Author: Anne Salomäki
There is a lot of talk about getting circular and recycling. Walki’s Wolfgang Thissen has made it a hobby of his: he collects old cameras that were built to last.
It all started by coincidence. Wolfgang Thissen, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Walki, was walking around a huge antique market in Delft, the Netherlands, when one item caught his attention: Konica EE-Matic Deluxe, a camera with his birthyear on it.
“I wasn’t sure if it really was from that year, but I thought it was fun," he recalls. “Later, I went to a different market, and happened to see another interesting camera…"
Now, about seven years later, Thissen has 200 to 250 old cameras in his display cabinet at his family home in Germany. It’s difficult to say the exact number, as dozens of cameras still wait for Thissen to get his hands on them.
Initially, Thissen bought the cameras just for decoration. Although he can still spend an hour just admiring them, the most fascinating aspect of the hobby is much more practical: to dismantle and repair them.
“It’s amazing that a camera can be 100 years old yet still function perfectly," he says, “even the cheap plastic ones from just after World War II."
Fixing an antique camera is not for the scatterbrained. The screws on the device can be so tiny they’re almost invisible.
“On top of cameras, I have collected a large selection of very, very small tools," Thissen tells laughingly.
A little handwork tends to bring the cameras, even if unused for decades, back to life. For example, a stuck shutter can be lubricated to make it move again.
Thissen is spellbound by the quality of the mechanics.
“These days we talk about recycling a lot, but back in the day, things were really built to last," he notes. “Just imagine how great the technicians were at the time!"
Cameras are storytellers in their own right, capturing moments to be cherished later. However, for Thissen, the physical objects make memories, too.
“I remember where and how I got several of them. For example, the first camera I bought still reminds me of the great times my family had when we lived in the Netherlands."
Similarly, the cameras carry along tales of their own past. That’s also one of the reasons people choose not to throw them away but, instead, sell them. Once, Thissen bought two Leicas from a man in his 80s.
“They were both beautifully kept, looking fantastic with hardly any damage," he tells. “As I picked them up, the old man told me about the time when his father taught him to take photographs with them. The story must have been from 60 or 70 years ago."