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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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One a day
Old 10-23-2016   #1
Bill Pierce
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One a day

Screen images are taking over my photographic life. Pictures of family and friends, what used to be the family album, are emailed to their computers. Even commercial and journalistic pictures are as likely to end up on the internet as end up in a printed paper publication. Actually, I take that back. They are probably more likely to end up on the internet. Even submission of conventional prints to museums, galleries and collectors often starts with a broad selection of jpeg images sent on a USB flash drive.

I don’t like this for the simple reason that on different computer monitors the same transmitted image can be darker, lighter, contrastier, flatter, more saturated, more pastel, colder, warmer and on and on. I find myself not working on fine tuning on an image that I know will end up on a computer screen as much as I fine tune and try to emphasize the important in a paper print.

So every day I try to print at least one image that I care about in a series of paper prints. And as well calibrated as my monitor is, I still judge the print quality from a paper proof print, a little 5x7 proof print which I can send as a postcard. Then I make an 8 1/2 x 11 inch print with the necessary corrections. Then, an 11x14 (fine tuned a little more if it would benefit from it), a 13 x19 and on those rare occasions where I think I have actually made a really good image a 17 x22 or 17 x 25. Of course, there are days when something comes up, and I don’t get to my printer. But I do think those pictures that we want to leave behind, whether they’re the family pet or the Pulitzer, deserve paper.

My question is very simple. Am I nuts?
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Old 10-23-2016   #2
Darthfeeble
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I'd say that makes you a good photographer, which is about the same.
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Old 10-23-2016   #3
Peter Wijninga
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I don't think so. When my mother passed away a few years ago, everyone wanted the family photo albums which go back to the era of my grand parents. I won the lottery and, now and then post scanned copies of family photos online. The reaction is always immediate: all family members want a print.
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Old 10-23-2016   #4
farlymac
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You're not crazy to have a plan like that.

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Old 10-23-2016   #5
Oren Grad
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Just one quibble:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
I don’t like this for the simple reason that on different computer monitors the same transmitted image can be darker, lighter, contrastier, flatter, more saturated, more pastel, colder, warmer and on and on.
Although this problem is especially severe with electronic images it affects prints too, as we never know under what sort of lighting our prints will be viewed once they leave our hands.

That said, I think what you're doing isn't nuts, it's wonderful. But then getting a tangible artifact from the process is what makes photography satisfying for me, so I don't need much convincing.
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Old 10-23-2016   #6
Bill Pierce
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[quote=Oren Grad;2660159]
"Although this problem is especially severe with electronic images it affects prints too, as we never know under what sort of lighting our prints will be viewed once they leave our hands."

Over the years I've sort of come up with an "average room light" that sort of works. The two exceptions that really stand out were two museum exhibits, one of platinum prints, one of a friends pictures that I had silver printed for him. In both cases the museums had decided that a normal level of lighting would cause the platinum and silver prints to fade. Silly curators...
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Old 10-23-2016   #7
Oren Grad
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
Over the years I've sort of come up with an "average room light" that sort of works.
Yes, that's about all we can do. Also, at least with prints that seem too dark, many people will intuitively react by moving closer to a light or turning up the room lights so they can see better, whereas hardly anybody who doesn't have specialized knowledge and interest will think "oops, I need to recalibrate my computer display".

Murky lighting in museum shows: now there's a whole other can of worms...
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Old 10-23-2016   #8
Timmyjoe
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I think printing one picture a day is a great idea, and wish I had the time to do this as well.

Part of the reason I still shoot B&W film is the hope that when I'm gone, there will be a visual memory of what I was trying "to share with the world" that is not just bits and bites and vulnerable to the next power outage or computer virus.
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Old 10-23-2016   #9
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Anything that you can do creative daily is a good idea, even if it takes a small block of time. I'm a huge fan of daily practices like this.
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Old 10-23-2016   #10
Ronald M
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No, to many memories will die in the computer.

Print too big and we run out of place to put them.
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