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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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Henry Wilhelm
Old 12-18-2016   #1
Bill Pierce
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Henry Wilhelm

Henry Wilhelm is “the man” when it comes to how long your prints are going to last. He was an active photographer during the civil rights movement before turning to researching how long our black and white prints and color slides were going to last. As an independent, rather than a manufacturer who claimed images on his materials would last and last, he gave us invaluable information coupled with equally important information on how to fix, wash and store our b&w materials for maximum permanence. He even made an effective washer to aid that process. He went on to advise important film makers, museums, e.t.c.. Today most of his work has turned towards the permanence of digital images. He and his team are an invaluable resource for everyone from the snapshooter who hopes his grandchildren will pass on his family record to their grandchildren to the historians and artists who hope their work will long outlive themselves. Here’s his website

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Old 12-18-2016   #2
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Dear Bill,

It has to be said, though, that while Henry's data is invaluable, and usually the best available, and we are all very grateful to him, the figures are not definitive. There are even those who challenge some of his conclusions, simply because they are necessarily based on accelerated aging tests: you can hardly test 100-year stability in real time.

In other words, yes, visit his web site and support his work, but don't necessarily take it as the final (or indeed the only) word on the subject of permanence.


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Old 12-18-2016   #3
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"...Henry's data is invaluable, and usually the best available,..."

Gee, that's pretty good, no?
If only he combined that with the patience to wait 100 years before drawing any conclusions....
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Old 12-18-2016   #4
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A Kodachrome from 1941 taken by W. K. Amonette.

1941-kf43 by John Carter, on Flickr

So at least 75 years. Also I have a couple from him taken in 1939; these have color shift.
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