Photographer Leonhirth captured Sumter landmarks

By SAMMY WAY
Posted 8/12/18

Reflections focuses on the talents of Karl Leonhirth, a self-taught photographic artist. Mr. Leonhirth, the son of German immigrants, was born in Sumter and attended city schools. Upon graduation he enrolled in Clevenger College, attaining a degree …

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Photographer Leonhirth captured Sumter landmarks

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Reflections focuses on the talents of Karl Leonhirth, a self-taught photographic artist. Mr. Leonhirth, the son of German immigrants, was born in Sumter and attended city schools. Upon graduation he enrolled in Clevenger College, attaining a degree in accounting. He found employment in the offices of the McElveen Pontiac Auto dealership, working there for 15 years. He developed an interest in the history of Sumter while working for "Bubba" McElveen, one of Sumter's foremost historians. The photos and material used to prepare this article were provided by Mr. Leonhirth.

Karl Leonhirth's love of cinema led to him to accept a job with Carmike Theaters, where he served as a projectionist for 27 years. During his tenure at Carmike, he was elevated to the position of theater manager. His abiding interest in photography was because of the influence of Wayne Howell, a local minister, who taught him several of the nuances of this avocation which led to a life-long obsession with photographing various aspects of the Sumter community. He purchased a 35mm camera and began taking photos of numerous subjects, focusing on night photography. Mr. Leonhirth purchased film and assorted equipment leading to his learning how to develop his own photographs.

Leonhirth developed a profound interest in night photography and became fascinated with the added activity and shadows of photos taken at night. He noticed that most photographers have a tendency to make their photographs too cluttered and often lost focus of the primary subject matter. Leonhirth pointed out that in the course of time he had developed an affinity for photos involving mist, clouds and natural scenes which often gave photographers an enhanced perspective of the subject.

Karl Leonhirth did not enter the field of photography for financial gain or as a new career but mainly "for personal enjoyment." He managed to preserve many images of Sumter's landmarks through the numerous photographs he took. His willingness to share his negatives with the general public has made this article possible and has added significantly to the preservation of Sumter's photographic history.