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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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A boring assignment in Ankara
Old 12-22-2016   #1
scott kirkpatrick
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A boring assignment in Ankara

Bill, you must have asked yourself this -- it's a boring assignment. The Russian Ambassador is going to make a few remarks at an art exhibition, but a plainclothes cop in a dark suit shoots him and then goes nuts about 10 feet from your position. Would you still be there and shooting when it ends several minutes later?

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Old 12-22-2016   #2
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I think folks do the job that they are trained to do, almost regardless of profession. ( I remember photographing a surgeon operating on his own child with steely calm and sobbing afterwards.) Anybody who photographs in areas of any kind possible conflict is going to occasionally face totally unexpected violence. You’re not afraid because you don’t expect anything to happen. When it does happen, you operate on reflex. If you are a photographer, you push the button. There’s very little thinking or courage involved. And most of the time, when you start to think again, the threat has disappated.

“I stared into the face of danger and did not flinch,” is a pretty effective party line, but not really what happens. Most of the time it’s over before you have a chance to think. Courage is when you have time to think and don’t back out. Most often that’s when you get on an airplane to fly into an area of conflict. Sadly it’s not the only time.
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Old 12-22-2016   #3
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i remember crossing into Northern Syria in 2012 with no premonition of how crazy things would get, and how quickly it would happen. the very first night i spent on the Syrian side of the border we were shelled for 4 hours straight. taking photographs was the only thing i could do to avoid losing my marbles on the first night. actually, photographing was the only thing that helped me keep from complete meltdown the whole time i was there. to call it courage would be as far from the truth as one could get.
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Old 12-22-2016   #4
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That whole The Russian Ambassador shooting scenario in Ankara looks so staged and fake, just my gut feeling.
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Old 12-24-2016   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xayraa33 View Post
That whole The Russian Ambassador shooting scenario in Ankara looks so staged and fake, just my gut feeling.
What part do you think is staged? Do you think the ambassador is not really dead? Or that everybody was in on it except the ambassador?
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Old 12-24-2016   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ksb View Post
What part do you think is staged? Do you think the ambassador is not really dead? Or that everybody was in on it except the ambassador?
The whole thing reeked of bad acting, like a C grade movie.

I say no one died and the whole thing was another staged terrorist act, like we been having these last few days, one after the other.

The elites have been cutting too many corners in their staged terror pantomimes lately and the fakery is obviously beginning to show.

You are free to believe anything the controlled news media tells you, I will just go along on my gut instincts on this one, and this one does not pass the smell test in my humble opinion.

Like I said, you are free to believe what ever the news media feeds you. I just don't buy this one, sorry.
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Old 12-24-2016   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emraphoto View Post
It pains me to read stuff like this. It pains me to consider the friends and colleagues lost trying to bring a greater understanding to the public about what's unfolding in The Middle East and in particular, the meat grinder we know as Syria while I read the non-stop refrain condemning all press from armchair quarterbacks.

The erosion of legitimacy surrounding their work, by folks with nothing more than a 'gut feeling' makes me sick to my stomach.
First of all I am not commenting on Syria or Afghanistan or Libya or Vietnam or the Battle of Midway or on the Second Opium War.

That is too bad you feel that way but it does not change my outlook or my opinion on this particular incident in Ankara.
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Old 12-24-2016   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by emraphoto View Post
I'm not sure you understand what I wrote. I wasn't asking you to change any opinions.
You did not like my original opinion and comment because it has the possibility to paint journalists and photojournalists in a bad light because they could be party to a news hoax if what I believe to be true is actually true perhaps ?
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Old 12-24-2016   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xayraa33 View Post
That whole The Russian Ambassador shooting scenario in Ankara looks so staged and fake, just my gut feeling.
I'm sorry, but your "gut feeling" is informed by the outer limits of what is charitably called delusional thinking. How you can possibly believe this is truly bizarre!
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Old 12-24-2016   #10
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And no one ever landed on the moon.

A man lost his life, shot in the back by a coward. Show some respect!

Do you seriously think he is enjoying a Winter break on the edge of the Black Sea?
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Old 12-24-2016   #11
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That was a rhetorical question. I wont be back for more of this trolling nonsense. Happy Holidays all!
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Old 12-24-2016   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xayraa33 View Post
The whole thing reeked of bad acting, like a C grade movie.

I say no one died and the whole thing was another staged terrorist act, like we been having these last few days, one after the other.

The elites have been cutting too many corners in their staged terror pantomimes lately and the fakery is obviously beginning to show.

You are free to believe anything the controlled news media tells you, I will just go along on my gut instincts on this one, and this one does not pass the smell test in my humble opinion.

Like I said, you are free to believe what ever the news media feeds you. I just don't buy this one, sorry.
Oh, OK. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It's better to go with the facts you can uncover rather than your gut feeling.
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Old 12-25-2016   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johannielscom View Post
If it actually were staged and fake, wouldn't it look a lot more real then? Just my gut feeling of course!
Maybe that it is why it was so amateurish, the perpetrators indirectly want to tell us it was a snow job. Just a way to have some weird fun with us or to see if we notice it was all just acting, and very bad quality theatrics at that.
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Old 12-25-2016   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ksb View Post
Oh, OK. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It's better to go with the facts you can uncover rather than your gut feeling.
Apparently it turns out that I am not the only one who thinks the incident was fake and staged. But you free to believe what ever you want to believe

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54oQUbQMnvE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeVSc8Yt8Ew&t=368s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CjQnmcLVPU
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Old 12-25-2016   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saul View Post
I'm sorry, but your "gut feeling" is informed by the outer limits of what is charitably called delusional thinking. How you can possibly believe this is truly bizarre!
I say believing everything the TV set tells you is delusional thinking.

Not everything you are told by that electronic box in your house is the absolute truth.

But accepting that fact might come as a shock to you and might damage the world paradigm you been conditioned in, so it is better to attack the messenger and go on living your normal life without any upset or cognitive dissonance, as it is so much easier that way and less stressful too
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Old 12-25-2016   #16
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Oh 2016....
Heartbreaking to read this nonsense after everything.


Quote:
Originally Posted by xayraa33 View Post
The whole thing reeked of bad acting, like a C grade movie.

I say no one died and the whole thing was another staged terrorist act, like we been having these last few days, one after the other.

The elites have been cutting too many corners in their staged terror pantomimes lately and the fakery is obviously beginning to show.

You are free to believe anything the controlled news media tells you, I will just go along on my gut instincts on this one, and this one does not pass the smell test in my humble opinion.

Like I said, you are free to believe what ever the news media feeds you. I just don't buy this one, sorry.
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Old 12-25-2016   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xayraa33 View Post
I say believing everything the TV set tells you is delusional thinking.

Not everything you are told by that electronic box in your house is the absolute truth.

But accepting that fact might come as a shock to you and might damage the world paradigm you been conditioned in, so it is better to attack the messenger and go on living your normal life without any upset or cognitive dissonance, as it is so much easier that way and less stressful too
Right, and my "gut feeling" says you are not a real person, it must be a troll robot typing. I won't provide any evidence to support my claim, but I just know some people who agree with me. And my post is not real either, it's a hoax. 😊
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Old 12-25-2016   #18
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Quote:
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Right, and my "gut feeling" says you are not a real person, it must be a troll robot typing. I won't provide any evidence to support my claim, but I just know some people who agree with me. And my post is not real either, it's a hoax. 😊
What ever rocks your boat, Valdas
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Old 12-25-2016   #19
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The Ambassador is then with the Russian KGB Witness Protection Program?
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Old 12-25-2016   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xayraa33 View Post
I say believing everything the TV set tells you is delusional thinking.

Not everything you are told by that electronic box in your house is the absolute truth.

But accepting that fact might come as a shock to you and might damage the world paradigm you been conditioned in, so it is better to attack the messenger and go on living your normal life without any upset or cognitive dissonance, as it is so much easier that way and less stressful too
So you substituted your TV with YouTube and you did the exact same thing but of course it's totally different and that gets you the right to tell others how naive they are.

Sure.

Anyway, back to the original question and the land of the sane: I've never been in the same position but I suspect you get to work since it's a) what's required and b) keeps you sane and composed in the eye of personal danger.

As an assignment, I've shot the funeral of a 1.5 years old girl who died suddenly (cradle death) and her parents asked me to shoot it all. At the graveside, the whole family lost it.
It wasn't until that night when I was scoring the images that the emotions of the day hit me personally.
That's the closest I've been to a situation like that of the ambassador being gunned down.

No matter what, it's good to have been able to see the images and I applaud the photographer for continuing to work the scene in the face of violence, no matter what helped him do that.
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Old 12-25-2016   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johannielscom View Post
So you substituted your TV with YouTube and you did the exact same thing but of course it's totally different and that gets you the right to tell others how naive they are.

Sure.

Anyway, back to the original question and the land of the sane: I've never been in the same position but I suspect you get to work since it's a) what's required and b) keeps you sane and composed in the eye of personal danger.

As an assignment, I've shot the funeral of a 1.5 years old girl who died suddenly (cradle death) and her parents asked me to shoot it all. At the graveside, the whole family lost it.
It wasn't until that night when I was scoring the images that the emotions of the day hit me personally.
That's the closest I've been to a situation like that of the ambassador being gunned down.

No matter what, it's good to have been able to see the images and I applaud the photographer for continuing to work the scene in the face of violence, no matter what helped him do that.
I first saw the Ankara incident on the television and I thought it looked fake and said nothing, but my wife mentioned it after watching the same news video that I did and I had to admit to her that the same thought had crossed my mind.

Now I find out that many other people across the world who saw the same Ankara video on the news on TV had the same reaction.

Social media whether it is Facebook or YouTube or other websites is how people these days share their opinion, nothing out of the ordinary there, it still is a form of communication.
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Old 12-25-2016   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markwatts View Post
And no one ever landed on the moon.

A man lost his life, shot in the back by a coward. Show some respect!

Do you seriously think he is enjoying a Winter break on the edge of the Black Sea?
You know the dead man personally then?

I know, he was a friend of a second cousin once removed that was married to a lady who sold timeshare rentals in Málaga Spain who was told he died for real by the taxidermist across the street near the bus depot.

Why of course !

actually .. Shame on you !

You have to try better than that cliched nonsense.
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Old 12-25-2016   #23
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I am learning a lot about the Ankara event from postings in this thread!
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Old 12-25-2016   #24
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And no one ever landed on the moon.
(dons tinfoil hat)

And faked it nine times.

(removes tinfoil hat)
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Old 12-26-2016   #25
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Funny discussion about a news phtos that is already forgotten because the news event it shows, is already forgotten. That asassination had no political impact at all. Most german websites I visited that day didn't show that photo or only showed a cropped version with the perpetrator only.
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Old 12-26-2016   #26
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I agree with Tom; the assassination of one ambassador is not major news.
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Old 12-26-2016   #27
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Quote:
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I agree with Tom; the assassination of one ambassador is not major news.
Not in Germany at least, if a truck drives onto a Christmas market on the same day.
I bet Russian RFF members would have considered the event major news.

It's all a matter of context and importance in national media. But to consider that a sign that mainstream media are untrustworthy and the news faked is delusional...
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Old 12-26-2016   #28
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Doesn't this bread have an "ignore filter", commonly also known as a "twit filter"?
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Old 12-26-2016   #29
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Doesn't this bread have an "ignore filter", commonly also known as a "twit filter"?
I thought so too but I couldn't find one.

And this thread had such potential....
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Old 12-26-2016   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xayraa33 View Post
The whole thing reeked of bad acting, like a C grade movie.
Life is generally badly acted.
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Old 12-27-2016   #31
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This may be of interest.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/25/us...=74663182&te=1
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Old 12-27-2016   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
That is an eye opening news article Mr Pierce, thank you for the hyperlink to it.
The last paragraph of that write-up struck a chord with me:

"The market in these divided times is undeniably ripe. “We now live in this fragmented media world where you can block people you disagree with. You can only be exposed to stories that make you feel good about what you want to believe,” Mr. Ziegler, the radio host, said. “Unfortunately, the truth is unpopular a lot. And a good fairy tale beats a harsh truth every time.”

It makes me wonder if all this is just another created on purpose"division creating device" that is foisted on the public? As if we have not got enough created divisions (and labels) already within our society today.
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Old 12-27-2016   #33
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Interesting trend going on:

"Facebook's Safety Check Just Got Fooled By Fake News"

https://www.yahoo.com/news/facebooks...174150503.html
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Old 12-28-2016   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xayraa33 View Post
Interesting trend going on:

"Facebook's Safety Check Just Got Fooled By Fake News"

https://www.yahoo.com/news/facebooks...174150503.html
More like "Algorithms Gone Wild!": http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-38448140 It started as a literally accurate (but over-hyped) report of an "explosion in Bangkok" (firecrackers tossed at a government building) made by a "trusted third party," after which FB's algorithm kicked in and pulled up a stale BBC clip about an actual bombing from a local (Thai) website, which gave the whole thing the imprimatur of "Breaking News!" reported by the BBC.

The reassuring bit in the Yahoo blurb is its assertion that 1/3 of people get their news from Facebook - a month ago, it was 43 percent.
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Old 12-28-2016   #35
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This thread is getting weirder by the day.
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Old 12-28-2016   #36
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The problem with convincing conspiracy theorists otherwise is that, to them, lack of evidence is proof of a cover-up, further reinforcing the original conspiracy.
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Old 12-28-2016   #37
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Quote:
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I think folks do the job that they are trained to do, almost regardless of profession. ( I remember photographing a surgeon operating on his own child with steely calm and sobbing afterwards.) Anybody who photographs in areas of any kind possible conflict is going to occasionally face totally unexpected violence. You’re not afraid because you don’t expect anything to happen. When it does happen, you operate on reflex. If you are a photographer, you push the button. There’s very little thinking or courage involved. And most of the time, when you start to think again, the threat has disappated.

“I stared into the face of danger and did not flinch,” is a pretty effective party line, but not really what happens. Most of the time it’s over before you have a chance to think. Courage is when you have time to think and don’t back out. Most often that’s when you get on an airplane to fly into an area of conflict. Sadly it’s not the only time.
In the military we used to say that you do what you train to do. Under stress we often revert to training without thinking. If you train yourself to react a certain way in smaller events, one can easily transition up to more traumatic events and react without even thinking about danger or revulsion.

Quote:
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i remember crossing into Northern Syria in 2012 with no premonition of how crazy things would get, and how quickly it would happen. the very first night i spent on the Syrian side of the border we were shelled for 4 hours straight. taking photographs was the only thing i could do to avoid losing my marbles on the first night. actually, photographing was the only thing that helped me keep from complete meltdown the whole time i was there. to call it courage would be as far from the truth as one could get.
You describe what many people do in stressful and fearful situations. They take up a crutch. It may be to take up a weapon a go sort of berserk not thinking of any danger. It may be to do ones job as best one can, concentrating on doing it the best one can, simply to give purpose to being in a fearful situation.

When we wish to put labels on such actions, we often use words such as bravery or courage. If you don't feel you were, that is your call.
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Old 12-29-2016   #38
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I hope this thread is back on the rails again. The original situation and Bill's example reminded me of Gene Smith's Country Doctor essay. Smith was as capable as anyone of operating without apparent distraction in a dangerous environment (shooting back while walking behind advancing tanks?) yet he could see the effects of stress in others.
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Old 12-29-2016   #39
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In the military we used to say that you do what you train to do. Under stress we often revert to training without thinking. If you train yourself to react a certain way in smaller events, one can easily transition up to more traumatic events and react without even thinking about danger or revulsion.



You describe what many people do in stressful and fearful situations. They take up a crutch. It may be to take up a weapon a go sort of berserk not thinking of any danger. It may be to do ones job as best one can, concentrating on doing it the best one can, simply to give purpose to being in a fearful situation.

When we wish to put labels on such actions, we often use words such as bravery or courage. If you don't feel you were, that is your call.
Absolutely. I'm not sure if crutch is the word but it's damn close. Getting down to work, when the you know what hits the fan, keeps the mind from straying into panic mode. Panic mode in combat means one endangers themselves and others.

I shy away from the word courage as mind altering fear seems more accurate. That doesn't usually set in until after things are largely over and one can process what just happened.
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