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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 04-20-2017   #1
Bill Pierce
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Top Recommendation

My absolute, top recommendation that you read this interview from a good photographer and a very good, exceptional human being. (Right after you click past the annoying Viglink)

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Old 04-20-2017   #2
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I recently obtained the book "Fat Baby" and boy did it punch me right in the face (figuratively speaking). Eugene Richards has a way of going about his work that is both very sensitive to his subjects yet also real, honest and sometimes very grotesque.

I liken it to a visit of the world that we try to steer clear from in our "modern" society... that is, the part of the world that is seen as a "stain" on society but the truth is ... we have to face it, look at it deep in the eyes and learn that life is beautiful in all it's different shades and that we can't just look away. It's there and we have to deal with it.

It also prompted me to consider the 28mm focal length as I love how close and wide he gets with his imagery.

I didn't think I'd be a fan but being a documentary photographer myself, I truly respect what he's done... at least in "Fat Baby".
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Old 04-20-2017   #3
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the article is worth the effort to work through viglink

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Old 04-20-2017   #4
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Educative. I like people documentary photography then it is close. It was educative to read about where 21mm lens was used and I don't like it. Too close for me. But 24 and 35!
And I like museums as well since I was kid.
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Old 04-21-2017   #5
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Thanks for the link.

No Viglink appeared.
Basically, I mean, ah—well, let’s say that for me anyway when a photograph is interesting, it’s interesting because of the kind of photographic problem it states—which has to do with the . . . contest between content and form.
Garry Winogrand
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Old 04-21-2017   #6
Richard G
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Originally Posted by shimokita View Post
the article is worth the effort to work through viglink

I decided it couldn't be. Pity.
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Old 04-21-2017   #7
Starting to get it.
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Most interesting.


Cameras, Lenses and Photos
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Old 04-21-2017   #8
Little to say
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Originally Posted by shimokita View Post
...the effort to work through viglink

One, single click?
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Old 04-21-2017   #9
( IRL Richard Karash )
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Originally Posted by semi-ambivalent View Post
One, single click?
VigLink is supposed to be completely transparent. It is for some, and it is particularly obtrusive for others. Something is broken somewhere. See this thread about VigLink.
Col. Sebastian Moran, ret. (not really)

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Old 04-21-2017   #10
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Great interview, thanks for sharing!

I really liked his explanation of how your personal taste and way of seeing changes over time and you might select/discard different images from the same photo shoot or body of work at different times in your life.

When I go through my negatives I usually select a handful of "keepers" right away, but have gotten in the habit of scanning also some of the images that make me go "meh" if there's a little something that catches my eye. It's not unusual for me to revisit those images many months later and discover that I like them much more than I did at first, or even think of different ways to process them to make them work for me.
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Old 04-23-2017   #11
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One of the great blessings and great curses of the internet is that you can easily find content that suites your own sensibilities. I photograph my friends and family and our backpacking trips, and when I seek out photographs, I'm generally interested in more of the same.

I wouldn't normally seek out Eugene's work, but I found it striking, even when it was difficult to look at. I particularly like that Eugene does what Eugene does and breaks the "rules" according to his own vision. My favorite from the series was "Dustin Hill with his Daughter" because it seems so happy, but I think the most visually striking to me was "All our Love" because it breaks all the conventions of how to photograph people and somehow makes the title have an air of sarcasm.

Thank you for sharing your time (and this post)!
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Old 04-23-2017   #12
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-- Now that the Viglink problem appears to be fixed, I revisited the interview and gallery... both are excellent. Thanks for the link...
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Old 04-23-2017   #13
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Thanks for that link... "the danger with more skills is you have to be very careful that your skill doesn’t out-reach what you are really feeling."
-- Street Corner Photos
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Old 05-13-2017   #14
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Why do you photograph?

"There's a certain pleasure in it, and horror at the same time."
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Old 05-13-2017   #15
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Very nice read indeed. So many outstanding photographers I have come to know have an unpredictable chain of links that led them to photography. And each link in their life results in a different way to approach their art. That Eugene Richards has vision problems that led to using the 21mm like few others before him, makes his story all the more interesting. Nice link Bill.
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