The story of the one-off 9/11 memorial titanium Leica M7 camera

The story of the one-off 9/11 memorial 50 Jahre Titanium Leica M7 in John Botte’s own words:

“On an overcast weekday afternoon in 2005, I was feeling under the weather and was edgy, restless and bored. I went to my computer to check my email, and a magazine on my desk had the Leica Titanium M7 50 Jahre Edition on the cover.

It was then, I came up with the idea of designing a camera to accompany my 5th Anniversary 9/11 Tribute book that was due for release in September of 2006.

Once I was finished with the computer rendition of the design I came up with, I sent it to Leica with a pitch email and the image of the M7.

About 3 weeks after I sent the graphic rendition and email to Leica, I received a parcel via UPS containing the exact camera I designed. I was absolutely beside myself that a thought I had 3 weeks earlier, resulted in a tangible reality sitting in my hand. In 2011, on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, I placed the camera up for auction, and it realized $118,000, all of which I donated to a private charity. By the way the auction house helped out by reducing their fee to 15% instead of the usual 25%. And that’s how the 9/11 Memorial M7 came to be.”

Additional information:

John Botte grew up in a small town south of Salerno on Italy’s Amafi Coast. A first generation Italian-American and a naturalized U.S. Citizen, he joined the New York City Police Department at the age of 19, rose through the ranks to become a NYPD detective, and retired in 2003. As a result of his police connections he had special access to Ground Zero during and immediately after 9/11 and was himself pulled from the rubble when the second World Trade Center tower collapsed. He is best known for his incisive and unforgettable images documenting the horrific scenes following the attacks, and for his best-selling book Aftermath (2006, Harper Collins), widely acclaimed as the most definitive photo book on this pivotal moment in history.

For the record, the camera Botte actually had with him on 9/11 was a Leica M4 and the lenses he used to document the tragedy and its aftermath include some vintage classics—an uncoated 73mm f/1.9 Hektor and 50mm f/2 Summar, and a coated 50mm f/2 Summitar and collapsible 50mm f/2 Summicron. He shot some of these images using an infrared filter to cut through the fine dust that enveloped the area, often limiting visibility to an arm’s length distance.


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