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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 05-18-2011   #26
Brian Sweeney
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Digital means constant change, being on a constant learning curve, always having to get used to something new. Some new interface, some new computer, some new software, some new file format. To not embrace change every three years or so means those around you will upgrade to something better, and you won't have it.

Film means being able to stick with something that you can do for life. Use the same camera, use the same film, use the same process. Those around you can buy the latest F6 and you can still use a Nikon SP and get results that look just as good on a print.

I suspect that's why some people don't like it digital, and others love it.

Me- I think I'll write a custom noise reduction algorithm for my M9 files using Microway FORTRAN-77 running on Phar Lap extended DOS. I want to try noise-removal running on the DNG files, separating the image into 4 sub-images based on which quadrant of the Bayer site that it is in. I hate Windows. Although I did download the FTN-95 compiler.
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Old 05-18-2011   #27
anu L ogy
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I have shot both at some point or another, but this is an easy choice for me. I love being in a darkroom
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Old 05-18-2011   #28
Benjamin Marks
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Hard to stick to bullet points. But I will offer these qualitative observations: wet photography is like cooking. Times. Temperatures. Ingredients. Other than the camera, the tech in your home is repairable with ordinary tools. The process, at least as I engaged in it, was solitary, meditative and favored the introvert. Like cooking, interrupting the process was difficult because of environmental constraints. You loved the darkroom or you hated it, but you needed to be there to produce the product.

Digital is inherently flexible, plastic (in the sense of mold-able), technological, and connected. It allows for instant feedback, sharing, and socializing. Mastery of all the details from "capture" (?hate that word!?) to output is actually impossible for me to imagine. Just the thought of understanding color space and willing my camera, monitor and printer into synch makes my head hurt and so I settle for "good enough". Much more of the magic happens in little microchips and because we are in the early days of this revolution, the pace of change is exponentially faster than on the film side of things, where the technology has been mature for almost 60 years. Although the gamuts are narrower, the possibilities are endless.

Photographically, I do have the sense that we are accelerating pell-mell down a technological cul-de-sac. Archeologists 5,000 years from now will think that Western civilization stopped developing at some point in the last 10 years, because all of our brightest thoughts and creative impulses are going to be stored on computer-as-fashion-item devices with usable lives measured in months that are dependent on specialized and buggy code, inadequately documented and poorly maintained.

Now where did I put my M9?

Ben

\\Rant off

[Edit: I do realize that my characterizations above are merely a description of how I do/did wet photography and I do e-photography][You could work for a paper, just be the guy who presses the shutter button and be a perfect extrovert. I was simply trying to characterize the act of making a unique original (a negative) and ultimately a photograph which was one performance of a printing recipe (expose film, develop negative, do a dodge-burn dance and cook for a predetermined time) vs. an image encoded as a binary file.]
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Last edited by Benjamin Marks : 05-18-2011 at 09:51.
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Old 05-18-2011   #29
EtoileFinder
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Another avantage of digital :
because a lot of people is converting to digital, its has enable me to purchase a jobo cpa2 with lift and a focomat v35 for really cheap.
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Old 05-18-2011   #30
emraphoto
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film - because it's the only thing i can afford to run through the hasselblad.

saving pennies for a digital back and the glass to match it.
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Old 05-18-2011   #31
emraphoto
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Sweeney View Post
Digital means constant change, being on a constant learning curve, always having to get used to something new. Some new interface, some new computer, some new software, some new file format. To not embrace change every three years or so means those around you will upgrade to something better, and you won't have it.

Film means being able to stick with something that you can do for life. Use the same camera, use the same film, use the same process. Those around you can buy the latest F6 and you can still use a Nikon SP and get results that look just as good on a print.

I suspect that's why some people don't like it digital, and others love it.

Me- I think I'll write a custom noise reduction algorithm for my M9 files using Microway FORTRAN-77 running on Phar Lap extended DOS. I want to try noise-removal running on the DNG files, separating the image into 4 sub-images based on which quadrant of the Bayer site that it is in. I hate Windows. Although I did download the FTN-95 compiler.
i like option a/ and b/
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Old 05-18-2011   #32
peterm1
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Photographically, I do have the sense that we are accelerating pell-mell down a technological cul-de-sac. Archeologists 5,000 years from now will think that Western civilization stopped developing at some point in the last 10 years, because all of our brightest thoughts and creative impulses are going to be stored on computer-as-fashion-item devices with usable lives measured in months that are dependent on specialized and buggy code, inadequately documented and poorly maintained.


I hear this a lot but with respect, I do not think I agree.

Only last night someone on TV was commenting on the fact that the Library of Congress in USA is recording all sorts of ephemera - even tweets from the internet for future generations. As storage costs fall I would not be in the least bit surprised to find whole sites like Flickr recorded somewhere for posterity in the future.

Yesterday I was doing some family genealogical research. I went online, googled the name and in minutes had dozens of downloadable photos of my forebears online from our State Library which had digitized and posted them for reference purposes. I doubt I ever would have had the time or ability to find them otherwise. Digital media makes things more available not less. And it makes them more secure not less. The cost of storing those original hardcopy images in archival condition and restoring them when they inevitably crumble is so high that all except the most important would inevitably be lost over time.

I have worked in the IT industry enough to know about how the industry often has to transfer data from so called "legacy (ie outdated) systems to new "platforms" and to new formats. The data is intact - just in a new format and stored on new technology. This happens all the time. And I am sure it will happen in the future. Not only that the data is always (for which read ALWAYS) with major institutions like public libraries, backed up and restorable in the event the unthinkable happens.

Digital media makes me more certain of this info being around in hundreds or even in some cases thousands (if its valued enough) of years.

Even at a personal level changing formats as technology changes is not a big deal. Think of digital videos... There are literally dozens of formats for videos now in use. But there are also dozens of transcoders available for purchase (or free) online. It's a trivial matter to recode a video - even more so a digital image. Sure many photos stored at home on PCs will be lost as people will not bother to archive or back them up them properly. But the same can be said for hard copies. I cannot tell you how many photos I have "binned" just because I no longer have the space to store them properly. Most are trivial to me but could be of great interest to future historians just because of the information they contain about how we live now.
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Last edited by peterm1 : 05-18-2011 at 16:08.
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Old 05-18-2011   #33
Keith
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On reflection I think that the major advantage with digital is being able to change ISO frame to frame ... in lighting environments with extremes this is very liberating and really makes up for the 'pork' of a DSLR.
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Old 05-18-2011   #34
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A good friend of mine is a wedding photographer. He uses a DSLR for the bulk of his work but often supplements his work with film cameras, like a 6x17 panorama, Ebony 4x5, and a Hasselblad. He encourages is clients to use film for weddings because he explains, it is relatively archival.

Most of his clients like the idea.
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Old 05-18-2011   #35
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Film:
PRO: good equipment at reasonable price
CON: (inconvenece of) dust and scratchs on the negative

Digital:
PRO: sometimes I get better results in color
CON: storage requirements including image size

Both:
PRO: (w/ inconvience of a computer) I can share the results across distance
CON: (for me) I end up in front of a computer

note: my requirements are personal rather than professional

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Old 05-23-2011   #36
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Here's the digital deal breaker: as yet there is no digital M2, with M2 results and film quality.
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