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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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Maybe of interest....
Old 12-12-2016   #1
Bill Pierce
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Maybe of interest....

I was a news photographer for a long time and now I read the news. So this piece interested me. It may be of interest to you.

http://www.ai-ap.com/publications/ar...truth-era.html
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Old 12-12-2016   #2
Contarama
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Thanks Bill.

Makes me recall embedded reporters and sanitized reporting in our recent wars. Don't show the truth and you won't have any problems. Maybe maybe not huh?

Report the facts and nothing but the facts.

Seems now everything is an opinion piece...oops I mean tweet.
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Old 12-12-2016   #3
gdmcclintock
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Let Kashi and his colleagues flagellate themselves. An unfortunate byproduct of our postmodern age is the irrelevance of the mass media.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BN7IoKBjAT-/
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Old 12-12-2016   #4
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Thanks Bill.

A year ago I would be really concerned. Sadly, of late, while it makes the list of things that make my skin crawl, it's becoming a longer list almost every day.

List of EPA scientists who attended seminars on Carbon Reduction, now we have lists of journalist and photographers (don't editors select the pictures used?) and other.

Lists like this always end up badly.

Thanks for sharing. We need to open our eye and ears now more than ever.

B2 (;->
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Old 12-12-2016   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Contarama View Post
?.....
Report the facts and nothing but the facts.

Seems now everything is an opinion piece...oops I mean tweet.
You can see facts in 144 character, but it seem the only source doing that reliability uses Latin.

B2 (;->
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Old 12-12-2016   #6
Contarama
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillBingham2 View Post
You can see facts in 144 character, but it seem the only source doing that reliability uses Latin.

B2 (;->
Koine Greek might work. But then only biblical scholars would get it.
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Old 12-12-2016   #7
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Thanks Bill, not only an interesting piece, but wonderful links to equally interesting articles sprinkled throughout the piece.

Best,
-Tim
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Old 12-13-2016   #8
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I get a thousand-yard stare when people talk about "truth" these days.

Truth has always been subjective. Everyone translates information into whatever they believe is Truth (capital "T"--sometimes dogmatic and unyielding Truth). It then becomes "opinion".

Facts are...well, facts. Fact-based information is a much more worthy goal than a nebulous and fluid Truth.
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Old 12-13-2016   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gdmcclintock View Post
Let Kashi and his colleagues flagellate themselves. An unfortunate byproduct of our postmodern age is the irrelevance of the mass media.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BN7IoKBjAT-/
A self inflicted wound, I say.
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Old 12-13-2016   #10
oftheherd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Contarama View Post
Thanks Bill.

Makes me recall embedded reporters and sanitized reporting in our recent wars. Don't show the truth and you won't have any problems. Maybe maybe not huh?

Report the facts and nothing but the facts.

Seems now everything is an opinion piece...oops I mean tweet.
Embedded or not, how many reporters report facts as opposed to how many report facts as they want them viewed (that is their own slant)? That viewed against the 'fact' that many people view reporting, regardless of how factual, as they bounce it against their own beliefs and viewpoints.
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Old 12-13-2016   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Contarama View Post
Koine Greek might work. But then only biblical scholars would get it.
I'm not a biblical scholar, but λεγει αυτω ο πιλατος τι εστιν αληθεια

Which might apply to this discussion as well imho.
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Old 12-13-2016   #12
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Thanks for bringing this article to our attention, Bill. I found it both interesting and poignant. As imperfect as it may be, a free press with unfettered news reporting and photography must continue. The comment by Marty Baron at the end of the piece was, I believe, right on target.
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Old 12-13-2016   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ellisson View Post
As imperfect as it may be, a free press with unfettered news reporting and photography must continue.
The main problem imo - it is no longer unfettered news reporting and photography - in the MSM. It seems to be some sort of agenda or propaganda if you will. As such it no longer has any credibility whatsoever.

Napalm girl changed opinions...Crispy on the Highway of Death wasn't seen until way after the fact and even then on the back pages. The only thing it seemed to achieve was somebody learned hey we can get away with this.

I don't blame the journalists. It is the nefarious monster behind the curtains I suppose. Or maybe it is just our arrogant selves who see and hear only what we want to see and hear.

For further reading that relates to this discussion Google 'the war photo no one would publish' from the Atlantic.com
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Old 12-13-2016   #14
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I dropped my subscription to Chicago Tribune 20 years ago when I realized they slant the stories or simply fail to report. Few in my suburb take the paper any more and it used to be one of three homes.

Cable came and I don`t remember the last time I saw network news. Same fail to report or slant.

Now we have a problem with fake news.

I love cable news as the arguments some try to use make no sense at all. So what is wrong with schools?

Sun Times in Chicago fired all the photogs. I knew a few and they tried very hard to get good photos. Today reporters get a cell phone. Seems as if anything is good enough.
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Old 12-13-2016   #15
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There are no "good ole days".

Whether through neglect or bias...No facts have ever been complete.
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Old 12-13-2016   #16
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I agree.

While facts are said to be "stubborn", it's also the case that part the stubbornness is the difficulty in establishing them as facts. The world, being imperfect is subject to this truism.

The aspect of life most misunderstood is the necessity of living with uncertainty. Apparently, we have heuristics full of bias that allow for decision making under uncertainty that hopefully have fewer fatal mistakes than not. But adopting agendas, swallowed whole, as is the case now with much of the press (including photogs), has provided space for the tweeter to take root.
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Old 12-13-2016   #17
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A big part of my job is to independently verify engineering reports. Verification consists of ensuring every material statement has a reference. Once upon a time I the editor verified news stories. No longer.

When you read a story in the news blank out the adjectives, adverbs and anonymous sources. Read from beginning to end. For many, many news stories you'll find there is no story when you get done. The WSJ is the only news that actually does some verification of the articles.

Here an example from the Vietnam War in the 70s, both using the same AP source as a reference.

Paper #1 - a battle took place and the US Army took extremely heavy casualties. The story left the impression that the Army lost a large battle with many dead.

Paper #2 (same battle) - a skirmish took place and the squadron of 12 took fire and reported 1 killed and 3 wounded.
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Old 12-13-2016   #18
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......."The ultimate defense of press freedom lies in our daily work,” he said. “Many journalists wonder with considerable weariness what it is going to be like for us during the next four — perhaps eight — years. Will we be incessantly harassed and vilified? Will the new administration seize on opportunities to try intimidating us? Will we face obstruction at every turn? If so, what do we do? The answer, I believe, is pretty simple. Just do our job. Do it as it’s supposed to be done.”

Not only "just do our job", but print the truth as well.
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Old 12-13-2016   #19
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I was watching the CBS news one night, and Scott Pelly was interviewing someone who had been an eyewitness to one of the massacres in Paris. The interviewee said something about three couples sitting in the outdoors area of a restaurant that had come under fire by the gunmen, and Scott immediately reiterated in that dumb TV news person style of questioning by repeating what the person just said, but changed it to "scores" of people, whereas the interviewee rebutted that "it was six people, Scott."

It's things like that which makes one wonder just how much the news is slanted, embellished, and sensationalized in order to appeal to a certain demographic. I read news stories in the paper every day that make no sense because of bad editing, or none at all, and where the reporter leaves out many facts that would tie the story together, if it wasn't for the lack of column space.

People are too busy these days trying to make it with two and three jobs to be able to sit back, and take in the big picture. They dive into their phones for hours on end to escape their mundane existence, and what do they find? All sorts of conspiracies, fake news, and just plain whacko theories about why things have gone so bad for them, which are usually put out by people who have no idea what they are talking about in the first place.

Someone once said something to the effect that if you want to pass a lie off as truth, you need to get it out there as soon as you can, say it as loud as you can, and keep repeating it until it drowns out the truth.

It's been working pretty well for the Republicans so far. To paraphrase a famous Jack Nicholson line from a movie that I can't remember the title of, the American people can no longer handle the truth.

PF
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Old 12-13-2016   #20
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I think we should go back to the good old days, when the news reporters did not say a word about JFK and his philandering ways
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Old 12-13-2016   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by farlymac View Post
I was watching the CBS news one night, and Scott Pelly was interviewing someone who had been an eyewitness to one of the massacres in Paris. The interviewee said something about three couples sitting in the outdoors area of a restaurant that had come under fire by the gunmen, and Scott immediately reiterated in that dumb TV news person style of questioning by repeating what the person just said, but changed it to "scores" of people, whereas the interviewee rebutted that "it was six people, Scott."

It's things like that which makes one wonder just how much the news is slanted, embellished, and sensationalized in order to appeal to a certain demographic. I read news stories in the paper every day that make no sense because of bad editing, or none at all, and where the reporter leaves out many facts that would tie the story together, if it wasn't for the lack of column space.

People are too busy these days trying to make it with two and three jobs to be able to sit back, and take in the big picture. They dive into their phones for hours on end to escape their mundane existence, and what do they find? All sorts of conspiracies, fake news, and just plain whacko theories about why things have gone so bad for them, which are usually put out by people who have no idea what they are talking about in the first place.

Someone once said something to the effect that if you want to pass a lie off as truth, you need to get it out there as soon as you can, say it as loud as you can, and keep repeating it until it drowns out the truth.

It's been working pretty well for the Republicans so far. To paraphrase a famous Jack Nicholson line from a movie that I can't remember the title of, the American people can no longer handle the truth.

PF
Great movie, "A Few Good Men" with Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise, Kevin Bacon and Demi Moore et al. Nicholson was pretty good at hiding the truth - a good challenge for Cruise's character to unravel. I never tire of watching it.

Agree that the fast pace of contemporary life can detract from critical thought, real reporting, verification, and thoughtful analysis. Without these, the job doesn't get done and we repeat the same mistakes.
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