Saturday, May 5, 2018

A Fabulous, Unique Leica Store, Tamarkin Camera, Chicago

A "hidden gem" of the photography world, Tamarkin Camera in Chicago.
Located on the 2nd floor at 300 W. Superior St.

There's a hidden gem in the photography world, well, not literally hidden, it's actually on an easy-to-find public street, in Chicago to be exact. It's a family-owned, boutique-style camera store and gallery specializing in Leica brand cameras and lenses. You don't have to be a Leica aficionado to appreciate and enjoy the magic found inside, but I think it's safe to say that Leica lovers will feel as if they've found a little slice of heaven. 

The owner, Dan, inherited the business (and his passion for Leica) from his father, Stan Tamarkin. Tamarkin Camera is located very close to downtown Chicago in the hip, upscale gallery district. There aren't very many Leica stores in the United States, I think the nearest Leica dealer to my home in El Paso, Texas, is an 8 hour drive away in Austin. Therefore, I never pass up an opportunity to visit a Leica store when I get the chance. I was spoiled while living near Seoul, South Korea from 2013-2016, there's a a beautiful, well-stocked Leica store and endless numbers of camera shops that carry used Leica gear. But I've been feeling like an addict in need of a fix, so I made a point to visit Tamarkin Camera when I was in Chicago a couple weeks ago and I'm glad I did.

It was a pleasure talking to Dan and he took time to give me a personal tour of the current gallery showing. I feel guilty about not buying my Leica M240 from him. He had a couple of very nice, minty, M240's but I just happened to find a great deal on a nice package which included a Leica EVF ($250), 2 x Thumbs up grip ($125 ea), genuine Leica hand grip ($225), genuine Leica 1.4 x magnifier ($395) and the M240 itself was in like new condition in the original box for $3650 USD. It wasn't a case of going to Tamarkin Camera just to "try out" a M240 before buying one online. I have been wanting an M240 for a long, long time. Aside from the package deal I found, I also did not have the funds to buy my M240 until a week after I visited Chicago. Anyway, I still feel bad because I always try to support local businesses whenever I can. I did, however, purchase an excellent "things to see in Chicago" book from Tamarkin, which was written and photographed by a friend of Dan's. The actual title of the book is "111 Places in Chicago That You Must Not Miss" (available on Amazon). I highly recommend this book if you're visiting Chicago. 

The current photo gallery being shown at Tamarkin is "Complete Cuba", an impressive collection of images from several recent trips to Cuba, captured with a variety to Leica cameras. Dan was nice enough to point out images taken with the Leica D-Lux Typ 109, which is the camera I had around my neck the day I visited the shop. I have great respect for Dan's inclusion of gallery space in his store. Although the square footage could be used for retail space, it speaks volumes that he is keenly aware of the priceless value of the importance of spotlighting the beautiful and unique images produced with leica cameras.

I spent a good hour, to an hour and a half in the store and I would have spent more time studying and appreciating each individual image in the gallery and each individual item on display in the store but I had already taken up too much of Dan's time and I was intending to pay a return visit before leaving Chicago. Unfortunately, my return visit wasn't to be but I will make a point to stop in and say hi to Dan the next time I'm in Chicago, and you should too. Tamarkin is a beautiful, special place. And while you're there, buy a camera, buy a lens or buy a book from Dan.

There's more than just cameras and lenses at Tamarkin
There's also a gallery that showcases several showings throughout the year.

A beautifully brassed Leica M4 fitted with a Leica Summilux 50mm f/1.4 lens

Leica Q (I still kind of want one)

A very rare Leica GG 250 Reporter (1937) in excellent condition!

1965 Leica M2 with Summilux Lens

Leica M3 pictured with a Leica III, not sure which one exactly.

I was extremely tempted to pull the trigger on this Leica CL kit with 18mm lens.
But, I've had my heart set on a full frame, either the Q or M.

Dan Tamarkin, owner. (Photo courtesy of Tamarkin Camera)