The iconic “Tank Man” from the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests was one of the conflicts depicted in the controversial Leica promo video.
Leica has been making the rounds again as of late, not for a specific camera but for a promotional video that got it banned in China. Titled The Hunt, the video features a cinematic depiction of conflict scenes around the world, including the iconic “Tank Man” from the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. The video has since put the German camera company under fire from online commenters and was banned on Chinese social media platform Weibo.
The five-minute video was meant to pay tribute to photojournalists as heroes behind some of the most important photos in history. Yet it also sparked controversy for coming out a few months ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Tianenmen protest, which remains a sensitive topic in China. Weibo users peppered the official Leica account on the platform with comments calling it out for the “stupid” move, that could spell trouble for both the German camera company and its partner Huawei Technologies, China’s biggest smartphone manufacturer.
However, in a South China Morning Post report, Leica spokesperson Emily Anderson noted in an email that the while the ad showed the Leica logo at the end, it was not an officially sanctioned marketing film commissioned by the company. Actions have also been made to make sure that the video will not be posted on the Leica social media channels. “Leica Camera AG must therefore distance itself from the content shown in the video and regrets any misunderstandings or false conclusions that may have been drawn,” she added.
The video’s producers, F/Nazca Saatchi Saatchi, has also taken down the video shared on their Facebook post. The São Paulo-based ad agency has been known for creating award-winning films for Leica in the past years, but is yet to respond to questions regarding the origin of the promotional video. Huawei has also declined to comment on the controversial ad.
Those who are more familiar with photography were also quick to criticize the ad agency and point out that the iconic “Tank Man” photo referenced in the video was not shot with a Leica camera, but a Nikon FE2, Nikkor 400mm 5.6 ED-IF lens, and TC-301 teleconverter.
“But it’s pretty shitty though that someone (the ad agency) is trying to conflate some pretty historic images that were not taken with a Leica when there is a fucking shit-ton of actual, amazing, and historical images made with their cameras. Do better research and have some damn respect for the legacy of not just Leica, but for the photojournalists out there,” said Reddit user illfatedpupulon on a thread discussing the ad.
Screenshot image from the video