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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author


ďOur autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selectsĒ  

"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 10-19-2011   #1
Bill Pierce
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Admiration Society

What are the traits of the photographers you admire the most? Iím lucky. My job put me into contact with many of the photographers that I admire and, thus, am able to see a common thread that may not be immediately obvious from just looking their photographs

Avedon, Penn, Smith, Vestal, McCullin, Nachtwey, Erwitt, Winogrand, Mydans and Arbus are/were incredibly hard workers, just about the least lazy folks in the world. I have no idea where talent resides, but itís certainly invisible if you donít work. Thatís the lesson learned from these folks.

Who do you admire, and what have they taught you?
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Old 10-19-2011   #2
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Atget, who proved artistic growth never ceases.
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Old 10-19-2011   #3
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Originally Posted by gdmcclintock View Post
Atget, who proved artistic growth never ceases.
Lee Friedlander, for the same reason and for his sense of humor as well.
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Old 10-19-2011   #4
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That is an interesting question. I cannot comment on photographers that are well known in a larger sense like those mentioned. But as I read the first post, a particular photographer came to my mind. Thomas Metthe is a photographer for one of the papers in my area. Not a large publication by any measure. I admire him a great deal.

He takes sports images for the paper. He also takes pictures for the writers at the paper. He ALWAYS has images that I admire. He ALWAYS seems to get a great sports shot. He gets the shot of the touchdown, interception, or fumble. In the human interest pieces he always seems to capture part an attitude or personality or quality that makes his images more than just a recording. I have visited with him and he has been generous with advice and was very humble.

The best compliment I can give him is that when I open the Sunday paper, I look for his work first, then read the paper second.

What he has taught me is that there are stories/ pictures all around us in the people we know and the events that take place. The trick is to have the interest to see the pictures and then the skill to capture them in a way such that the final image is more than the sum of its parts.
Amateur Image Architect

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Old 10-27-2011   #5
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Phillip Jones-Griffiths was a Welsh mensch. I hung around with him a little in '65 in Rhodesia, and used to visit him in London later on. His fascinating and disturbing tales of Vietnam were spot-on, as were his predictions of how it would all end. Phillip was a photo perfectionist and a steely seeker after truth. The guy had brains, a lot of guts, and he could charm the birds out of the trees. He had a great sense of humour and a love of irony. As for what he taught me, I have most of his books, especially Vietnam Inc.
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Old 10-27-2011   #6
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Jane Bown.


I think she uses an old Nikon SLR with a 50mm lens for everything. There's a shot of HCB with a Leica M3 in the gallery.
Look at the lens, not through it.

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Old 10-27-2011   #7
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Originally Posted by rogerzilla View Post
Jane Bown.


I think she uses an old Nikon SLR with a 50mm lens for everything. There's a shot of HCB with a Leica M3 in the gallery.
Never heard of her until now, she is an amazing photographer.
Akiva S.


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Old 10-27-2011   #8
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Nice to see Philip Jones-Griffiths name above. I too spent time with him, in Asia, including a great trip to Angkor Wat. A Welsch mensch, I like that.
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