In 1968, while showing my work to a magazine picture editor, I met by chance the German American photographer Bob Schwalberg, who was in the office at the time. He had been a photojournalist and had contributed to the 1955 exhibition The Family of Man at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, curated by Edward Steichen; but by the time I met Bob, he was known as Mr Leica, an expert on camera equipment, having worked for E.Leitz GmbH in Wetzlar in their public relations and product design departments for many years. He looked at my work, liked what I was shooting and, in an act of great generosity, said he would swap his new Summilux 50mm 1.4 lens for my second-hand battered collapsible 2.8 Elmarit lens. Bob said I would make better use of the Summilux than he could. I was absolutely delighted. It was a gesture I have never forgotten.
Shortly after meeting Bob, and of course shooting on my Leica M3 and new Summilux lens, I started on a career-defining project photographing traditional British country customs; unique local events steeped in village history that take place on one particular day each year. Once a Year was first published in 1977, and then republished by Dewi Lewis Publishing in 2016 with a re-edited selection of pictures from the original take. The woman putting on her makeup is Juliet Sykes, my girl friend at the time, and later wife and mother of our three children; she accompanied me on one of my first expeditions to document these British village events.”
Read more about Homer Sykes in the current issue of LFI magazine.
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Equipment: Leica M3 with Summilux-M 50 f/1.4
Image: © Homer Sykes