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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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Computer Screen - Paper Print
Old 01-22-2016   #1
Bill Pierce
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Computer Screen - Paper Print

I got a strange question the other day. “Do you look at you pictures on a computer or do you make prints?” Obviously - BOTH!! I’m primarily a digital photographer, but even for the scanned large format film work that I do, the first look, that initial edit, is on a computer screen. The majority of professional jobs these days are delivered, not as prints, but as digital files. And a lot of the personal work and family shots are sent out as jpg via email.

So, where do the prints come in to play??

Silly as it sounds, I make postcard sized prints of both family snaps and my pictures of any kind that I really like and mail them to family and friends. I have no idea why these are so popular in the day of emailed jpgs, but everybody loves them (and they make good initial proof prints if I want to make larger exhibition prints later). And on those occasions when I do get a really good shot, I make a series of large exhibition prints. Some of these end up on walls, my walls, friend’s walls, even gallery and museum walls (and file cabinets). But that’s not the reason.

Human beings die; prints don’t. Nobody is going to search our hard drives for photographs any more than they have searched and printed the negative files of the many photographers of the film era. There are exceptions, Gary Winogrand, Diane Arbus. But for the most part, folks can look at a glassine envelope or a hard drive and not see the images they contain. Not so for a print. I have five generations of family snapshots I have collected along with the pictures I have taken and liked in my closet and a few prints in the files of universities and museums. (A friend who is a major figure in the world of galleries and museums says you should sign all your prints before you die. Apparently this is as important as taking a good picture to museums and private collectors.) Be it for family, friends or the art world, it’s nice to have something they can look at. I don’t see a lot of people staring at hard drives.

Your thoughts?
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Old 01-22-2016   #2
BLKRCAT
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interesting take on prints for archival purposes. Something that is easily overlooked in the digital age.

I mean to print more. I aspire to piece together a darkroom in my basement eventually and begin wet printing again.

Until then, scans and digital prints will have to suffice!

To answer your question though, I look at prints 90% on computer and 10% in print.
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Old 01-22-2016   #3
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I agree. if digital projectors were as good and inexpensive as slide projectors that might take the place of slide shows. But good prints are still a lovely thing to behold. And I haven't yet figured how to pass around monitors like small photos.
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Old 01-22-2016   #4
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Prints are what I care about, and the reason for going to all the trouble.
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Old 01-22-2016   #5
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When I HAD to give up printing a couple of years ago, I was forced to think hard about all this. I first had to come to grips with the fact that I'm not a real great photographer. Once that was settled, and since I don't hang my prints (lots of yellow boxes), I decided upon flickr as my "gallery." I've designated my children as "family" so that they can download the large "original size" jpg files as I uploaded them. Now I'm happily shooting away for the screen.
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Old 01-22-2016   #6
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I, too, used to make postcards using the Ilford 4x6 purpose made RC sheets. People seemed mystified by mine...
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Old 01-22-2016   #7
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I'll meet you in between... I like making books.
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Old 01-22-2016   #8
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I, too have family pictures going back to the middle of the 19th century for at least some branches and completely agree that the photos in photo files attached to emails, and to texts will not be sought out. That will mean a loss of family history that is easily passed on and accessible. Haven't gotten disciplined about saving and printing what family shots I take, nor the ones sent me. Thanks for the push, Bill.

Giorgio
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Old 01-22-2016   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
I'll meet you in between... I like making books.
Me, too. Sometimes I use a commercial service, sometimes a GBC binder with my own prints.
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Old 01-22-2016   #10
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Every year I make two "yearly" books - one for each of my daughters. And they have come to expect it, it's a tradition now. This will be my only photo-legacy, so to speak :-)
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Old 01-22-2016   #11
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Sweet in terms of printing vs screen, jpeg1. I do both, print is sweet. JPEG1 is Facebook.
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