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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 10-09-2012   #26
Roger Hicks
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
Pablito, I am in the same situation. I cannot afford even one used M9, but I have two M6 bodies (and that took a lot of sacrifice to buy, but they still cost less in total than one used M9!).

When I decided to get a digital camera back in January, I got a Canon 5DmkII. I use it for work that isn't urgent enough to require a backup; if it breaks, I have time to get another to finish whatever job I am doing when it breaks. It cost, new, half what a used M9 costs. And it has a warranty, and I know it has not been abused by a previous owner.

Leica has basically told professionals like us to go get f--ked. They make good cameras, but so does Canon and Nikon and several others.
Something of an overstatement, Chris. It might be more accurate to say that because they don't sell cameras in the same quantities as CaNikon, there'd be little sense in massive professional support: there'd not be enough problems to keep a Leica 'pro centre' in business.

They've no more 'told professionals like us to go get f--ked' than Rolls Royce, Porsche or Maserati have told Ford drivers to 'get f--ked' -- and yes, I've known photographers who have owned all three, including a Porsche and a Maserati at the same time in one case. Admittedly they made their money from advertising photography, not journalism or fine art.

How, in your view, should Leica go about making it easier for professionals to use Leicas?

Cheers,

R.
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Old 10-10-2012   #27
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Any professional running around using M9s for his/ her living would be nuts. The engineering required to get a full frame digital machine into an M-size (more or less, or more) body, means you just don't have the kind of machine Canon or Nikon can provide. Also, for reasons not entirely clear, the sensors, so far, have been not nearly as good. A Nikon D700/D3 from five years ago has better high ISO performance than an M9. Leica is no longer serving the professional market though doubtless it is still serving certain (limited number of) professionals of a more artistic inclination.

Does anyone know what Gilles Peress uses in the field?

Oh, and finally, I'm not a professional but I do know and have known some and where on earth does Icebear get the idea that a professional today can use film? Let us cure him of this idea. It is wildly inaccurate.
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Old 10-10-2012   #28
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Dear Vince,

(a) Well, I'm nuts, 'cos that's what I use. And, as you admit, I am not alone.

(b) There are, in fact, quite a few professionals still using film, in all kinds of areas.

'Professional photography' is a very broad church. Do not conflate the few you know with the whole trade, profession or calling; do not conflate hard news photography with all of photojournalism; do not conflate High Street hacks with high-end portraiture.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 10-10-2012   #29
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(a) Well, I'm nuts, 'cos that's what I use. And, as you admit, I am not alone.
But how much do you just run around?
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Old 10-10-2012   #30
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But how much do you just run around?
Fair point. The pics get blurred unless I stop occasionally.

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R.
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Old 10-10-2012   #31
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For paying PJ work I rely on my Nikon D4 w/D700 back up, because it's pretty much a bulletproof set up and I can get my editors the pictures in literally minutes. For my personal PJ and documentary work, which tend to be more long term projects, I will use my film M bodies with Tri-X.

I picked up a used M8.2 a while ago and use it to shoot color, now that color film is harder to find and get processed. But I could never see relying on a Leica digital for paying PJ work. Just don't get the reliability sense from their digital gear, and I couldn't afford two bodies. And to be honest, auto-focus, zooms, and balanced fill flash really make deadline specific, fast paced PJ work a heck of a lot less stressful.

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-Tim
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Old 10-10-2012   #32
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This discussion has so far being around the need for quick service/ back up.

As pointed by Bill, the second issue with the price of digital RF is the fact that even if you get light speed repairs, you still need to replace what are zoom lenses to SLRs by at least two bodies used together.
Admittedly, the issue of having several bodies for several kinds of film has been solved.
With all these in mind and the fact that it's only a hobby for me, it will be film Ms and Tri-X for me for the foreseeable future...
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Old 10-10-2012   #33
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To return to the back up issue... Practically all of my paid work must be done between 20 and 28 mm focal lengths. I use a 16-35/4 lens and carry a 17-35/2.8 lens as a back up.

Who else carries back ups for their bread and butter lens?
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Old 10-10-2012   #34
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In the old days, rangefinder focusing with high speed wide angles was superior to the “groundglass” of the film SLR, especially if you sent your camera and lenses to a good repairman to have them null-nulled (the rangefinder and the lens cams adjusted until there was no measurable focusing error). But those days are past. Phase detection auto focus keeps getting better in new cameras/lenses, and contrast detection (Live View), dealing with the sensor image itself, can be scary good. So the rangefinder part of the rangefinder camera is not important to me. In some ways I think it is outmoded.

I said at the beginning of this thread that I would review my perspective on the digital Leica. What is now important to me in a digital Leica is, to a great extent, what was important to me in a film Leica - relatively small size and quiet operation, the bright line finder and good image quality in low light, something I suspect we will see in the new Leica M with a CMOS sensor.

But, face it, very few can afford two M bodies with two large aperture, fixed focal length lenses and a back up body just in case. I’m very happy putting my old bright line finders in the accessory shoes of a variety small, and considerably more economical, digital cameras. Often the viewfinder framing is not a perfect match to the sensor image, but that’s not a new or terribly disastrous thing to the bright line finder user (who probably has a rough idea of the framing before the camera even comes to his eye). And when it comes time to do the carefully composed shot, I can switch to Live View. To further my needs, most of the cameras I outfit this way have good high ISO performance.

No disrespect to Leica, one of the few cameras that changed photojournalism. But the current cameras are just too expensive for the kids that are coming up. They’re too expensive even for this old person. I sold mine.

------------------

You can’t talk about more economical Leica alternatives without mentioning the Fuji X-Pro. Unfortunately, Fuji has apparently done little to help the popular imaging software folks like Adobe and Capture One deal with their new sensor pattern. Right now, the in camera jpegs are superior in some respects to the raw files processed in SilkyPix, Lightroom and RPP. That’s very nice if you don’t have to make many adjustments to the image and don’t have an existing workflow. Fuji may have made a good camera, improved it with firmware updates and still have shot themselves in the foot. Time is running out.
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Old 10-10-2012   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sparrow6224 View Post
Does anyone know what Gilles Peress uses in the field?
When Gilles started using digital, I figured it was about time to start taking digital seriously and not just for meeting deadlines. That was a good many years back. I don’t know what Gilles is doing now, but he was shooting Canon DSLR’s the last time he ragged me for being behind the times.
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Old 10-11-2012   #36
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...
I have no clue and enjoy my M9 .
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
It is a joke, you fool.


Nope, you don't have a clue. When you start getting published, exhibited, being paid..THEN, and only then, can you tell professionals how professionals work. Until them, try shutting your mouth and listening. You might even learn something.
Hey Chris,

relax, I am not telling anyone how to work and I already admitted that I have no clue.
You learn a little more tolerance and try a little less "only I know the final truth". Life is more fun that way.
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