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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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Family
Old 07-19-2018   #1
Bill Pierce
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Family

Mike Johnston recently wrote on his site, The Online Photographer, about his reluctance to make prints. (http://theonlinephotographer.typepad...g-problem.html) I suspect he is typical in seeing most of his photography and the photography of others on a computer screen. But it disturbs me. He has documented his family and his life. I’ve said before that recognizing a hard disc as a visual history rather than a rectangular box leads to a lot of visual history being relegated to the trash bin. I don’t like seeing that happen, especially to the good guys, and Mike is one of the good guys.

I know we are talking about family pictures, not “art.” Checking my hard discs, I have 6637 digital files (including scanned film negatives) images of family and friends - 7197 “professional images.” For the most part I make big prints of the “art” and little prints of the family and friends. Big prints sell, but little prints can be passed around among a group of friends, don’t require a monitor, are smaller than a laptop and never run out of battery power. Not only that, they look the same to everybody and you can’t say that about pictures viewed on a variety of uncalibrated monitors. Do a zillion people see my personal pictures on a website? No, but the ones that see the prints pay attention.

And now a word from the folks who completely disagree with me.....
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Old 07-19-2018   #2
Dogman
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No disagreement here.
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Old 07-19-2018   #3
Oren Grad
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Bill, at this very moment I'm putting the finishing touches on three sets of nine small inkjet prints that I've made this afternoon.

I took the pictures on Tri-X in 2006 at my brother's house, on one of the rare occasions when we're all together, but had never gotten around to making a decent set of darkroom prints. I scanned the negatives and made test prints over the past few weeks, a little bit at a time as work and other obligations allowed, saving the processed files when I was happy with the prints. This afternoon I took the processed scans for all of the prints I was happy with and ran off sets for sharing.

I have more family negatives than I will ever have the time or energy to print in the darkroom. Although I'm happier with silver prints when I'm able to make them, my little inkjets aren't bad, and as I get older it has finally sunk in that the important thing is to make prints and share them *now*, while I can, and while everyone in them is still around to receive and enjoy. So it's great to have the scanner and printer to help me do that.

I'm the only one in my generation or the next who is using stand-alone cameras or printing at all. Everyone else has gone to cellphones and sharing jpgs.
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Old 07-19-2018   #4
majid
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I find photobooks a more congenial format for family photos than conventional prints. They do limit your options in terms of paper choices and print quality (most are done on HP Indigo digital inkjet presses meant for mass-customized junk mail, not fine art).
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Old 07-19-2018   #5
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I'm not opponent, nor I disagree...

For example, home video is another dimension. One thing is the print of your child, another is your child voice, how your child playing on the piano and so on. No prints can do.

Prior to switching to 16 MP DLSR, we had same brand SLR and with it we have few rolls per year, which we always printed, every frame. We also have few hours of Hi8 video.

After getting of DLSR I went from 8K family, friends pictures per year to about 2K per year. I was finally able to learn about exposure.
I keep most important ones at JPEG1 folder and two separate computers with backup in the cloud and on memory card. This folder by now has 10K+ pictures.
It includes very old pictures and and not so old negatives scans. I still take it on film as well .

And this is how it works. Those pictures are the desktop. Each picture is one minute and then another, in random order. This slide show is visible at family, dining room, kitchen.
Think of it as of the classic slide show. But instead of film and white screen it is files on the screen.
If I want to I could connect smart TV to the cloud folder or insert memory card and have it "projected".

What is the difference - giving people prints while we are around table or giving them constant slide show?
Here is no difference in visualization, but you could still eat and drink and not leaving grease on the prints.

I do print few times per week as well. Mother in law takes it, for friends, something for myself to practice. Inkjet most and DR prints less often, it just as hobby, pleasure and fun as family pictures taking. I hope to learn to frame it one day. Because some of those prints are at home walls and not only at our home.

So, here is no problem to do both presentations.
Because uncalibrated monitors are related only to sales, not family pictures.
I'm telling not just from family, but from perspective of broadcast professional.
People watched crappy NTSC and SECAM signals on tubes behind water bulbs.
It was never a problem to get the picture. Only few knows what monitors might be calibrated, but millions get used to TV screens and mobile phones as is.

Millions of people are using Skype to see each other across borders and continents.
Nobody gives a crap how good picture is. It is instant family picture delivered by electrons, instead of mail.

Just prints is "Earth is round". Prints and screens - "Earth is the sphere".
Prints, screens, video and anything else is family biosphere.
And it is individual choice where to be at this time and day on this planet.
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Old 07-20-2018   #6
Bill Pierce
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
I have more family negatives than I will ever have the time or energy to print in the darkroom. Although I'm happier with silver prints when I'm able to make them, my little inkjets aren't bad, and as I get older it has finally sunk in that the important thing is to make prints and share them *now*, while I can, and while everyone in them is still around to receive and enjoy. So it's great to have the scanner and printer to help me do that.
I still have a wet darkroom. I still think there is something special about a silver print. And I still find myself making inkjet prints instead of silver ones. And so, as a lazy hypocrite, I am trying to find a way to make black-and-white inkjets look like silver. I’m slowly sort of getting there, but any suggestions or thoughts are much appreciated.
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Old 07-20-2018   #7
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Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
And so, as a lazy hypocrite, I am trying to find a way to make black-and-white inkjets look like silver. I’m slowly sort of getting there, but any suggestions or thoughts are much appreciated.
Paper selection is important. I have found the baryta papers come the closest to emulating the look of a silver print.
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Old 07-21-2018   #8
Oren Grad
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
And so, as a lazy hypocrite, I am trying to find a way to make black-and-white inkjets look like silver. I’m slowly sort of getting there, but any suggestions or thoughts are much appreciated.
My inkjets still don't really look like silver. But I'm happy to share what I'm doing - maybe somebody will find it a useful starting point for their own tinkering.

I'm using an Epson P800 in ABW mode set for "warm" color toning, and generally "normal" tone rather than the default "darker". I'm not actually looking for a warm color, but to my eye the warm setting seems to give a richer and more subtle tonal scale than the neutral setting, but without screaming "look how colorful I am!" as the sepia setting does. I set the print driver to 2880 dpi.

I'm printing monochrome mostly on Epson Premium Semi-Gloss RC. When I print RC in the darkroom I prefer glossy, but in the P800 the Epson glossy RC has two attributes that bother me - substantial gloss differential, and in areas of flat tone or low-contrast detail the dot pattern of the printer is apparent as a slight grittiness. Both of those are masked to a substantial degree by the surface texture of the semigloss paper.

Afraid I have nothing to offer re FB/baryta paper. I've not been able to solve the problem of paper curl and head strikes, and at this point I don't have much patience to spend still more time and money whacking my head against that particular wall.

EDIT: I should add that this is how I'm printing my scans from B&W film. Monochrome from digital capture is a different; as with baryta paper, I don't have anything to say about it.
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Old 07-21-2018   #9
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I'd love to hear what folks have found that works with inkjet. I have an Epson R3000 Photo printer and have never really gotten on with it. I can adjust a wet print and get what I'm looking for, but with the inkjet, I just seem to waste lots of ink and paper. Wish I still had a wet darkroom. Maybe again someday.

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Old 07-21-2018   #10
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The way ink and silver reflect light is different. I like silver gelatin prints and prefer them but I have had some success and actually like some papers with ink jet. If you use a really good ink jet paper and have really good B&W prints it is hard to tell when thy are framed and under glass. I have an epson 2880 and I am using Moab Lasal Premium Luster paper now and have been for a couple of years. It has a really white base which I think is really great for B&W printing. I am usually printing files from my MM. My last exhibit which was just this past June was printed on Moab Lasal. 12 X 18 prints mounted on 4 ply white museum board overrated with 4 ply white museum board in simple flat black metal frames.
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Old 07-21-2018   #11
Bill Pierce
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
My inkjets still don't really look like silver. But I'm happy to share what I'm doing - maybe somebody will find it a useful starting point for their own tinkering.

I'm using an Epson P800 in ABW mode set for "warm" color toning, and generally "normal" tone rather than the default "darker". I'm not actually looking for a warm color, but to my eye the warm setting seems to give a richer and more subtle tonal scale than the neutral setting, but without screaming "look how colorful I am!" as the sepia setting does. I set the print driver to 2880 dpi.

I'm printing monochrome mostly on Epson Premium Semi-Gloss RC. When I print RC in the darkroom I prefer glossy, but in the P800 the Epson glossy RC has two attributes that bother me - substantial gloss differential, and in areas of flat tone or low-contrast detail the dot pattern of the printer is apparent as a slight grittiness. Both of those are masked to a substantial degree by the surface texture of the semigloss paper.

Afraid I have nothing to offer re FB/baryta paper. I've not been able to solve the problem of paper curl and head strikes, and at this point I don't have much patience to spend still more time and money whacking my head against that particular wall.

EDIT: I should add that this is how I'm printing my scans from B&W film. Monochrome from digital capture is a different; as with baryta paper, I don't have anything to say about it.
I’m doing much the same as Oren - working in Lightroom with an Epson printer set for “warm” image tone with the driver at 2880 dpi. We do have some differences. The printer remains set at the default “darker,” but the “print adjustment” control in the print module is activated and set at Brightness +30 and contrast +40. These values were established by trial and error, matching the screen image with the paper print. I suspect the values one arrives at are dependent not only on your monitor, but your paper choices. Canson Bartya, Canson Platine (much the same paper with no UV brightners) and Finestra Fine Art (another paper without brighteners) - All are double weight and mimic the surface of air dried glossy silver papers. I have had the same problems as Oren with curl and head strikes with other brands of “doublewight” fibre papers, but these have worked out. Scans of negatives are printed in a fairly straight forward way, at least fairly straight forward for a Gene Smith nut. Digital files use Lghtroom’s dehaze control to drop the blacks a bit along with a touch of clarity. I think programs like Silver Efex Pro do a good job used in moderation and certainly should be investigated, but I find adding dehaze and clarity allows me to stay in one program and do a pretty good job of making digital files and inkjet look like silver. It’s an ongoing process.
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Old 07-22-2018   #12
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I like to print, specially small prints people can keep in the hands. I found the Hahnemuehle Fine Art InkJet Paper 10x15 cm (4.0 x 5.9") very interesting: It comes in a thin box with 30 foils each and different structures, I prefer the matt Photo Rag.

The small thin boxes allow me to organize my prints depending on subject or date or whatever I think.

Having a print in our hands is a very different "feeling" than looking at a photo on a screen.

In few cases I print large, for exhibitions or just to hang on my walls...I have one dedicated to photography.

In addition to this small books (via Blurb) are also a good way to have our photos (and related stories) available.

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Old 07-22-2018   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
Bill, at this very moment I'm putting the finishing touches on three sets of nine small inkjet prints that I've made this afternoon.

I took the pictures on Tri-X in 2006 at my brother's house, on one of the rare occasions when we're all together, but had never gotten around to making a decent set of darkroom prints. I scanned the negatives and made test prints over the past few weeks, a little bit at a time as work and other obligations allowed, saving the processed files when I was happy with the prints. This afternoon I took the processed scans for all of the prints I was happy with and ran off sets for sharing.

I have more family negatives than I will ever have the time or energy to print in the darkroom. Although I'm happier with silver prints when I'm able to make them, my little inkjets aren't bad, and as I get older it has finally sunk in that the important thing is to make prints and share them *now*, while I can, and while everyone in them is still around to receive and enjoy. So it's great to have the scanner and printer to help me do that.

I'm the only one in my generation or the next who is using stand-alone cameras or printing at all. Everyone else has gone to cellphones and sharing jpgs.
I too have binders and binders of negatives. But in 2010 my father died and I went on a hunt for the "also-rans." You know the ones I mean? These might be the pictures on a roll that didn't get printed because one of the 36 was a stand-out. Well now each of those pictures of my father is like an archeological gem . . .and mostly those receiving the prints (or electronic images) have no memory of that particular moment.

I also inherited (as the family member known to have a weakness for these sort of things) suitcases full of my grandparents' snapshots. Many of these are pictures of their friends or distant family. I have no way to identify those who are in the pictures or what their significance is. So for those of you engaged in print projects: remember your captions. Your grand children will thank you.
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Old 07-24-2018   #14
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For folks who want to preserve those family memories, here's a really intelligent piece. I'd definitely put this on my "must read" list.

https://www.marklordphotography.co.u...s-infographic/
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Old 07-24-2018   #15
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Having spent some time working as a Records Manager I wondering about having something that my great-grand-children will be able to see. I'm less worried about perfect color rendition than I am about general access.

I wonder what ever happened to that Kodak archive of pictures?

We print through Target, Walmart, or Walgreens that seems to work fine, though how long they will last.

B2 (;->
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Old 07-24-2018   #16
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I print all of the time, but by making photo books. I find people like looking at my books more than a box of prints. It`s more economical for me too. If I have a show somewhere, then I will print... but I`m not spending the money on huge prints to sit in my closet.
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