This week we lost a great friend.

It is with great sadness we share the news of the passing of our beloved Tibor Szilagyi. Most of you knew him as our own Mr. Leica; but, he was more than that to us. His lifetime career in professional photography, his exuberance and passion for our camera business, along with his zest for life is what we will remember most! We will miss him.

PROFILES ON SAMY’S EMPLOYEES: TIBOR

By Anthony Friedkin

The eyes of Tibor Szilagyi reflect the soul of a man with vast worldly experience.  He is a prideful man, though with a gentle spirit that possesses strong convictions about art and life, and especially, photography.

Tibor was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1938. There, he grew up under a communist regime.  

His family valued the arts; his father was very supportive of his children’s desire to engage directly in artistic pursuits.  Unlike his older brother, who possessed creative talent as a visual artist in drawing and painting, Tibor’s unique expression came through a camera.

At age 15, his father bought Tibor a ZORKI camera. It was a Russian-made 35 mm camera designed to be identical to the German Leica.  For Tibor, the camera was as a paintbrush to a painter.  Photographers in Hungary were thought of as “masters of light.” This was a concept Tibor embraced, and one that would later lead him to becoming a highly successful cinematographer.

He moved from Europe – via Australia to Canada, where he began his professional career as a cinematographer around 1957.  He also began traveling to New York City where he later started his own production company, and began working on a variety of film assignments.

At the time, he never turned down work for artistic reasons. As he puts it, “You know I wasn’t in there for the glory and names. I was strictly in for the money.”  It wasn’t until Tibor retired from the motion picture business in 1996 that he starting working full time for Samy’s Camera.

It was through their mutual admiration for Leica cameras that Samy and Tibor established a working friendship that dates back to the 1970’s.  Today, Tibor manages Samy’s entire Leica boutique, located on the third floor of the flagship store on Fairfax Ave.  If there is anything anyone wants to know about Leica’s, including the history of this stellar company and how the first 35mm camera was created and designed by Oscar Barnack, Tibor knows.  He retains an extraordinary knowledge of all their products, including their complete line of Leica film and digital cameras.

Perhaps many photographers are not acquainted with the fact that Leica currently produces a medium format, digital camera that blows away the competition.  This camera is a testament to Leica’s reputation as being one of the finest camera manufactures in the world, producing some of the most elite lenses available. Leica is at the leading edge of technology and photographic instruments.  

Tibor speaks of Leicas with admiration for the company’s evolution through time and respect for their triumph of superior camera design.  He also appreciates the remarkable tradition established by photographers like Andre Kertez, Cartier Bresson, Robert Capa and Sebastian Salgado, all of who used the Leica camera and individually, produced significant works of art exhibited in museums throughout the globe.

When I asked Tibor about the unique experience Samy’s offers customers shopping for camera equipment rather than purchasing equipment through the Internet he replied, “The pro’s will probably shop with us because they know if they run into a problem, Samy’s is here to help them.  If they have a breakdown or something, we probably can arrange for a loaner or whatever we can do to keep them up and running.  Some photographers claim I have helped them with their pictures.  I give them a good basic idea, probably, a basic foundation of what it’s all about, and then they build on that. However, they have to have an eye to see that picture, they have to have the “eye.”

Credit: Anthony Friedkin

You will rarely meet a camera salesperson as passionate about photography and as genuinely friendly as Tibor.

This article, written by Anthony Friedkin, was originally published in 2014. Its republishing is in remembrance of our beloved friend and colleague, Tibor.