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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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Arthur and Robin
Old 07-07-2016   #1
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Arthur and Robin

Arthur Grace was a friend of Robin Williams. They always thought when they were old Arthur would do a retrospective book of pictures on Robin’s life and career.

Arthur started with UPI, onto NYT, then Time, then Newsweek and finally off to the movie world of Los Angeles. While he was at Newsweek, he was given an assignment to photograph Robin Williams. That led to Robin becoming a major part of Arthur’s book, Comedians, the second of his five current books, and Arthur becoming Robin’s friend. When Arthur moved to Los Angeles, he not only photographed Robin professionally for many of his movies, comedy tours, e.t.c., but included him and his family in the non professional family and friends snapshots that we all take.

When Robin died, that book they would do as old men disappeared. Arthur decided to do a book by himself about his friend. It’s unusual in that it has many high quality “professional” pictures, but it also has a lot of silly snapshots taken with cameras that can fit into your pocket. And then you realize this isn’t a book created to impress other photographers. It’s a book to pay tribute to a very talented and a very good man for those who loved or liked him. It’s not a book that says, “Look at me!” It’s a book that says, “Look at him!” Next Sunday, July 10, CBS Sunday Morning will run an interview with Arthur. The book, Robin Williams, A Singular Portrait, should be out in a little more than a week. I think both the TV show and the book will be of interest to those of us, amateur and professional alike, who look at photography as a way to document what we care about.
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Old 07-07-2016   #2
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No doubts!

I miss him on the screen...
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Old 07-09-2016   #3
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I got to sit down with Arthur’s book yesterday. Some added thoughts… There is a lot of writing in this book. Arthur is an experienced writer, but, more important, he is a friend of the subject who has access to events that no outside biographer would ever have. What is written is well worthwhile.

The printing of a photographic book, especially one that mixes color and black-and-white is a far more complicated procedure than printing a book that is all text. And this drives publishers mad because it increases the cost. The paper has to be right. The choice of printing processes for the images, often different for the color and black-and-white, has to be correct and the printing itself has to be constantly checked during a run. Robin Moyer, who I have mentioned here before as one of the gang that survived our adventures as young photojournalists who spent a little bit of our time in war zones, works in Hong Kong and was able to oversee the printing of the book. (No surprise, China is where a great number of today’s photo books are printed.) This is important. The printers are very proud of their work. But their bosses are often more interested in getting the job in and out as quickly as possible. It’s good to have a quality control person who represents the photographer on the job. The book looks good.

Tomorrow, Sunday, we get the first of Arthur’s TV appearances; this one on CBS Sunday Morning. Again, I think the TV interview and the book are going to interest those of us who think of photography as a way to document what we care about. And I don’t think it makes much difference whether it’s a photojournalist dealing with a story of broad interest or a non professional documenting his family and his friends. And here’s somebody talking about both.
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Old 07-09-2016   #4
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Bill, as always, thanks for posting this. I will try to catch the show tomorrow morning, and will keep an eye out for the book. Always loved Robin from back in the Mork & Mindy days.

New Photo Books
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Old 07-11-2016   #5
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I recorded Sunday Morning and watched the part on Arthur Grace and Robin. I thought it was well done. I learned something new about both of them.

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"You can't count on others to think or see for you." David Vestal, The Craft of Photography

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Nikon Df: 24/f2.8, 28/f3.5, 35f/2, 43-86/f3.5, 55/f3.5 Micro, 85/f1.8, 105/f2.5, 180/f2.8, 200/f4, 300/f4.5
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Old 07-11-2016   #6
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To me, the point of the story to other photographers was simple. We do some of our best work when we photograph something we care about.
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