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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

"Never ever confuse sharp with good, or you will end up shaving with an ice cream cone and licking a razor blade."  

 

Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Old 03-31-2012   #151
thegman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bike Tourist View Post
Some are including themselves with the technology! Let's separate "film" from "fim users". Film is nothing but an older technology. The fact that it's older has no bearing on its worth or the satisfaction derived from it's use. A "film user" is not "technologically backward", only someone who, for their own good reason, uses film. But that reason no longer needs to be to get superior results.
Film is certainly an older technology, but I don't think that can have any bearing on whether a technology is better or worse. IBM's OS/2 was wiped out by Microsoft Windows, an inferior technology in every way.

At the moment, for the ultimate in technical resolution, I think we can agree that it's either use large format film, or spend an enormous amount on a digital scanning back or something.

Right now, respectfully, I think film is the superior technology. My career is in computing, and digital is far more second-nature to me than film. However, I think that all things being equal, the simpler solution is the better one, and film is that for me.
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Old 03-31-2012   #152
semilog
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Arguments about technical superiority are, in the absence of a specific artistic, journalistic, or scientific problem or goal, vacuous.
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Old 03-31-2012   #153
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bike Tourist View Post
if you are still using medium format, film OR digital, then you are a dinosaur.
Only if you view photography as a technical exercise rather than as an expressive art.

Your argument is tantamount to saying that people who do stone lithography rather than using a photocopier are dinosaurs.

It is a vacuous argument.
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Old 03-31-2012   #154
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bike Tourist View Post
Let me respectfully disagree with comments from timor:

There is no such a thing (as a digital sensor). Camera sensors are as analog as it gets.

I'm not sure where this comes from. No reason is offered. Actually, when the photochemical analog process is taken to the quantum level, everything becomes digital. The universe, really.
This interesting.

A single Photon behaves as discrete particles. Ensembles of photons often behave as if they are waves. Photons have speed and momentum which are linear (analog) Newtonian concepts. But you can not predict how photons behave using Newtonian physics... you need quantum mechanics and discrete states.

Phone energy states are completely discrete. So in a sense they are digital. Victor F. Weisskopf called this behavior the Heisenberg Certainty Principle. That is not a typo. The photon is in one energy level or another, but never in both. Gaining or losing energy causes a change in state, but this change appears to be perfectly digital.

A sensor produces an analog voltage/current which is eventually digitized by a analog to digital converter. Yet at some point the photons' interaction with the sensor site requires quantum mechanics to describe how the voltage/current is created. Finally, the transistors in the sensor circuits wouldn't work if it wasn't for quantum mechanic tunneling.

The chemical reactions in film also require quantum mechanics to fully understand what happens when film granules interact with light and more importantly how to invent improved photosensitive molecules. Of course the end result is a three-dimensional array of molecules that is purely analog. There is a continuous distribution of photosensitive molecules.
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Old 03-31-2012   #155
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigeye View Post

....


It seems that today only Leica is be able to separate imaging technology from simple operation and decent build. If I have to go to an obscure tips and tricks blog to find out how to perform a basic function properly, I'm holding the wrong camera.

...[/i]
It is trivial to use dozens of different digital cameras in full manual mode. Operation can be as simple as any M camera. It's the photographer's choice.

A 30 second Google search will reveal numerous examples of digital cameras that have survived serious physical abuse implying robust build is not limited to one camera.

There are many reasons to prefer using a film camera, but I don't find either of these convincing.
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Old 03-31-2012   #156
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willie_901 View Post
This interesting.

A single Photon behaves as discrete particles.
Not quite.

Single photons (and other subatomic particles) behave as waves and as particles. In the double-slit experiment, you get interference patterns - an indication of wave-like behavior - even when photons go through the slits one at a time. One of the freakiest results in all of science.

And if you put a particle detector at the slits, to see which slit each photon goes through, the interference pattern goes away.
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Old 03-31-2012   #157
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Because every time I pick up my filmcamera it forces me to slow down and learn a bit more, think a bit further ...
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Old 03-31-2012   #158
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thegman View Post
Film is certainly an older technology, but I don't think that can have any bearing on whether a technology is better or worse. IBM's OS/2 was wiped out by Microsoft Windows, an inferior technology in every way.

At the moment, for the ultimate in technical resolution, I think we can agree that it's either use large format film, or spend an enormous amount on a digital scanning back or something.

Right now, respectfully, I think film is the superior technology. My career is in computing, and digital is far more second-nature to me than film. However, I think that all things being equal, the simpler solution is the better one, and film is that for me.
The economics say otherwise for all products because there is no product nor development without economy. Inferior and superior arguments must factor that in. If not, the argument exists in a vacuum.
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Old 05-04-2012   #159
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I use film because I am acquainted with the process of making a picture, that is, of visualizing the print and then making the picture. I dislike the instant gratification of digital snapshots. I do, however, use my iPhone to document processes in the printing shop where I work and for snapshots of things that interest me when I walk or go mountain biking!

I find the digital cameras expensive, even used ones. With used ones, there is always the risk of buying something with planned obsolescence "programmed" inside. However, my original 1995 Minolta Maxxum 600si didn't outlive film, my Sigma lens stuck at infinity, in a symbolic way waving good bye at the great era of film.

I started seeing digital SLR's the last time I was on vacation in the USA, but found them complicated, the terminology complex, RAW, Lightroom, noise, etc. Then I found another 600si again on eBay and bought it, it was in mint condition, got an 18-35/4 Sigma lens, bought EIR in the UK, bought filters, books, etc! The photo bug had started again!

Then I found Flicker, where a group on Yashica Electro recruited me and I was able to find a technician to repair my first camera, after almost 35 years in oblivion.

Now I am learning on Leica's M3 and their lenses. This is a process that will take a while since I have a Mamiya Standard 23 Press camera and I am fixing the film backs. Thanks to a group on these cameras I found the parts to fix the film backs that leaked in light.

I have bought quite a few Kodak Technical Series books and a book on The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnaum. I am enjoying thoroughly this new stage in life!

My question is, will I outlive film?

Last edited by RBruceCR : 05-04-2012 at 06:31. Reason: Completion
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Old 05-04-2012   #160
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You already have outlived film.
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Old 06-15-2012   #161
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Franko View Post
I use film for several reasons.

1. I hate techno-geek world and fight it with all my being!!! Have you
tried to have a conversation with someone who possesses a
"Blackberry" lately???

2. No one has yet made a digital that feels like a LTM when I pick it up

3. I'm old and stubborn

4. It works and gives such lovely results, particularly in BW

5. All my heros used it
Very straight and honest.
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Old 06-15-2012   #162
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Why do I still use film?

1. Because the best (most enjoyable to use) camera body ever made, the Leica M, takes film. (The M8 and M9 have inferior proportions and consequently inferior ergonomics. If they are M's, they are inferior substitutes for a proper film M.)

2. I like the way film images look (though the B&W I get out of the X-Pro1 is pretty damned nice).

3. Watching a wet print come up in the dev is still magic — every. single. time. Watching a print come out of an inkjet will never have that magic.

4. It can be good to not be able to chimp.

5. The best films ever made are currently available.

6. XTOL and red wine.

7. It kinda freaks people out when they discover you're shooting film.

8. The Leica's paid for.

9. Film is still cheap, and readily available.

10. #9 won't always be true.
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Old 06-15-2012   #163
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Great thread.

I use film for much the same reason that I make my own ammunition.

To shoot things.

There is a magic to film, but it is difficult to argue that 35mm film can compete in any way with digital... except that some B&W has a look that I really like and I love Velvia. I also love having a limited number of chances to get things right. I also like waiting for the film to develop and then finding out that my skills were lacking, or not. I would rather lose a shot than drain a battery trying to get that same shot. I also wish to prevent my acquisition of a chimping addiction and then needing to join Chimpers Anonymous.
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Old 06-15-2012   #164
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Quote:
Originally Posted by helenhill View Post
For me it is an ESCAPE ...

Even with All its Imoerfections
it's Subtleties in Rendering the Play of Shadow, Light, Texture & Tone
makes me Drunk with Joy...

Helen your description reminds me of sufi poetry . . . . .
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Old 06-15-2012   #165
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I started back using film again last July when I attended a workshop and three photographers who attended were using film cameras. The last time I had used a film camera was at least a decade ago and seeing folks using film only sparked a fuse and I bought a used M7 within the week.

I enjoy the slow pace and enjoy the process of taking the photograph with a film camera vs. the digital. There are days when I still use the digital but the majority of time I am out and about with one of the film bodies.
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~ M9, M6 TTL & MP ~ Mamiya 7 II ~ GF1 ~ K5IIs
~ Rolleiflex f3.5 with Carl Zeiss 75mm Planar (type 4) ~
The hardest part of starting a new project is starting it ~ Keith Carter
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Old 06-15-2012   #166
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I dunno.. I have a few digital cameras, and I use them regularly, but I just get more satisfaction from my photos that are shot on film.
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Old 06-15-2012   #167
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I carefully read the entire thread, thought that there were some good points there, and then said to myself, "well, enough of this, let's read something else". And I went to the (Australian) ABC site to see what's news, clicked there on the Arts section, and the first thing I saw was:

"Rejecting digital photography - In Focus: Joni Sternbach’s nostalgic photography"
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Old 06-15-2012   #168
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I do use digital for convenience and utilitarian reasons sometimes, but it doesn't hold excitement for me or especially captivate my interest the way that film does.

I use film because I like the processes involved in using film. I like the care and feeding of a wonderfully made mechanical marvel or a simple wooden camera. I enjoy going into my darkroom to develop film and make prints. The workflow is relaxing and fun. Seeing a gorgeous transparency emerge from my processor or an image form before my eyes in the developer tray seems magic, even though I know it's not.

I like the pace of shooting film. I think 36 frames on a roll of 135 is a lot, actually. I think a couple of film holders loaded with 8x10 film is a lot too. Twelve square images on a roll of 120 never fails to delight me. I always grab a spare roll or two to take along when I head out with one of my cameras, but even the tough decisions about what to spend my last few frames on are an interesting part of the game.

I like the look of wet prints from film. I like to select the film for the conditions I'll be shooting in, and for the look that the particular emulsion renders. I like to vary my processing or my printing to get the effect I want. I like trying to do things and to perfect processes that most people aren't doing anymore.

I think more than anything I like having that tangible piece of developed film at the end of the day. I can file it in a drawer, look at it on a light table, project it on a screen, or make a print from it with my enlarger. There is simply no satisfying way that I know of to handle a digital image.

One thing I really do not care about at all is the argument over which is "better" or "superior", film or digital images. That has no bearing on my preference for film. Photography is a hobby for me. I do not make my living from it, so things like productivity, fast turnaround, and cost really don't factor in to the equation. I shoot film because everything about it fascinates me, and I can get photographs I like from it.
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Old 06-15-2012   #169
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Franko View Post
I use film for several reasons.

1. I hate techno-geek world and fight it with all my being!!! Have you
tried to have a conversation with someone who possesses a
"Blackberry" lately???
Whoa, there...I resemble that remark! As someone who immerses himself in the tech world for some semblance of a living (and owns a BlackBerry), I'm damned good at conversation. Of course, I regard my gadgets more as tools than toys, so I'm not prone to bumping into lampposts or people on account of excess digital distraction.

Quote:
2. No one has yet made a digital that feels like a LTM when I pick it up.
Not entirely sure how true that is now...the M8/9 body is, of course, bigger than an a typical LTM body (an R-D1 comes a bit closer), but it still feels good in the hand and responds as I think a proper camera should. Can't afford one, though, but that's cool - my Hexars and little Contax Tvs keep me quite happy.

Quote:
3. I'm old and stubborn
I'm no spring chicken myself, but perhaps a bit less stubborn: my LP collection snuggles up cozily next to my CD collection, the latter of which has largely been ripped into iTunes, where it snuggles up nicely with my purchased digital downloads, and all play nicely on my iPod classic. As mentioned earlier, I still shoot film roughly 80% of the time, but I've been scanning and digitally printing from all that film almost exclusively for almost fifteen years,

Quote:
4. It works and gives such lovely results, particularly in BW
No argument there!

Quote:
5. All my heros used it
Ditto.


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Old 06-15-2012   #170
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heartattackandvine View Post
I carefully read the entire thread, thought that there were some good points there, and then said to myself, "well, enough of this, let's read something else". And I went to the (Australian) ABC site to see what's news, clicked there on the Arts section, and the first thing I saw was:

"Rejecting digital photography - In Focus: Joni Sternbach’s nostalgic photography"

. . . . . another video for wet collodian work for your viewing pleasure, Silver & Light: http://vimeo.com/39578584


Enjoyed the link you provide above.
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~ M9, M6 TTL & MP ~ Mamiya 7 II ~ GF1 ~ K5IIs
~ Rolleiflex f3.5 with Carl Zeiss 75mm Planar (type 4) ~
The hardest part of starting a new project is starting it ~ Keith Carter
Flickr Sets: http://www.flickr.com/photos/26672618@N03/sets/
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