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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 01-07-2019   #1
Bill Pierce
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Traveling

I’m going to be traveling for a week with the closest thing to a computer being my extremely inexpensive cell phone; SO, anyone who has something to say and would like to start a discussion at this space is more than welcome. See you in a week.
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Old 01-07-2019   #2
raid
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Does your extremely inexpensive cell phone have a camera, Bill?
If Yes, then I would use it for stealth street photography as "tourists photography" is usually viewed as innocent and non-agressive and not worthy of attention by others.
If No, then use a camera with film or sensor!
Don't forget to enjoy you trip beyond any photography.
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Old 01-07-2019   #3
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Enjoy the trip and forget the forum! Ok, I think he’s saying someone else can use this space to create a topic for discussion... in the spirit of Bill.
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Old 01-07-2019   #4
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I wonder what the main reasons are for RFF members to use film cameras first and then to eventually switch to using digital cameras, while I see others here who had used digital cameras and then they switched back to film cameras. Why?
Then there are others who currently use both film and digital cameras together. Why!

Just a thought on a topic here until Bill returns.
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Old 01-07-2019   #5
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Bill, have a good and safe trip!

I use both film and digital.
Film because I like the "slow" process, I like the waiting before to see the results, I like my old film cameras.
Digital because I like the convenience, the possibility to shoot only a few frame and see the result, the possibility to change iso according to the situation...
robert
PS: as a pure amateur I can decide which tool to use depending both on final goal of the photo and on my mood...
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Old 01-07-2019   #6
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I feel the same way about using film and digital, Robert, as you say above. My latest return to fim was using the Hologon lens on my M3. I always had the SWC, of course. This camera is "beyond digital"!
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Old 01-07-2019   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raid View Post
I wonder what the main reasons are for RFF members to use film cameras first and then to eventually switch to using digital cameras, while I see others here who had used digital cameras and then they switched back to film cameras. Why?
Great one Raid. For me, I like the look of digital and the fact that I can do everything in my apartment (without a darkroom, sink, or enlarger) to make books, prints, etc. I`m also primarily a color photographer....so digital works well for me. I used film when there wasn`t an alternative and when digital first came out, it wasn`t good enough. I didn`t photograph for 8 years or so and then tried film and digital together when I got back into it. I think I soon discovered in 2008 that I just preferred digital and now I rarely ever use a roll of film. My brother just gave me an Olympus XA2 though... so maybe I have to play again.
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Old 01-07-2019   #8
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Thanks Raid. I am shooting mostly digital now, especially after acquiring a Fuji XT-2, with its excellent film simulation. I usually shoot RAW and jpg (the jpg set to either ACROS or ‘classic chrome film sim).

I only shoot film because sometimes I enjoy the experience of shooting a 35mm RF (Zeiss ZI) and can’t really justify the expense of a DRF. I don’t really enjoy the darkroom process anymore.
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Old 01-07-2019   #9
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At one time, I worked with people who used computers all day on the job and refused to have one waiting for them when they arrived at home.

At one time, I worked with news photographers who refused to take a camera with them when they traveled on vacation.

Not too long ago, I traveled on vacation and on business with no portable computer, no camera, and no cell phone (aka mobile phone).

Enjoy your trip.
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Old 01-07-2019   #10
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Safe travels Bill.

Raid, I use film and digital cameras, for different shooting situations. If the image is needed ASAP, it's digital. If I'm shooting for myself, and have the time, I like using my old film equipment. Mostly because I have a love affair with B&W. I very rarely shoot color film.

But now that I have a Leica M Monochrom, I wonder if I'm going to be using the M3 and M4 much more rarely. Time will tell.

Also, I like using cameras from times gone by, like Kodak's Signet 35 and Medalist, as well as a Barack I have with old LTM Nikkor & Canon glass. It's the joy of the experience.

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Old 01-08-2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raid View Post
I wonder what the main reasons are for RFF members to use film cameras first and then to eventually switch to using digital cameras, while I see others here who had used digital cameras and then they switched back to film cameras. Why?
Then there are others who currently use both film and digital cameras together. Why!

Just a thought on a topic here until Bill returns.
Simple answer: I started using film because film was all there was to use at the time. I started using digital when I decided it gave me results as good as or better than film.

Since I was pretty much set in my ways and methods, the learning curve with digital was difficult and kind of scary. In the end, I'm all digital.
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Old 01-08-2019   #12
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The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Happy travels!
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Old 01-08-2019   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by narsuitus View Post
At one time, I worked with people who used computers all day on the job and refused to have one waiting for them when they arrived at home.

...
This is understandable.

However, unless one commits to a 100% analog, wet chemistry work flow, using a computer away from work is unavoidable.

I suspect producing proper wet chemistry prints from C-41 negatives at home would be more stressful than using a computer system optimized for digital still imaging. Of course, with sufficient financial resources you could pay someone else to do it.
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Old 01-08-2019   #14
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Why both? Lots of RFF discourse on this, of course.

My positive rationale: I enjoy both, and I benefit from changing gear/shooting /development habits, refreshing vision via mixing up the optical tools. I often use a digital/film buddy system, too (this past week of travel, an RX1 and a Klasse S). I have a trusted film development pro in Oregon, and can scan/print here, or get exhibition IQ from Photo Lab in Berkeley.

There are also the negative rationales. First, having image duplication or overlap in emulsion, because I can predict no better than anyone how digital image devices and storage will evolve, crash, be wiped out. Second, I have not yet solved the conundrum or liability of boredom (mine!) that comes with an ascetic/minimalist approach. During my one-cam decades (OM SLRs), I photographed less. Which mirrored how, in my one-guitar decades, I gradually practiced less, composed less, etc. Indeed, I learned less and was less interested in learning than I have been since adopting a variant of Love One Woman and Many Cameras/Guitars. But that’s another positive rationale, isn’t it? And a delightful one.

Also, I have a bunch of freezer film to shoot. ;-)
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Old 01-08-2019   #15
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I'm still primarily a film photographer, mainly working in black and white, and enjoy the process as well as the results. But there's no doubting the quality of digital cameras these days. So, in recent years, I've taken both. My typical travel kit is:

A small Leica M or Barnack camera and a couple of lenses (usually 35 and 50), for b&w photography. In recent years, this camera has been a Leica IIIc, M2, M3, or Bessa R2A. They all worked well. About 90% of the photos I like to shoot are taken with 50 or 35 mm lenses.

A smallish digital camera for color work. I bought in to the m4/3 system some years ago and have stuck with it. I now use an Olympus Pen F, which I think is a wonderful camera. I usually take along the 17/1.8 and 45/1.8 lenses.

I may also take along a small, pocketable film camera, like an Olympus XA or a Rollei 35, as a backup and also for color film, but that's optional. I prefer to keep things simple, light, and not take too much.
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Old 01-16-2019   #16
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I can't imagine anything worse than being available to scammers, marketers, politicians (or even unwanted friends and family) when I'm on holiday.

I go on holiday to get away from everything, so no phone.
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Old 01-17-2019   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by narsuitus View Post
At one time, I worked with people who used computers all day on the job and refused to have one waiting for them when they arrived at home.
This used to be me, but more so not wanting to use a computer when taking the photograph. But then the endless hours in front of the computer scanning and spotting film, and the hours in front of the sink turning a tank upside down got to me.
I’ve switched. In camera JPGs are great, minimal computer time after the fact, and I’ve vowed to not dive into the menus while shooting.
Is it just me or has digital matured to the point where it can be as simple as a mechanical film camera?

In answer to Raid’s question, I don’t think I could use digital and film alongside each other. The SWC, like you say, is an exception!
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Old 01-24-2019   #18
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Michael: I got from someone here a GX1 gifted, so I skipped the manual and I put on a lens and today I had the first session with it. I guessed most settings that are needed to be known. The only setting that I did not know how to set was IS, and it turned out (I gave up and looked it up in the manual) that the GX1 requires the lenses to have built-in IS.
I use such cameras like film cameras.
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Old 01-25-2019   #19
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I now travel with one digital and one film camera. Years ago it was two film cameras but digital cameras have improved so much and in so many ways that I can now use the digital for colour and the film camera for monochrome.

I'll be visiting Morocco next month and will take:
  1. Fujifilm E2 with 15-45mm lens (the lens is a recent purchase, very compact & light)
  2. Olympus OM2n with 24mm, 35mm & 50mm lenses. I've recently become something of a 'Zuikoholic' and have to say that the OM2n is perhaps the nicest film SLR I've used. Still not entirely sure about the lenses, however, as there does appear to be some trade-off between size and quality, rather too much vignetting on some of them, for example. So I'm still in the process of building up a lens collection that suits me.
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