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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 08-14-2018   #1
Bill Pierce
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PhonePhoto

Is he right???

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/entert...ne-photography
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Old 08-14-2018   #2
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Have a look here (unless I've got confused.....) :


https://www.rangefinderforum.com/for...hreadid=165783

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Old 08-14-2018   #3
Bill Pierce
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No question about it. PKR and Petapixel beat my weekly BBC scan.
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Old 08-14-2018   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
No question about it. PKR and Petapixel beat my weekly BBC scan.
Hi Bill;

I don't think the topic is fully cooked, so, please continue with it.

No one brought up the subject of working photojournalists using camera phones. I know that many do. If you can get a WiFi or Cell signal, the photo can go directly to the editor seconds after it's taken. Also, a phone, because it's common now, doesn't label you as a member of the Press. That can provide some needed stealth when necessary.

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Old 08-14-2018   #5
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He is denegrating digital in general and smartphones in particular because he has an analog show he wants to bolster. Looky here, I'm a real photographer. What would you expect him to say? It's a marketing exercise.
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Old 08-14-2018   #6
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A minute thirty that I will never get back.

Smartphone cameras have changed the world. At the same time the internet has provided a medium where many of us no longer need to print and show/distribute pictures. I don't think that makes us any less of a photographer. Yes, there was some level of trust in the analog days that photos were "truth", but that doesn't make digital photos any less truthful.

He is he stuck in his ways, afraid of the change to his art-form, or worried about being called out of date?

Smartphone cameras and the internet have decimated several great companies that we loved and I'm sure the will be more as technology marches on. Rather than coming up with a new name, I'd suggest that the time be spent developing an app that allows us to work as smoothly as the Ricoh line of cameras have. Much more productive.

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Old 08-14-2018   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ptpdprinter View Post
He is denegrating digital in general and smartphones in particular because he has an analog show he wants to bolster. Looky here, I'm a real photographer. What would you expect him to say? It's a marketing exercise.
You are right.

And to answer Bill question, Genosse W is right. He is right to be afraid what his photography is bubble which might burst once useful connections and belongings to right circles will end.
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Old 08-14-2018   #8
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Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
He is right to be afraid what his photography is bubble which might burst once useful connections and belongings to right circles will end.
At 73, and with the career he has had... I doubt he really cares:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wim_Wenders

He's lived through many film and photography trends... he might actually know what he is talking about.
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Old 08-14-2018   #9
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So long as people love looking at an image, whether it be online, on their phone, in a magazine, or as a print, there will be "photography". Doesn't matter what the image was produced with, or how many images were made.

"Truth"?? Just because an image was made on film instead of silicon, doesn't make it any more truthful. Photographers have always been able to point the camera in a direction that supported their notion of the truth. No different today... we just have more ways to do it.
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Old 08-14-2018   #10
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A change in photographic technology is not the same as killing photography.

Smartphones with built-in digital cameras have killed photography as much as the original Eastman Kodak camera of 1888 killed photography.

What the change is now is that we are inundated with image overload, as photo taking technology has made it much easier and broadcasting the image is instantaneous, which ironically has made us more insensitive to viewing photographs because of the glut of images and what was a joy has now become a chore.

My view is that really good photography is still as rare now as it was in the the days of the original Kodak camera or even to the years of the Calotype or daguerreotype, as genius artists are not limited by their instruments, be it in painting or sculpture or music or poetry or literary works or in motion pictures or in photography.
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Old 08-14-2018   #11
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I do think photography is becoming a second language. Phones, automation, the internet and a number of other factors make it possible for a large number of people to communicate with photographs. For many people reading has diminished and viewing images, be they fact, fiction or entertainment has undergone a huge increase. (Do I have to remind anyone that television and movies are photographs?) The visual volume is up; so, there is going to be more trivial and unimportant work displayed. There may be more important or brilliant work, but it will take more effort to dig it out. Some of the lesser work will will be heralded as brilliant but with the passage of time fall in esthetic value and financial worth, making looking for the really good work a little easier for those that stick with it.

Now that photography is a second language, there’s gong to be a lot of talk, much of it unimportant in the long run. And there will also be some monologues and a few conversations that are going to be brilliant.
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Old 08-14-2018   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
At 73, and with the career he has had... I doubt he really cares:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wim_Wenders

He's lived through many film and photography trends... he might actually know what he is talking about.
http://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?E...VForm&VP3=CMS3
Lived and living through more and not just bourgeois and inner circles trends and at age 66 is using them, the phones.
https://www.instagram.com/pinkhassov/?hl=en
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Old 08-14-2018   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
http://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?E...VForm&VP3=CMS3
Lived and living through more and not just bourgeois and inner circles trends and at age 66 is using them, the phones.
https://www.instagram.com/pinkhassov/?hl=en
Yes, because someone else uses a phone it makes him wrong... I do not have any problem with good photos made with phones... Michael Christopher Brown, Kathy Ryan... good stuff.

However, there is a bit of truth to what he says... people do not value photography as much as they once did. Newspapers that used to use good photos now use crappy photos. Instagram has photo trends that are easy to see....in which people seek out the same locations and take the same photos. It has nothing to do with elitist attitude... it has to do with the ubiquity of photography and the viewing public's boredom in viewing images. However, you typically have a cynical attitude in general, so I do not expect you to be open minded.
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Old 08-14-2018   #14
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Yes, because someone else uses a phone it makes him wrong... I do not have any problem with good photos made with phones... Michael Christopher Brown, Kathy Ryan... good stuff.

However, there is a bit of truth to what he says... people do not value photography as much as they once did. Newspapers that used to use good photos now use crappy photos. Instagram has photo trends that are easy to see....in which people seek out the same locations and take the same photos. It has nothing to do with elitist attitude... it has to do with the ubiquity of photography and the viewing public's boredom in viewing images. However, you typically have a cynical attitude in general, so I do not expect you to be open minded.
"in which people seek out the same locations and take the same photos. "

I've read that in Yosemite Valley, there are trail markers indicating the exact three spots where Ansel Adams placed his tripod for specific images. I don't doubt the possibility of the markers, but their accuracy and value, i question. One article said that visiting photo wiz kids became frustrated when photographing on the same day, exact time (yeah?) and spot as Adams, their images don't look like his. One (brilliant brain child) photographer said (it wasn't fair) their photos looked different because the weather was different than when Adams made his photos.

https://phys.org/news/2018-04-docume...ams-texas.html

http://www.waymarking.com/cat/detail...b-3a7453a6f39d

Photography has surely changed..
pkr
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Old 08-14-2018   #15
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From North Korea to Baltimore, Instagram Is Fostering the Next Generation of Photojournalists
Artsy Editors
Jan 21, 2016 7:00 am

February 13, 2010. Marjah, Afghanistan. A troop-carrying helicopter drops acclaimed American photojournalist David Guttenfelder into the front lines of the then-biggest American air assault in the war against Al Qaeda. Seeing the Marines that surround him snapping photos on their smartphones, he drops his DSLR, reaches for the iPhone 3G (his first) in the pocket of his flak jacket, and begins shooting photos, hoping to mimic the intimacy of those the soldiers were sending back home.
“They weren’t taking the kinds of pictures that I was taking, news photography; they were photographing their own life and this huge experience in their life. So I started shooting with my phone, too,” he says on the phone from the rather more peaceful “boonies of Montana,” near where he’d recently shot the Gallatin National Forest, on horseback, on a 24-day journey for National Geographic. The pictures he published in 2010 were not without backlash, with major publications (like the industry bible, Photo District News) questioning whether war shot through the lens of a point-and-shoot phone disrespected, or romanticized, its gravity. In October of that same year, Instagram was launched.

When Guttenfelder picked up his phone, he broke all the rules of traditional photojournalism—and, by some accounts pushed forward a medium that has been evolving since its inception. Six years later, extemporaneous documentation for journalistic use (and via selfie) has become the norm and Guttenfelder, with 854,000 followers on Instagram—the mobile image- and video-sharing app that has swelled to over 400 million users—is something of a new-tech godfather in the field. But having spent 20 years covering conflict overseas for the Associated Press, in the beginning carrying chemicals on his back, developing film in the field, and hanging it to dry on clotheslines, the photojournalist knows well the history of his craft.

More
https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-...t-on-instagram
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Old 08-14-2018   #16
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Quote:
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However, you typically have a cynical attitude in general, so I do not expect you to be open minded.
Critical thinking is most open mind attitude. Talking from rocket science education. Critical thinking saving lifes.

And it is me who does it on film and digitally, not you.

Are you sure you remember then you read newspaper last time and how do they looked like in seventies? The way they printed newspapers back then ruined any picture. I actually worked in newspaper typography, did you?
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Old 08-14-2018   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
I do think photography is becoming a second language. Phones, automation, the internet and a number of other factors make it possible for a large number of people to communicate with photographs. For many people reading has diminished and viewing images, be they fact, fiction or entertainment has undergone a huge increase. (Do I have to remind anyone that television and movies are photographs?) The visual volume is up; so, there is going to be more trivial and unimportant work displayed. There may be more important or brilliant work, but it will take more effort to dig it out. Some of the lesser work will will be heralded as brilliant but with the passage of time fall in esthetic value and financial worth, making looking for the really good work a little easier for those that stick with it.

Now that photography is a second language, there’s gong to be a lot of talk, much of it unimportant in the long run. And there will also be some monologues and a few conversations that are going to be brilliant.
The beauty of photography in the present time are the choices we can still make regarding what era of photographic technology we choose to immerse ourselves in, especially if it is for non-commercial reasons .

No one is stopping us from shooting photos with an Iphone or a Nikon D 850 DSLR or with a few home rolled cassettes of bulk HP 5+ or Tri x film through our M2 Leica or Zorki 4 camera and its 1976 all over again.
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Old 08-14-2018   #18
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Me "No question about it. PKR and Petapixel beat my weekly BBC scan."

Quote:
Originally Posted by PKR
Hi Bill; I don't think the topic is fully cooked, so, please continue with it.r
That's generosity. Thanks.
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Old 08-14-2018   #19
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Dear Bill,
I see a lot of non-thinking photos taken. With everything from view cameras to cellphones.

But....
But....
But....
I see a lot of people taking picture and looking at phone and saying, "no...not quite right...please, again?" And they are trying again to make better picture.

This is WONDERFUL!!!! With a tool that is everywhere (camera mobile phone) people are developing an visual awareness. A visual aesthetic.

How can this be a bad thing. It cannot. It is a good thing.

Wenders is a friend. He is prone to getting on the washing box from time and time and being very noisy. He is an excellent filmmaker. But he is also a passionate human. He is entitled to his view.

And that brings me to the point:
"Is he right?" No. Not this case. He is not. Yes. He is.

Most importantly, it does. not. matter. Not one little piece. It is only opinion. And perhaps only relevant to his perception of the world.

Ciao, bello,

Mme. O
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Old 08-15-2018   #20
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Are you sure you remember then you read newspaper last time and how do they looked like in seventies? The way they printed newspapers back then ruined any picture. I actually worked in newspaper typography, did you?
I'm pretty sure that I do not need to work in the Newspaper Industry in order to understand that the content and framing of photos has diminished in recent years. And yes, I've seen photos recently from old newspapers ... any quality issues were made up with better photography in my opinion.
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Old 08-15-2018   #21
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Anyone involved with news photography will recognize that phone photography is a game changer. Anyone who does not get this, doesn't understand the news business. Wim Wenders...just another old guy defending his turf.
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Old 08-15-2018   #22
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Anyone involved with news photography will recognize that phone photography is a game changer. Anyone who does not get this, doesn't understand the news business. Wim Wenders...just another old guy defending his turf.
Game changer in regards to immediacy... that is for sure. Game changer in regards to it being a job, sure. Why does this have to be a black or white argument? Is he defending his turf somewhat? Yes, of course. Is he right in some regards... yes. Again, do you think a 73 year old man with the career he`s has had (in both movies and photography) really needs to defend his turf?
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Old 08-15-2018   #23
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When I was a kid, Kodak introduced the 126 size Instamatic cameras (and their very inexpensive clones) and it seemed like everyone was taking pictures with them. Probably not as many as cell phones.

But even then my friends and I who were interested in photography could see the difference between a beautiful photograph and the "pictorial representations of what was going on" that were being produced by all the Instamatics.

Think it's the same today with cell phones.

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Old 08-15-2018   #24
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Apparently he thinks he does. I like his movies...I don't know much about his pics. His comment makes him sound out of touch and outdated.
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Old 08-15-2018   #25
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Me "No question about it. PKR and Petapixel beat my weekly BBC scan."

That's generosity. Thanks.
Bill;

What do you think Gene Smith would have done with a camera phone? My recollection is, that he would use any tool that got the job done.
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Old 08-15-2018   #26
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Again, do you think a 73 year old man with the career he`s has had (in both movies and photography) really needs to defend his turf?
Apparently he thinks he does.
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Old 08-15-2018   #27
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... Again, do you think a 73 year old man with the career he`s has had (in both movies and photography) really needs to defend his turf?
Why are you keep on pushing age here? Do you know what some are still reproductive at this age and getting married? My father was fully working at 73 and only retired this year.
This person is slightly older and he works. I see him everywhere in my town. He walks, talks and he is most alive administrative I ever seen. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Krantz
Trump is 72 and he is protecting his turf (private interests for profit).
I see many ex-Soviet artists at this age protecting their interest, having babies and not letting new artists to get where. Russian official music industry is like "walking dead".

To me then I saw WW site it was obvious what he still wants to sell. And as person who get used to "here is only few photographers film era" he might be threatened by crowds with mobile phones.
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Old 08-15-2018   #28
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I am not offended at all by seeing so many people documenting life around them with phone photography or videos. It has become a part of life. I use "regular cameras" first, but I also value my iPhone for street photography as a tourist, blending in with people around me, and taking photos without anybody really noticing it.
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Old 08-15-2018   #29
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Maybe we should not take what he says so word for word but with a little bit of elasticity...

We can agree or not of course, but we should not forget his experience, culture and desire to experiment in visual communication, both movies and photographs. He made a successful life out of it. I assume he knows what he's speaking about.

But it is not the tool, it is the way people, most of people use the tool...and IMO it can be a smartphone or a 7 K $ digital camera sometimes does not change so much.

And there are many more smartphones than 7 K $ digital cameras :-)

Tim is correct, we can see the difference between a beautiful photograph and the "pictorial representations of what was going on".

It was Nadar in the second part of 1800 who said he could teach everybody in half a day how to make a photo (with the technology available in that time) but to learn how to use the light and shadows and the framing to render the personality of a person in a portrait was a real different thing.

Just my opinion about...anyway it's nice to exchange different opinions otherwise it would be a boring world

robert

PS: on my desk I have a book "electronic paintings" by Wim Wenders, ISBN 88-7202-001-8 It was published june 1993. How many of us were experimenting digital photography in that time?
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Old 08-15-2018   #30
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Bill;

What do you think Gene Smith would have done with a camera phone? My recollection is, that he would use any tool that got the job done.
No question that while his basic tools were a brace of conventional 35-mm film cameras (I once saw him with 6 - different lenses and different films - around his neck.), he used what he thought was the best tool for the job. He used 4x5 on a job that required architectural photos. And in the “discreet” mode he used both an Olympus half frame and a Minox. I don’t know what cameras he used shooting within the corporation that was responsible for much of the mercury pollution in the Minimata story, but had it been available and appropriate, he certainly wouldn’t have hesitated to use a cel phone. It’s pretty much accepted as a way to be discreet by current photojournalists. And when the photographers are fired by their publications to cut costs, the wordsmiths often end up doing double duty and taking pictures with their phones. Non professionals seem even more savvy. Much of the spot news motion pictures I see on national news TV programs are moving images shot with a cel phone. Ok, maybe non professionals are not more savvy, but there are certainly more of them than the diminishing number of news photographers, and they charge less.
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Old 08-15-2018   #31
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" I don’t know what cameras he used shooting within the corporation that was responsible for much of the mercury pollution in the Minimata story"


I remember reading that Smith used the Minolta SRT series of SLRs for that job.
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Old 08-15-2018   #32
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I think news just as photography representation has changed.
If you want to get news it is on Twitter. Newspapers are not news anymore.
And photography is mostly viewed on Instagram and similar sites. Mostly via mobile phones. People are taking pictures, have them transferred on mobile phones, edited where and pushed to Instagram for view. Books and exhibitions became secondary and optional representations.
And in viewing mode like this, film/sensor, camera/phone are irrelevant. It is mostly to creativity and giftedness of photographer. Not his job title and connections anymore.
Where are macros and BiF but it was never mainstream photography. Babes, cheesy landscapes and something funky is.
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Old 08-15-2018   #33
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One advantage of smart phones is that as everyone is using them no one notices them. Compare that to (say) taking a picture with a digital SLR.

Nadar was right about it taking half a day to teach photography. I often wonder how they drag it for longer but then more time is more fee...

Regards, David

Last edited by David Hughes : 08-15-2018 at 11:11. Reason: Finger trouble...
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Old 08-15-2018   #34
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There are many boundaries that have been dissolved.

I’ll mention a few.

Since July 2018, I can now buy wine on Sunday in Minnesota.

I can buy all sorts of stuff from Amazon I couldn’t buy hardly anywhere. I like roasting my own coffee beans and I can now buy green beans from most any coffee growing region in the world now.

Without controlling retail pricing I can now buy stuff I couldn’t even consider at reduced prices. Too bad Leica doesn’t understand this. Competition is good as it’s an important ingredient of capitalism.

Photography is alive and well. It’s better than ever! Smiles.
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Old 08-15-2018   #35
Bob Michaels
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I am struck by Wenders being out of touch with reality when at the beginning of the video, he states the problem with iPhone photos is that no one looks at them.

I think of the two unrelated photo documentations of a trip we made from Havana to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Hanoi last year. Mine is a set of 12 8x10 prints shot and edited specifically to document where we went. My significant other shot many photos with her phone which I got her to edit down to just over 100 images. I would almost never say I was a better photographer than someone else but this is one of those exceptions.

A handful of friends have been at the house and asked to see our trip photos so that my prints were retrieved and shown.

About a hundred people have asked if we had trip photos when she pulled out her phone and let them scroll through her photos.

I ask myself if I am out of touch with the real world when I shoot with the specific idea of editing down to a small number of images shown as prints. Should I instead shoot with camera or phone to create a body of work with a hundred or more images that folks will view on the phone that is always in my pocket.
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Old 08-15-2018   #36
raid
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Bob: this depends on what you value most here.
I get a similar sample of views at my smugmug website. The (many) iPhone photos in my travel are usually more frequently viewed than a few chosen images taken by me with a Leica. The phone images collectively provide a better picture of the places that we travel to than a few images taken with a "serious" camera.
For completeness, the interest in viewing (many) phone images vanishes quickly over a few days when compared with the viewing interest of images taken with Leica or Zeiss or ....
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Old 08-15-2018   #37
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Why are you keep on pushing age here? Do you know what some are still reproductive at this age and getting married? My father was fully working at 73 and only retired this year.
This person is slightly older and he works. I see him everywhere in my town. He walks, talks and he is most alive administrative I ever seen. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Krantz
I`m referring to his age and body of work because he probably isn`t too concerned about building a legacy anymore... he has one already.

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Trump is 72 and he is protecting his turf (private interests for profit). I see many ex-Soviet artists at this age protecting their interest, having babies and not letting new artists to get where. Russian official music industry is like "walking dead".
Yeah, I get that... I just don`t think being critical of cell phone photography is the same thing here. I`m pretty damn sure that WW has seen some photos made on cellphones that he has liked. I think he is talking more about the glut of images being made compared to any previous time and how that has affected photography.

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To me then I saw WW site it was obvious what he still wants to sell. And as person who get used to "here is only few photographers film era" he might be threatened by crowds with mobile phones.
Based on his track record, he has no problem selling anything. I doubt he is worried about phones in the way that you think.
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Old 08-15-2018   #38
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WW has his own definition of what a photographer is. Nothing wrong with that. Apparently his definition includes making hard copies/printing, ok sounds good, knock yourself out.
WW is a photographer. Or at least I think he is. My definition of photographer includes the words 'demonstrated history' when referring to an individual who has managed to produce quality images, over time, in their chosen field.
That old saw, 'everyone thinks they're a photographer'. Personally I have no problem with this. The day to dread is the day 'everyone thinks they're a musician!' Egad! Noooooooooo!
Didn't Hank B. have something to say about fiddle playin' vs picture takin'? lol
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Old 08-16-2018   #39
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.... I think he is talking more about the glut of images being made compared to any previous time and how that has affected photography.
Dear JSRocket
An interesting observation from friend. Photographs are like coin tosses. Not in the sense of luck. Not at all.

Rather, in the sense that any photograph has no bearing on any other photograph except in the influence of a photographer who sees the photograph.

No matter how thought-out, how deliberate, the sheer number of photographs has no bearing on any photograph taken.

A good photograph, unseen because of the sheer number of photographs, has no bearing on a subsequent photograph by a different photographer. A bad photograph has no bearing on any other photograph by a different photographer for the same reason.

You can toss a coin 10,000 times and come up with 50/50 heads vs tails. But each coin toss has no bearing on the next.

Good visual communicators will make good photographs regardless of the number of bad photographs taken.

Cordialmente,
Mme. O
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Old 08-17-2018   #40
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.. I think he is talking more about the glut of images being made compared to any previous time and how that has affected photography.

.
That's what I got from him.

Instagram:

"Around 95 million photos are uploaded each day"

"More than 40 billion photos have been shared so far"

That's just Instagram.

https://www.socialpilot.co/blog/social-media-statistics

"According to estimates by InfoTrends, a total of 1.2 trillion digital photos will be taken worldwide this year, that is roughly 160 pictures for every one of the roughly 7.5 billion people inhabiting planet earth. "

Snip
"According to InfoTrends’ estimates, 85 percent of all pictures taken this year will be captured on smartphones."
https://www.statista.com/chart/10913...ken-worldwide/
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