Horst Wenzel - Merlin & My Sword ExcaliburWednesday, January 03, 2007
Football quarterbacks, after having a successful season, commonly give us highfalutin drivel about how they are nothing and it is all team work.
In photography, where Patterson's Law (it states that Murphy was an optimist) is in effect at all times and is guaranteed to ruin your photographic assignment, success can be measured in being able to return to the assigning photo editor with one useable image. A photographer without adequate support staff is no photographer. Since my father told me of King Arthur, Sword Excalibur and Merlin when I was a boy I have had an affinity with the legend. This affinity has made me find a parallel between Sword Excalibur and my Mamiya RB-67 Pro-S with its 140mm lens. When I am behind that combination I know I will not fail. This is, of course, if the camera itself is mechanically sound at the time. That's where Merlin comes in. I have my Merlin. He is camera repairman Horst Wenzel. In our 21st century philosophy of throwing away what does not work, Horst rejects it and upends it further by stating that in any camera he has opened nobody should be able to discern any traces of his entry and repair.
I marvel when I watch Horst work. He did not always deal with such tiny gears and levers. Horst was born in Zeven, Germany in 1939. In 1956 he was an apprentice shipbuilder. By 1959 when he moved to Canada he had help build many freighters and oiltankers including the 50,000 ton Esso Guilford at A.G. Weser in Bremen.
A few years ago Horst retired from his camera repair company, Vancam Service. He has always specialized in the good cameras: the Leicas, Rolleis, Hasselblads and the odd Alpa. He traveled many times to Europe for authorized training.
Horst is now retired and he is busier than ever in his basement shop that has some of the tiniest lathes I have ever seen. Going to Horst's with my beloved Mamiyas (and Nikons, and Pentaxes) is always an adventure into the wonders that I will find there. Horst has built exact scale models of WWII German battleships and cruisers including the Tirpitz, the Prinz Eugen, the Graf Spee and the Scharnhorst. Not only are they built in great detail some of them have working motors and are radio controlled. These are a delight every time I see them but the prize is a painting of his father Hans Wenzel, an officer in the German Army in 1943, that was painted by a friend, Fritz Schindler while both were at the Russian front.
While Horst was much too young to participate in the war I would think that he would have ambivalent feelings toward the winning allies and the Russians. The fact is that Horst loves American and British WWII movies. When he is not watching them on the TV that sits to one side of his camera work bench, he also enjoys sports programs that feature female Russian tennis players!
In the photo above Horst poses by his father's painting. Horst is holding an unfinished 3-D camera he is building. Yesterday, while getting ready to go to the airport to visit his mother in Zeven who is celebrating a plus 90 birthday, Horst told me, "I have very little time to finish things."
That's fine with me and I am sure all those other photographers, would agree, as long as he keeps our swords sharp.
And here is another picture of Horst. This is a b+w negative scanned on my flatbed with a sheet of white paper over it. I then reverse the image.