Leica Rediscovers 1930s Aerial Photos of China

Both Der Tagesspiegel (in English) and Die Welt (in English) are reporting on an interesting story of rediscovered negatives from the 30's, shot by a gentleman by the name of Wulf-Diether Graf zu Castell-Rudenhausen - of a then urbanizing China. These digitized photos are now on display and making some rounds.

He was aviation pioneer, daredevil, technical enthusiast and womanizer. Wulf-Diether Graf zu Castell-Rudenhausen (1905-1980) left a legacy of spectacular aerial photos of old China which have now been rediscovered. The young man from one of the richest families in Germany was fascinated by the latest technical achievements of its time. These included aircraft, as well as cameras.

Castell-Rudenhausen had, while studying law in Munich, acquired a pilot's license - and later worked for the Deutsche Luft Hansa. Between 1933 and 1936 he flew for Eurasia, a subsidiary of the Luft Hansa in Asia, exploring routes in China. Here, the 28-year-old regularly shot photos from the cockpit with his camera of the unknown world beneath him. Some of these photos were published in an illustrated book called "China Flight" in 1938.

The Leica used by Wulf-Diether Graf zu Castell-Rudenhausen over China

A few years ago, Andreas Kaufmann (Chairman of Leica) and his wife, Karin Rehn-Kaufmann (heads of Leica Galleries worldwide) were in contact with the Castells about this project. Leica had found negatives in the archives of the Deutsches Museum and the Museum of Ethnology in Munich and had them digitized. The idea was born that images of the country's farmland from the thirties will be shown alongside photos of the present time. For this, the company from Wetzlar collaborated with Hans-Georg Esch - the architectural photographer who has photographed many cities in China. A recent project utilized a custom-made drone that had a Leica S camera strapped underneath (which is also on display) that rose over Chinese megacities - creating panoramas of the massive urbanization. Both photo series can be seen until July 5, 2015 in the Chinese Cultural Center in Berlin. Afterwards, the images will be displayed in Beijing and Shanghai, to finally end up as a donation to a Chinese museum. They at last return to their place of origin.

The making-of video on Vimeo... Click-through to watch!

Leica Projekt Chinaflug, Making of, 2015 720P