Giving It His Best Shot

Unique Camera collection chronicles the life of “Leica Larry.
In his Vero Beach home, Larry Wapnick displays more than 500 cameras in eight wall cabinets. Another 1,500 are in storage.

It’s a long way from the small, plastic Kodak Brownie with no film that he acquired as a 6-year-old to the incredible collection of world-famous cameras he owns today, but Larry Wapnick wouldn’t trade that journey for anything.

Larry was born in Brooklyn in 1941 to Polish parents. Larry’s father came from Poland in 1913 and his mother was first-generation American. Even at 6 years old he was attracted to cameras and, at the age of 10, his plastic Kodak Brownie was replaced by a $39 Bolsey B. After about four months, it broke and he took it apart to try to fix it. When he couldn’t get it back together, he called Jacque Bolsey, inventor of the famous Bolex movie camera, at the Bolsey Company of America, explained what he’d done and added that he was a student at P.S. 217 with no money to get the camera fixed. Bolsey told Larry to send him the broken camera and to come over at 4 p.m. When he arrived, Mr. Bolsey had repaired the camera and thrown in two new shutters for good measure. He also promised Larry a job when he turned 16. Mr. Bolsey was true to his word and Larry spent his 16th summer learning the delicate work of fixing Rolleiflex cameras.

Read the entire article in the April 2004 issue

Categories: Art & Artists, Features