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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 03-26-2012   #51
kossi008
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My reasons have all been stated, but here goes anyway:
I still use film because
(a) I'm just too dense to ge the same kind of b/w rendering out of digital.
(b) I just immensely prefer using my Zeiss Ikon to using my Nex. The simplicity of operation is just soothing to my soul. And my heart sings when I look through that finder.
(c) I find that I value each shot much more than with digital, and this makes me compose more carefully.
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Old 03-26-2012   #52
Jan Van Laethem
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I think there is something tangible using the analogue systems. Loading your film, pressing the shutter of a fine mechanical camera and winding on to the next frame is a very satisfying experience that no digital camera has ever come close to.

Waiting to see your results is another factor that has already been mentioned here. I find it a big advantage, it allows you to stand back so to speak and put some distance between the taking stage and viewing stage.

Getting out an old contact sheet and viewing negatives on a light box is another experience I really enjoy.

And my four year old daughter is fascinated by her daddy's old cameras "that don't need batteries to work", as she rightly puts it. That's as good a reason as any. Now she wants me to give her a camera she can use with film. Not sure which one it will be.
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Old 03-26-2012   #53
Cyriljay
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My knowledge in Photography was based on learning through Film cameras. It is very sensible to say I was grown into a photographer through films and

I owe a M8 camera and M6 and a Hasselblad system and other analog cameras. So I am a die hard negative user because......when using negatives..it soothes me in to the process and the discipline of photography .

I like the process and the concept when using Film cameras than the Digital cameras as it slows down you to think and work more precisely on composing , control , visualise carefully and accurately.

Though the using films are becoming more expensive due to disappearance of it availability of the facilities like scanning and developing etc. But due to the fact of it quality and the long term archiving is more secured , the film is still having it's level of popularity in photography.

I like the smell of negatives the true tones and grainy look of B&W films and feel of the film cameras in my hand.

It is feels funny when you load the m8 with the SD card and when you load the M6 with a film opening the bottom plate and use both cameras the same way.

I Prefer of course the smell of my Film when I do it on the M6
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Old 03-26-2012   #54
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The Nikon D800 has pretty much decided for many people the technical advantages of digital capture. I've even heard a boast that the sensor will exceed the capabilities of most lenses or it is the equivalent of a medium format negative.

After this it is pretty much anyone's guess what comes after. Bigger, smaller, faster, more pixels, better batteries, more tonal range........all that.

I'm at the age where I'm not really too interested in upgrading every time technology changes, unless I have to.

I feel a certain confidence with, say, my 50+ year old Leica M2 because of it's inherent simplicity and the fact that after all these years of using it I understand what I can do with it.

When I buy a 1/4 inch drill bit the intent is pretty much to drill 1/4 inch holes. Until I break it, or loose it, I may not need another. When I buy a camera the intent might be to take photographs.
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Old 03-26-2012   #55
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I still shoot B&w film. The tones I get from using the zone system, rating Fuji Acros at ISO 6 gives me F 1.4 at 1/1000 which allows me to use my fast lenses in broad daylight (check the ZoneSimple section of my website for the details and free downloads of instructions for how to do this) .When I scan the negatives I immerse myself in the enlarged grain in a way that I never coukd in the darkoom. The tomes are so rich and the little particles make me feel like I am visceraliy manimulating the stuff of creation when I spot the dust and imperfections with the clone stamp in Photoshop. After a few minutes of this I get to know every inch of the image in a much more intimate way than I ever could in a darkroom. I think I was a decent wet printer, but in Photoshop, I can select anything and control everything and have become so much better at realizing the potential of my images.

I know this hybrid approach is not for everyone, but it was made for me. Film is the esential part. When I shoot digital, it's mostly on cloudy days for b+w or when I shoot color. it costs next to nothing to store film and i can always rescan it to take advantag of improved technology in the future, unlike digital, which will always be of it's time.

Last edited by Charlie Lemay : 03-26-2012 at 02:42. Reason: spelling
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Old 03-26-2012   #56
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Remember:
(F) Film = Fun.
(D) Digital = Dull.
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Old 03-26-2012   #57
Jan Van Laethem
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlie Lemay View Post
The tones I get from using the zone system, rating Fuji Acros at ISO 6 gives me F 1.4 at 1/1000 which allows me to use my fast lenses in broad daylight (check the ZoneSimple section of my website for the details and free downloads of instructions for how to do this).
Charlie,

I'd love to know more about this. Could you please provide a link to your website?

Thanks
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Old 03-26-2012   #58
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The only reason I use film these days is when I get an itch to use a particular film camera.
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Old 03-26-2012   #59
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I asked a similar question in another forum. "Why are you shooting Medium Format film?"

After a while the answers became pretty clear, and the number-one was: "Because I love my gear."

After that was, "For a particular look."
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Old 03-26-2012   #60
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronny View Post
Remember:
(F) Film = Fun.
(D) Digital = Dull.
Shouldn't it be photography equals fun?
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Old 03-26-2012   #61
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyriljay View Post
I like the smell of negatives the true tones and grainy look of B&W films and feel of the film cameras in my hand.
Yes.

The difference to me is sensory. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the feel, maybe the taste??? Film from start to finish is just more intimate.

I suppose it is like comparing instant "flavor" crystals nuked in a cup to hand-grinding, tamping, and awaiting a proper coffee.
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Old 03-26-2012   #62
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burancap View Post
Yes.

The difference to me is sensory. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the feel, maybe the taste??? Film from start to finish is just more intimate.

I suppose it is like comparing instant "flavor" crystals nuked in a cup to hand-grinding, tamping, and awaiting a proper coffee.
The taste? one can't set film in aspic you know ... oh, hang on ...
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Old 03-26-2012   #63
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1) I like that I can't chimp.
2) I like that there is a methodical process involved.
3) I like that there is a certain amount of digestion time from shutter click to finished product.
4) The result of the b&w film just has something special about it.
5) It's my hobby, why does it have to be fast, instant gratification? It's the journey, not the destination.
6) I like when someone asks me to show them the picture I just took of them and I say I can't but if it turns out well I will share it with them.
7) I like that each click counts and that it can't be deleted or done over. I got it or I didn't.

I'm sure there are some more reasons, but (hopefully) you get the point.

db
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Old 03-26-2012   #64
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I think that if I were going to do some commercial photography and be paid for it I would probably opt for digital.
Luckily for me I'm not paid to take photographs so I shoot on film.

And shooting on film is addictive. Only thirty six exposures to try to find something special and record that moment. And then the image is hidden. The barely conscious sense that something special might have been captured makes me impatient to get to the processing. The fresh negs get me straight to the scanner. Even second rate images get a second look and perhaps a scan. Fiddling in LR or PS is fun - but nothing is ever totally virtual. I can return to the neg any time I like.

I sometimes look at the pattern, side-on, of a negative - where the emulsion has been removed and where it is left and think- light made that impression - on the day, at the second the shutter was opened and in the very place recorded in those pictures. The negative is an artefact - a real record, something tangible which links images to experiences. Think of Capa's overheated negs for example - they were there, those little strips, on the beaches on that June day. Their partial destruction, their imperfection, is somehow as important a part of history as the images which can be printed from them.
Capa's overheated SD card might not have the same romance!

Cheers
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Old 03-26-2012   #65
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I use film because, though I own one, a digital camera brings me no joy. If I were a professional who needed to make sure I had the shot, I would rely on digital, I suppose. But I am not, and I take pride in loading up an old manual camera with film and using what skill set I have, or do not have, to try to take pictures that hopefully come out the way I want them to, if not better. With digital, I shoot to many pictures and don't think about exposure and the technical side so much because I can immediately see if I got the shot or not. Blurry? Overblown highlights? Too dark? Shoot it again until I get it right. There's nothing wrong with that, but it brings me no joy.

Other reasons: I enjoy the feel of film cameras. I enjoy deciding on which film or films to bring me based on what I expect the light to be like when I get out there. Lastly, though I am hardly a luddite--I love electronic gizmos just as much as the next guy, I also do things like bake my own bread, brew my own beer, roll out my own fresh pasta. I brined my own corned beef for St. Paddy's Day. I make my own sausage. And so on. I like to experience how things were back in the day, so to speak. I like history. It helps me stay grounded--or something like that. I can't explain why that appeals to me, I guess; it just does.
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Old 03-26-2012   #66
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I use film for a particular look.

I use film when I don't want to worry about access to electricity for recharging.

I use film because that's what my M6 uses. And it's a really cool camera.

I use film to appear strictly 'amateur' sometimes.
'who are you with'?
'oh, just a hobbyist'
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Old 03-26-2012   #67
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Because my M8 has to go back to Solms
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Old 03-26-2012   #68
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Because I still dig it, man. And I dig all my film cameras, too
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Old 03-26-2012   #69
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Handling of the cameras: the Leica M, the Zeiss-Ikon. But I also love to take pictures with the Nikon F3HP and FM3A.
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Old 03-26-2012   #70
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
Shouldn't it be photography equals fun?
Yes, you are absolutely right. It is very much personal thing, take Ronnies input as his (hers) personal view.
Maybe should we create a new word: "phun" = fun from photography ?
I shoot film as I have more phun doing the real thing, not a virtual.
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Old 03-26-2012   #71
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I prefer the look of film. But more and more it's been hard to find places where I live that will develop film with proper care. I only shoot C41 color negs and getting a Jobo isn't an option... I went back to scanning my own negs but it's so time consuming that it really puts me off.

I have an X100 (compact and silent 35mm equiv, but I prefer RF focusing) and an R-D1 (RF, amazing camera but the crop factor compromises my 35s and 50s), so I also shoot digital. More and more i've ben shooting digital and lately when I get my negs scanned I have been thinking that a digital file (RAW) would allow me so much more maneuverability than film, since I don't print often I don't get all of film's benefits on the darkroom.

So nowadays I shoot film because I haven't got myself a full frame rangefinder, yet. Waiting for the M10 to decide if I'll get an M9 or go for an M10. It'll be weird to walk around with such an expensive camera, but I'll have it insured so that doesn't bother me as much.

If there was a lab where I live that would develop and scan with great quality, then 2012 would probably not be my last year shooting film.
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Old 03-26-2012   #72
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Charlie,

I'd love to know more about this. Could you please provide a link to your website?

Thanks
Maybe this ?
http://www.charlielemay.net/
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Old 03-26-2012   #73
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I shoot film as I have more phun doing the real thing, not a virtual.
Real thing? ... jeez, this place kills me sometimes. If you truly want the real thing, you'd surely have to be using photos produced on a polished pewter plate covered with a petroleum derivative called Bitumen of Judea, which you'd then dissolved in white petroleum. Anything less is not the real thing.
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Old 03-26-2012   #74
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I took both digital and film cameras on a recent trip.

I still like the photos I took with the film camera even though the digital one outnumbers it *purely* due to convenience.

And I still remember how much I enjoyed shooting with a manual camera on the trip.

And I enjoy holding and viewing the negatives. And I haven't even re-setup my darkroom yet due to moving yet. Now I really start to miss it.

So I guess I just like film. That's why I use it. Big surprise, huh?
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Old 03-26-2012   #75
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Real thing? ... jeez, this place kills me sometimes. If you truly want the real thing, you'd surely have to be using photos produced on a polished pewter plate covered with a petroleum derivative called Bitumen of Judea, which you'd then dissolved in white petroleum. Anything less is not the real thing.
Be easy with banging head against the wall, is dangerous ...
I wonder why are you always so offended by my stance. You must be very touchy and really unsure about yourself. Maybe you should attend 1x.com. It is a place, where digital photographers find never ending praise for their deeds, film is not mentioned.
And yes, there is a growing number of people using wet plate or constructing own LF cameras.
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