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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 07-01-2019   #41
giganova
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When I was 16 years old, I worked for 5 months to save enough money to by my first camera. Went to a photo store with my dad and played with a few models, Canon, Minolta and Leica. I immediately bonded with the Leica but asked my dad what he thought I should get. His answer was "Buy what you like best, but keep in mind that we are Germans and if I buy a Leica, you save German jobs." So I walked out the store with a Leica and three lenses ... and had no clue what I had just spent because as a teenager, I had not yet developed a relationship with money and what things cost in life.

So that's how I ended up using Leicas for my entire life -- except for a brief stint with digital cameras a few years ago, which I quickly sold to stay with film. And lets be honest: if you are photographer, especially a film photographer, the cost of the camera system is relatively small compared to air fare, rental car, hotel, film and chemistry to go on photo expeditions around the world. I recently added a MF camera to my palette, which I quite often use as well.
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Old 07-01-2019   #42
ptpdprinter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by giganova View Post
When I was 16 years old, I worked for 5 months to save enough money to by my first camera.
You must have had a pretty good job to save up enough to by a Leica and three lenses. Today we're talking $20k.
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Old 07-01-2019   #43
Michael Markey
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Originally Posted by airfrogusmc View Post
Hi Mike,

I hardly ever shoot anything longer than 90mm. The 90 I use for formal portraits and candids. The 200 2L was big and heavy. I used it but I really don't need it for what I mostly shoot. If I get something I need something longer than 90 I have friends that have both 200 2Ls and 300 2.8Ls and 1Dx bodies that I can barrow but I have yet to need to do that.

My personal work is usually the MM with a 35.

I would say 60% of everything I shoot pro is 35 (on FF). I tried Sony but just didn't fit well for me. Great cameras just not for me.
Ah yes ,get that.
A 90 has always been my favourite length.

I tend to only use the 70-200 for the horses.

I`ve been giving some thought to a digital M recently which is why I was curious but if I jumped would probably keep the 5d and 70-200 just in case.

Thanks for your thoughts .
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Old 07-01-2019   #44
airfrogusmc
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I think keeping the 5D for longer would be a good idea seeing what you shoot.

The M 10 is terrific and really nice when paired with a 35, 50 or 90.
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Old 07-01-2019   #45
Michael Markey
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Originally Posted by airfrogusmc View Post
I think keeping the 5D for longer would be a good idea seeing what you shoot.

The M 10 is terrific and really nice when paired with a 35, 50 or 90.
I bet .
It 28,50.90 with me.
Its food for thought.
I get on with the Sony cams but wouldn`t say no to a simpler interface.
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Old 07-01-2019   #46
giganova
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Originally Posted by ptpdprinter View Post
You must have had a pretty good job to save up enough to by a Leica and three lenses. Today we're talking $20k.
I earned $10k over 5 months (in todays $$), that was enough to buy a nice Leica kit.
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Old 07-01-2019   #47
Benjamin Marks
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I don't think I could list all the cameras I have used since the early 'eighties when I started taking photographs seriously. The "why" of any choice was usually driven by a perceived increase in "image quality" a term which is difficult to define. In the last ten years, I often take with me the largest film or sensor that I can practically carry, with the limit being what is physically comfortable given the situation in which I find myself. Two weeks ago, I went to a friend's wedding and took two m-4/3 cameras only as I knew I was going to be on my feet a lot. And I was glad of it.

My first camera was a Pentax K-1000, but its choice was based on what I could afford at the time. My parents had sent me out to buy a camera for my younger sister who was going to be editor of her high school year book. I bought her a Nikon FG20 and 50/1.8 lens. . . and somehow convinced myself that my parents were going to buy one for me too and were just using my market-research expertise to figure out which to buy. Young fool! No camera for me. So I had to buy my own and scraped together every penny I could. I upgraded within the line to an LX several years later because it had an auto-exposure mode, mirror lock up and interchangeable finders.

I was using that camera when working for a newspaper in a country that had no Pentax distributor when . . . arrg . . . the film rewind knob fell off somewhere. I could use the film rewind knob of a Nikon FM2 to pop the camera open (same knob thread pitch), but the specs for how deep it sat were off by just enough that I couldn't rewind my film without finding a dark closet somewhere. Deplorable. There was a Nikon dealership in that country, though, so when I returned to the States on a visit I switched over to Nikon so that I could get repairs and parts when I needed them.

I stuck with Nikon after that for SLR stuff . . . acquiring lenses over the years, and made the transition to digital with Nikon DSLRs. Along the way though, I also got my hands on a Minox "spy" camera, an Olympus half-frame, a brace of Leica M3's, a Mamiya C330, a Crown Graphic 4x5, a Zone IV 4x5, a Wisner 5x7, a Deardorff 8x10, the odd Hassleblad . . . you see where this is going, right? I would describe those purchases as driven by the sense that the photographic qualities I was looking for were juuuuuust around the corner and squarely within the technical capabilities of the next camera, whatever it was.

After a time, the relentless onset of the digital revolution meant that more and more pro gear (or pro-adjacent gear) was showing up used: it was a virtual tsunami of Hasselblads and Mamiyas being sold with sets of lenses for pennies on the dollar. Catnip to a gear-head. So purchases during this period were driven by having always wanted to try a certain camera and finally getting the chance to do so without going broke.

I still have a lot of that stuff. In fact I was talking with my wife about selling some of it the other day. The problem, if you can call it that, is that it is worth very little in today's market and the pleasure of having it -- even if it isn't used very often -- outweighs the cash I'd get on sale in most cases.

So: why? Different answers at different times:

A) first because I bought what I could;
B) second because I the vagaries of international distribution systems failed me;
C) third because of perceived image quality gains'
D) fourth, because of availability of former objects of desire at now-reasonable cost;
E) and finally because an aching back or feet mean that the phrase "the highest image quality I can manage" now fits into a middle-aged rubric of "oy, my aching back."
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