Technical Note

Source: Lionel Wendt’s Ceylon
Author: Bernard G. Thornley, juli 1994, Colombo Ceylon.

See the Dutch translation by Barend Schimmel

Bernard G. Thornley about Lionel Wendt

When Lionel Wendt took up photography seriously in 1933 or 1934 he used the small Rolleiflex for a year or two, but soon became a confirmed believer in the Leica and as time went by the other camera was used less and less. He had an extensive Leica equipment, including objectives from the extreme wide-angle 2.8 cm. to the 13.5 cm. telephoto, and he kept up with all advances in photographic technique using Champlin 15 developer almost exclusively in his later years. Already in 193 5 he had mastered photographic processes to an extent which enabled him to enter solarized prints in a local exhibition, this being perhaps one of the earliest cases anywhere of the use of the solarization effect for pictorial ends. An article on this process was written by him for Leica News & Technique, and various extensions of the process, including reversal and other methods, became common as the years went by.

As would be expected of so energetic a photographer, Lionel Wendt sent photo¬graphs to a number of international exhibitions; his prints being hung in London, Paris, Brussels and a number of other cities in Europe, but he did not enter exhibitions as a matter of course but more as ballons d’essai to satisfy his belief that his standard was high enough for the particular salons he considered the best in photographic appreciation; and occasionally he would enjoy a joke at the cost of a panel of judges by sending in two sets of prints of entirely different character under two names : those sent under his own name being in his own unique style and the others being different in an indefinable way.


We had a lot of fun with this kind of thing in our exhibitions in Ceylon, but the outstanding example was a famous London Show which rejected his ” own ” prints but accepted one or two of those on which his name appeared backwards; and afterwards, in Photograms of the year 1937, I was amused to see his whip-cracker shot attributed to T. D. NEWL. In 1938 Messrs. Ernst Leitz, the manufacturers of the Leica camera, arranged a one-man exhibition of his work in London.

The reasons behind Lionel Wendt’s photographic success were the same as those behind his success in other matters a very great power of concentration and contin¬ued application until complete mastery was won. Thus he would spend weeks on the consideration of a photograph, working out every detail on rough paper, before even loading his camera; and his ” Adventure In Space ” is an example where at least as great care was devoted to calculating the angles of the cardboard masks and cutting them out as many exhibitors spend on exhibition prints themselves. The skill arising from great practice in various photographic techniques enabled him to achieve with comparative facility results that would have satisfied a less critical mind, but he was a most difficult man to please, and after his death, when his dark room equipment was being prepared for sale, it was astonishing to find many examples where twentyfive or thirty 16″ X 20″ bromide enlargements from a single negative and practically indistinguishable from one another had been made in an attempt to achieve a result that would satisfy him. Montage, Paste-ups, Reversals, Paper Negatives, Brometchings, Transparencies in monochrome and in colour made a seemingly endless stream of work recording the life around him or the feelings within; and that it stopped abruptly instead of petering out like an ageing prima donna was just what he would have wished. It was an excessively long darkroom session on the production of the inimitable Christmas Cards he always sent to his friends that proved too much for a body physically incapable of keeping abreast of that tireless mind.

Colombo, Ceylon. July, 1949.