight to the top-5 of Leica places to visit, alongside Leica Store Tokyo, Leica Store Los Angeles, Leica Store San Francisco, Leica Shop Vienna, and the mothership in Wetzlar.

Anyone can visit, simply visit the F11 website and reserve a time to visit.


The third floor features a rooftop for events and a camera gallery: The Leica M3 exhibition features 60 cameras with lenses, celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the Leica M3. On display in the foreground is Leica M3 #700 066 with grey valcanite cover. It was "born" on the same day as the first M3 camera with serial #700 001. For many years, the two cameras were the personal cameras of the chief designer of Leica M3, mr. Willi Stein. A picture of this camera appeared on page 189 of James Lager's Leica - An Illustrated History (Volume 1 - Cameras) 1993. On the camera is a prototype 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0 lens with TWO focusing knobs, serial #920 084.


Loving photography: The fence to the backyard that not many will get to see and admire is also a creating over the theme of well-known photographs. Here it's Elliott Erwitts Paris Eiffel Tower Anniversary photo that has been created in metal.


The lounge on the 2nd floor of F11.


Douglas So and director of the F11, Ms. Carrie touring a group of visitors through the gallery.


Another design detail is the side door that features a large replica of the knobs from the Leica M6. Made with a 3D printer in Hong Kong.




A small goodie bag from F11 Photogrpahic Museum in Hong Kong.



Thorsten Overgaard, November 28, 2014

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Above: Founder Douglas So in front of the main entrance to the F11 Photographic Museum. A large massive door shaped after the Leica M6.
© 2014 Thorsten Overgaard. Leica M 240 with Leica 21mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4




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Thorsten Overgaard
Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish-American multiple award-winning photographer, known for his writings about photography and Leica cameras. He travels to more than 25 countries a year, photographing and teaching workshops to photographers. Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or online. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via email.

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