Category Archives: Famous Leica Users

Digital “Photography”: Based On A True Story

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Which One Do You Prefer?

“Digital capture quietly but definitively severed the optical connection with reality, that physical relationship between the object photographed and the image that differentiated lens-made imagery and defined our understanding of photography for 160 years. The digital sensor replaced to optical record of light with a computational process that substitutes a calculated reconstruction using only one third of the available photons. That’s right, two thirds of the digital image is interpolated by the processor in the conversion from RAW to JPG or TIF. It’s reality but not as we know it… Veteran digital commentator Kevin Connor says, “The definition of computational photography is still evolving, but I like to think of it as a shift from using a camera as a picture-making device to using it as a data-collecting device.”


I ran across the above quote in an article in Time Magazine entitled “The Next Revolution in Photography Is Coming,” which, to put it charitably, is normally not the first place I look when I want cutting edge philosophical discussions, given its pedestrian readership usually located on the far end of any cultural curve. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting article, discussing things some of us, myself included, have been articulating since the inception of the digital age. Just a few years ago, saying essentially the same thing on a popular photo forum, I was roundly derided as a kook by the usual suspects. It’s not as if ignorance and lack of expansive thinking don’t have a consistent pedigree; if history teaches anything, it’s that the revolutionary implications of technological changes are never seen by the average guy until they’re impossible to ignore. Now, if Time is any indication, maybe it’s a message finally resonating with the generally educated public: the passage from  analogue to digital “photography”, from a philosophical and practical perspective, is less an evolution than a revolution of the medium. What we’ve wrought, with our CMOS and CCD sensors that transform light into an insubstantial pattern of 1’s and 0’s, is not merely a difference of degree from traditional photography but rather a fundamental difference of kind. You can even make a claim that digital photography really isn’t ‘photography’ in the etymological sense of the word at all. As Mr. Connor suggests, its more accurately described as “data collecting.”

Until recently, photography worked like this: light reflected off people and things  and would filter through a camera and physically transform a tangible thing, an emulsion of some sort. This emulsion was contained on, or in, some physical substrate, like tin, or glass, or celluloid or plastic. The photograph was a tangible thing, created by light and engraved with a material trace of something that existed in real time and space. That’s how “photography” got its name:  “writing with light”.

Roland Barthes, the French linguist, literary theorist and philosopher, wrote a book about this indexical quality of photography called Camera Lucida. Its one of the seminal texts in the philosophy of photography, which means it’s often referred to while seldom being read, and even less so, understood. To summarize Barthes, what makes a photograph special is its uncanny indexical relationship with what we perceive “out there,” with what’s real. And its indexical nature is closely tied to its analogue processes. Analogue photography transcribes – “writes”-  light as a physical texture on a physical substrate in an indexical relationship of thing to image (i.e. a sign that is linked to its object by an actual connection or real relation irrespective of interpretation). What’s important for Barthes’ purposes is that the analogue photograph was literally an emanation of a referent; from a real body, over there, proceeded radiations which ultimately touched the film in my camera, over here, and a new, physical thing, a tintype, or daguerreotype, or a film negative, was created, physically inscribed by the light that touched it.

Now photography is digital, and the evolution from film to digital is not merely about of the obsolescence of film as the standard photographic medium; rather, it’s the story of a deep ontological and phenomenological shift that is transforming the way we capture and store images that purport to copy the world.  Where we used to have cameras that used light to etch a negative, we now have, in the words of Kevin Connor, digital data-collecting devices that don’t “write with light,” but rather which translate light into discrete number patterns which aren’t indexical and can be instantiated intangibly i.e. what is produced isn’t a ‘thing’ but only a pattern which contains the potential of something else, something else that requires the intercession of of third thing, computation.

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4-1-niepce-view_from_the_windowThe First Photograph, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, 1827, Le Gras, France

In August, 2003,  I was sitting in the garden outside of Joseph Niépce’s Burgundy estate, where, from the window of which, Niépce had taken history’s first photograph. I was enjoying a pleasant late Summer afternoon in the company of George Fèvre, one of the unsung masters of 20th Century photography. A personal friend of Henri Cartier-Bresson, George was the master printer at PICTO in Paris and was the guy who printed HCB’s negatives from the 1950’s until HCB’s death in 2004. If you’ve seen an HCB or Joseph Koudelka print on exhibit somewhere, in all likelihood George printed it.

George was an incredibly nice man, humble to a fault, full of fascinating stories about the foibles of the photographic masters and very thoughtful about the craft of photography.

Cartier-Bresson-negative-HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON, Behind the Gare St. Lazare (1932). Picto Labs, Paris. Hands: George Fèvre, Paris 5/11/87 © John Loengard

Up to that day I lived in the old familiar world of traditional photographic practices: aperture and shutter, exposure, film type, developer characteristics, contrast filters and paper grades, a world whose highest achievements George had helped promulgate. What better person to talk to about photography, and what better place to do it, where it all started.

Of course, I wanted to hear his stories, first person accounts of iconic photographers and their iconic prints, and George, always the gentleman, obliged without any sense of the significance of what he was remembering. To him, the specifics of how HCB or Koudelka worked, the quality of their negatives, and how George used them to create the stunning prints that made them famous were nothing special, all in a day’s work for him. What George was interested in talking about was Photoshop, something he had just discovered and of which he was fascinated. And he said something curious to me, something I always remembered and something I stored in memory for a better time to reflect on it.

What George said was this: Photoshop was amazing. Anyone could now do with a few keystrokes what he had laboriously done at such cost in the darkroom. It was going to open up the craft in ways heretofore unimagined. But it was no longer photography. There was something disquieting about the transformation. Photography’s tight bond with reality had been broken, its “indexical” nature, as Barthe would put it, had been severed, and it was this bond that gave photography its power. We were arriving at a post-photographic era, where image capture would become another form of graphic arts, its products cut free from ultimate claims to truth. There could be no claims to truthful reproduction because there was nothing written and no bedrock thing produced, just a numerical patter of 1’s and 0’s instantiated nowhere and capable of endless manipulation. The future would be the era of “visual imaging.”

Since that day,  the cataract of digital innovation has not abated but intensified— we all know the litany because we are caught up in it on every side: 36 mp DSLRs with facial recognition and a bevy of simulations, camera phones, Lyto, Tumblr, Facebook — do I need to go on?

AAAAAAA-6George Fèvre, Le Gras, France, August, 2003

The changes have brought their benefits: giving people the chance at uncensored expression,  allowing us to easily capture and disseminate what we claim to be our experiences. Of course, there are also new problems of craft and aesthetic. Previous technologies have usually expanded technical mastery, but digital technology is contracting it. The eloquence of a single jewel like 5×7 contact print has turned into the un-nuanced vulgarity of 30 x 40 tack sharp Giclee prints taken with fully automated digitized devices and reworked in Photoshop so as destroy any indexical relationship with the real.

We are currently living through a profound cultural transformation at the hands of techno-visionaries with no real investment in photography as a practice. All the more ironic in that this has happened at a time when popular culture now bludgeons us with imagery: while photography is dead, images are everywhere. You see imaging on your way to work, while you’re at work, at lunch time, on your way home from work, when you go out in the evening. Your computerized news feed and email inbox is full of it. Even what you read has become an adjunct to the primacy of the image. The problem is that the images digital processes give us possess no intrinsic proof of their truth, its non-instantiated computated product endlessly malleable and thus cut free from ultimate claims to truth. And it’s this claim to truth that gives photography its uncanny ability to communicate with us, to make us reflect, or to aid us in remembrance, or to help us see anew.

Leica Liking and Other Matters of Faith

 

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Michael Sweet is a Canadian writer and photographer. He lives in New York City.

I recently stumbled into a Facebook conversation about Leica and how great they are. How perfect the photographs from a Leica camera are etc. You know how this goes, right? We’ve all seen these rants. Well, here is a counter rant. Leica is a good camera, perhaps even a really good camera, but certainly nothing like it’s mythologized status.

After my recent article, Street Photography Has No Clothes, I figured I might as well tackle another controversial issue in the world of photography, and street photography more particularly – “Leica liking” and the mythology that surrounds it. So here goes, for better or for worse. Mostly worse, I expect. Keep in mind that writers present a point of view, an opinion, and good writers do this unapologetically. It doesn’t, however, mean that my opinion is not open to debate.

Leica is a luxury brand (and arguably a camera company) which manufactures very good, but certainly not perfect or “best in existence” cameras. What they are truly good at, these days, is cashing in on the Leica myth – that if you own a Leica you have arrived as a photographer. This works nicely these days with everyone aspiring to be some form of “photographer”.

27 Purist! Leica The professional 35 - 1967

Leica Was The Best – In The Analog Era

Leica was the best. It was. In the analog era, Leica had it nailed because they figured out how to make a camera body (a mechanical thing in those days) that would not wear out. Try it. You can’t wear out a Leica M if you try. This was a huge plus in the era of the Nikon F, which one could easily wear out with heavy use. So Leica made a name (a history, a myth) for itself by building a great camera body and adding (let us not forget) amazing glass. Now, considering how many people, especially street photographers, shoot these analog cameras, one would be hard pressed to tell the resulting photographs apart – Nikon F versus Leica M. I mean how much definition do you really get when you zone focus and push Tri-X two stops! Besides, who’s making gallery-sized prints of street photography anyway?

Furthermore, this analog-era argument for Leica superiority doesn’t hold up anymore, despite Leica’s best efforts to keep it alive. How well-built do you really need your digital camera? Won’t it out date itself in five years (ten at the very most) anyway? But those lenses you say, don’t forget those great Leica lenses. Okay, Leica makes great lenses, pop one on a Sony and save yourself five grand. And, get using the lens in a way that you can actually tell the difference. If I made a website where you could go and look at photographs made with Leica glass and photographs made with say Sony glass, you’d be scratching your head to tell the difference. Especially given how the vast majority of users use these lenses. Okay, maybe you could tell the difference, because I don’t want to get into an argument with you, but most people could not. Someone should set up this experiment and give it a go.

I digress. Back to the story here. So in this Facebook chat someone is trying to convince me that Leica cameras represent photographic perfection. They make better photographs than a Canon or a Fuji, or an Olympus or a Sony. Hard argument at the best of times. I offered a little resistance and then the conversation changed to: Well, I can make comparable photographs with my Sony or Nikon, but ask me which camera inspires me to shoot, which camera I love to hold and use – it’s hands down Leica. Fair enough. You like the feel of a Leica. I can buy that, they are still very well made cameras which provide a luxury tactile experience. It doesn’t hurt to also know in the back of your mind that your holding onto 10K.

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The “I Like A Leica Argument”

I don’t mind the “I like a Leica” argument. Everyone is entitled to like what they want and to spend their money as they see fit. But get the argument straight. Stop trying to sell Leica as the best performing camera ever made because you look silly. No one believes you, not even Leica. I know what’s going on in your mind, I’ve been there. When I began in photography I dreamed of owning a Leica. I lived and breathed Leica – all the greats had one, or so I thought at the time. Finally, after many years, I got one…then another and another. I’ve owned four or five now, both digital and analog. M6, M9, X, X2, and some re-branded Panasonic models. All have been less than impressive for me, personally. They are big, heavy, draw attention and are expensive. Do they take good photographs, likely, when used properly by a competent user. Are they the best cameras on earth? Not a chance. Most expensive, maybe. Most luxurious, likely. Once again, we see praise or hate being dished up in the photography world not based on facts and objective opinion, but rather passion, emotion, and “mob mentality”.

Leica provides an experience and a name and a legacy. This is what people are buying into. It’s like a nice watch. My Rolex is beautiful and feels nice and tells the world I have money and appreciate fine watches. Does it tell time better than my Swatch? No. In fact, well, you know the rest. If I were to go around trying to convince people that I were a better time keeper because I’m wearing a Rolex I’d be laughed out of the room. So what’s the difference? Yes, I know, just opened a door for the Leica likers to try every possible tactic they can to tear this argument to shreds. Go at it.

Before you write and tell me to “bugger off”, or that I am “jealous of better photographers than me” and a bunch of other stuff your mother raised you not to say out loud, think it over. Do you really believe, in the truest place within yourself, that you are making superior photographs because you are using a Leica… or is there just some small part of you that is longing to own a piece of that great legend that is Leica? Oh, and if you’d be so kind as to attack the argument, rather than me, as this is not, I repeat, NOT, aimed at any individual …. it’s aimed at a phenomenon… a “thing” I see out in the world of photography. Please, do not take this rant personally.

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Leica Is Better Than Sony, But Not Really

So, was there a time when the “Leica is better” argument could have held water? Yes, but it doesn’t hold up well anymore. Leica runs a marketing machine to beat out the others, who make perfectly equivalent digital cameras. Often better cameras. For example, the Leica X didn’t impress me at all. Slow, fussy, and your choice of a $500 ugly hump of a viewfinder or a $300 useless brightline finder. Same or better photographs from a Sony RX100 and far superior user experience with nearly 2G in savings. How technically “perfect” does an image need to be, anyway? Where, or rather when, should I focus shift away from technical perfection and gear to content and composition?

Not convinced? Go out into the Leica wilderness and see some of these arguments for yourself. It’s great comedy. You can easily find someone with a re-branded Panasonic telling you not only that it takes better pictures than any other camera, but also not knowing that they are holding a Panasonic and not a Leica. It’s great stuff. Then there are those that have the cheapest German made Leica they could get their hands on telling us how great the camera is because it’s not a Panasonic. Seriously?

This post will get both positive and negative reactions, which helps prove my point. If I were arguing the difference between say, a Ricoh GR and a Sony RX100, this article would die a quick death. But where Leica is concerned there is fire. It’s almost taboo to critique a Leica product and this alone should raise a few eyebrows.

Leica As Religion

Leica likers cannot be reasoned with. They run on faith, an almost religious faith. It’s like trying to rationalize the non-existence of god to a Christian. And, I guess that’s okay. I just wish a few more photographers out there would fess up and admit that we buy a Leica because they are an expensive, cool, luxury status symbol that you have finally arrived in the world of photography, or that you simply have money to burn – like my Rolex (which I don’t own, for the record) – or that you are trying to get just a little closer to Winogrand’s ghost. It’s okay to buy into an idea, a culture, we all do it. But if you’re going to lay out 10 large for a camera, just know what you’re really buying, and it ain’t better photographs. What some people seem to have missed is that the great photographers were great photographers, and they happened to use a Leica. Not that the great photographers were great photographers because they used a Leica.

Here’s how the Facebook conversation ended:

Person 1: So, are you saying I should buy a Leica? That it will make me look cool?

Person 2: Yes. No.

Me: No. Yes.

A Dead Canary in the Leica Corporate Mineshaft

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From the gold-plated Luxus to the pink Hello Kitty M6, Leica has been known to issue some questionable limited edition cameras. Another in a long list of such, Leica recently announced the “Lenny Kravitz Correspondent MP,” (which begs the question of what Lenny Kravitz has to do with being a correspondent). According to Leica,

Even as a child, the singer, songwriter and rock star, Lenny Kravitz, was fascinated by cameras. But rather than taking photos, he played with them and he never lost that fascination with them. Later in life, photographers he knew, renewed Kravitz’ acquaintance with cameras – with a Leica. But now, he was already an artist with curiosity and a particular talent for observing the world around him. Kravitz’ design, in the form of a classic reportage camera, is an homage to his first Leica.

Lenny Kravitz is famous around the world as an exceptional and very successful musician. But he treats photography with his Leica with exactly the same passion. The Leica M-P ‘Correspondent’, a desirable collector’s piece in the style of legendary reportage cameras, was created in collaboration with the artist. Thanks to deliberate, carefully executed wearing by hand, it appears as if it had been in constant use for decades and would have countless stories to tell.

Many Leica cameras are unique. But now, all 125 examples of the strictly limited Leica M-P ‘Correspondent’ set are all unique, each in its own way. An elaborate wearing process completely by hand has carefully rubbed, scuffed and scratched the black enamel finish away in several places on both the camera and lenses to let the bright brass surface shine through. The look changes every time the camera and lenses are touched and begins new, personally written chapters in the story of their design.

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The Correspondent MP is, unfortunately,  another exhibit in favor of the argument that Leica has become a company in the business of retailing luxury goods to foolish people with stupid money.

Granted, Leica remains a solidly profitable company. They seem to be doing very well financially, and, of course, that’s the raison d’etre of any business. I’m certain this makes Leica’s owners and management happy.  But I can’t help but see it as a symptom of a larger problem, sort of a proverbial dead canary in the Leica corporate mine shaft.  Leica now produces little of interest to its traditional base, photographers who used Leicas as real working tools for many years. We are no longer Leica’s target demographic.

Which is odd, because Leica has the ability to make whatever they choose to make, at a high quality level, and yet many would say they’ve abandoned what made them an iconic name to make a quick buck recycling nostalgia. In spite of currently producing innovative cameras like the MM and the S, Leica is increasingly becoming perceived as a boutique luxury goods company, trading on the cache of a brand made famous over decades by having produced top quality mechanical instruments.

It is increasingly difficult for Leica traditionalists to consider a new Leica as a camera we would want to own. Granted, Leica will have no trouble selling them to someone, and to the degree it funds development of new, innovative cameras, these sorts of frivolities for the moneyed class may be a necessary compromise for Leica. Admittedly, collector editions have been part of Leica’s DNA since the 1920s.

The problem is that it seems that’s all they’re doing these days. As time passes and the underlying foundation for Leica’s revered reputation retreats in collective photographic memory, Leica are in danger of irreparably diluting the perception of the brand, which even now remains their strongest asset. Hopefully, Leica understands that it is not a big jump from easy profits to complete irrelevancy. When your viability as a company becomes completely dependent upon the perception of your brand, there’s no going back once that perception is irrevocably compromised.

 

Who the Hell is Peter Lik and Why Doesn’t He Use a Leica?

02_MoreThan“Peters Whisper”, Peter Lik

Apparently, Peter Lik is the guy who claims to have sold the world’s most expensive photo (see $6.5 Million Landscape Is World’s Most Expensive Photo). Lik sells his work through 15 of his own branded galleries, the kind you find in touristy hot spots where the Nouveau Riche tend to congregate. He claims to have sold over 100,000 photographs for more than $440 million. The New York Times, however, is questioning his claims.  At auction, the most his photos have sold for is $15,860, and that is his only verifiable sale that has brought in more than $3,000. Hucksterism, anyone?

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On a related note, I found this nugget on Mr. Lik’s blog, Exposed (!). Apparently he’s not a “Leica Guy”:

Austrian artist and photographer Ernst Haas once said, “Leica, schmeica. The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But, you have to SEE.” It is important for photographers not to get discouraged by the standard of their equipment (or lack thereof). So if you don’t have top-of-the-line equipment, don’t sweat it. It’s the talent and tenacity of the person clicking the shutter that is the most critical ingredient in getting great shots.

And he is right, although he may not be the most believable of messengers given his technologically driven creations, but that doesn’t make the message any less true.

And as for his art, well, ‘Art’ is what people say it is, and clearly, he’s selling enough of his to rightfully claim that many people see his work as ‘Art.’ Is it something I’d buy? No. But aesthetic sensibilities vary, and the majority of folks don’t understand critically acclaimed creations that require an aesthetic, cultural or intellectual context, as attested by the fact that Steven Speilberg movies have a much larger audience than something by Györgi Feher.

Frankly, you can argue that most ‘Art’ today is a confidence game, defined by a power structure of curators and dealers with little criteria other than what will make them money. In photography, Cindy Sherman comes to mind. But its been that way since the mid 1800’s, when the rise of bourgeois wealth created a demand that the new vocation of art dealer arose to meet. With it came the self-promoting Artist, whether it be Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray or Thomas Kincaide and Peter Lik. And with it came the art enthusiast who waits for others to say “this is Beautiful art” before he can say the same. It’s just the way it is.

Which is not to say there ultimately isn’t any objective standard one can use to define great Art. If you’ve ever visited the Vatican and stood in awe in the Sistine Chapel, or sat in a church in Mississippi and listened to a gospel choir sing Amazing Grace, or listened to John Coltrane interpreting a blues standard, you know transcendent Art exists. And Mr. Lik is correct: it’s got nothing to do with equipment and sterile technique. It’s about vision, about an idiosyncratic conversation with the otherwise unobserved.

Take this photograph by Daido Moriyama for example:daido-moriyama I’d trade every Peter Lik print ever produced for one 11×14 print. Why? Because it speaks to me, and that’s my definition of “Art.”

 

Leica Celebrates The Man Responsible For The Rise of Nikon

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On November 28, 2014, 98 year-old David Douglas Duncan spent the evening regaling guests at the Leitz Park Wetzlar with accounts of his fascinating life as a photographer. Wine was imbibed, anecdotes exchanged. A wonderful time was had by all, according to all extant accounts. His visit marked the introduction of a new exclusive Leica M special edition: the M3D ‘David Douglas Duncan’,  the aim to honor the former Life photographer as one of a distinguished group of Leica photographers well as to celebrate 60 Years of M Photography.

The special edition Leica M3D is limited to 16 units.  It is an exact replica of the four M3D’s Leitz created for Duncan in 1959. The original M3D was an M3 designed to use a Leicavit winder. The original M3D became the basis for the Leica MP, which Leitz manufactured in small production runs from 1956, and was specifically aimed at  professional photojournalists.

Leica M3 D

During his career as a Life photographer, Duncan became closely associated with Leica – to the point that they manufactured the original M3D for him. Ironically, Duncan, who used a IIIc throughout his coverage of the Korean War, mounted Nikkor lenses on his Leica, most notably a Nikkor-S.C. 50mm 1.5. Duncan had been introduced to the Nikkor optics on a visit to Tokyo in 1950. His use of the then little-known Japanese optics helped set in motion the wider acceptance of Nikon products and Nikon’s rise to prominence in the 1960’s in conjunction with the slow transformation of the Leica M from a pro’s working tool to what is now a luxury boutique item.

Ducan IIIc

David Douglas Duncan’s Leica IIIc with Nikkor-S.C. 5cm 1.5

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In 1950 Duncan visited Japan to take pictures of traditional Japanese arts. While there his assistant, a young Japanese photographer working as a Life stringer, Mr. Jun Miki, took his photograph with an 85mm f2 Nikkor on a Leica IIIf. This candid shot of Duncan by Miki turned out to be one of the most important photographs in the history of Nikon and  Japanese camera makers. Shown the enlarged 8 x 10 photograph, Duncan was astonished at the sharpness and the image quality of the Nikkor and sought to meet with its manufacturer. A meeting was arranged between Duncan and Life photographer Horace Bristol, with the president of Nippon Kogaku, Dr. Masao Nagaoka.  After Nagaoka loaned various Nikkors to Duncan and Bristol for testing, both ended up replacing their personal lenses with Nikkors.

Shortly after, The Korean War commenced, and Duncan shot his iconic war reportage with a Leica…and Nikkors. Duncan used two Leica IIIc, both fitted with Tewe Polyfocus finders and the Nikkor 5cm.  The effect was immediate.  Life cabled Duncan after receiving his first Korean photographs, quizzically inquiring, “Why are you using a plate camera???”  The difference the Nikkors produced was easily seen. The slightly higher contrast range of the Nikkors translated better for newsprint output than the lower contrast of the Leitz optics, yielding better prints for newsprint’s resolution of around 80/120 lines. Within weeks every Life staff photographer passing through Tokyo had bought a set of Nikkor lenses.

Carl Mydans and Hank Walker, two photojournalists covering the Korean War, also purchased Nikkors on Duncan’s advice.  Walker also purchased a Nikon S body. The Korean War took place during a bitter Korean winter, with temperatures routinely below -30 C. While many cameras froze and wouldn’t work, Walker’s new Nikon S worked perfectly throughout and produced the photographs that won the U.S. Camera Prize in 1950. Mydans’ photographs, also using Nikkor optics,  subsequently won the prize as well. On December 10th, 1950 the New York Times featured a full article on the emergence of Nikon’s use in the ranks of professional photojournalists, and Popular Photography soon followed with articles of its own.

Gradually more Korean War era photojournalists shifted to Nikkors, with some using Nikon S bodies in preference to the Leica. Nikon capitalized on its professional popularity by establishing repair support and cleaning services for those with the assignments in Korea, benefiting from the input of those using the Nikon S and lenses in the harsh Korean environment. Not many companies have the luxury of such extensive in-field testing, and Nikon ultimately used these experiences to develop the iconic Nikon F.

Nikon has always been a curious mix of tradition and innovation. Unlike Leitz, they early on recognized the future potential of SLR cameras. Based partly on input from photographers like Duncan using their cameras in the Korean War, Nikon realized that SLR cameras provided advantages not available with rangefinder cameras. In 1955 Nikon  launched a program for the development of SLR cameras in conjunction with the development of SP and S3 as the successors to Nikon S2 (1954). Nikon adopted the same body mechanism as in the SP/S3 to produce the F, employing the layout and geometry of the shutter button, film wind-up lever and other components except for the viewfinder and other parts essential for SLR cameras, with the intent to produce the Nikon F in parallel production with SP and the S3. The rest, as they say, is history.

 

Leica To Offer Faux Brassed Leica M

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According to LeicaRumors.com, Leica will announce a new M240  camera made from raw/coated brass, already brassed straight from the factory for your fondling convenience.

The new Leica M-P (Typ 240) “Lenny Kravitz” version will come in a kit with two different lenses: a pre-brassed 35/2 ASPH and 50/1.4 ASPH (black paint E43). Only 120 pieces will be produced.

Why anyone other than friends and family of “Lenny Kravitz” would buy one is a complete mystery.

Robert Frank’s Guggenheim Trip and the Making of The Americans

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From the National Gallery of Art, The Robert Frank Collection*:

In October 1954, with the guidance of Walker Evans, Frank applied for a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, proposing to drive across the United States photographing American life.

He was awarded the fellowship and in the summer of 1955 began his 10,000-mile journey with a trip to Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. He then traveled with Mary down the East Coast, photographing in North and South Carolina and Georgia. That fall he drove to Florida, and from there he crossed the country, through Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada, arriving in California around Christmas. While in California, Frank applied for a renewal of the Guggenheim fellowship. When it was granted in April 1956, he drove a northern route back to New York, passing through Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

The map below charts the three routes driven by Frank during the period of his Guggenheim fellowship.

Red: late June – mid-July 1955
Gold: summer 1955
Blue: October 1955 – early June 1956

A dotted line indicates an unconfirmed route.

Franks Map

Back in New York by June 1956, Frank developed film, made and reviewed contact sheets of all 767 rolls of film shot for the project, made approximately 1,000 work prints, and began to sequence the photographs that would become his seminal book, The Americans.

After choosing frames from his contact sheets to print, Frank annotated his work prints with the corresponding number of the roll of film, often in red grease pencil. He then spread them on the floor and thumb-tacked them to walls, grouping them by themes such as race, religion, politics and the media, as well as subjects including cemeteries, jukeboxes, and lunch counters. Frank moved the pictures, sometimes ripping them, and eliminated hundreds before arriving at the 83 prints to be included in The Americans. He continued to refine his selections through June 1957.

The Americans, 1955–1957

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In October of 1958, French publisher Robert Delpire released Les Américains in Paris. The following year Grove Press published The Americans in New York with an introduction by Jack Kerouac (the book was released in January 1960).

Like Frank’s earlier books, the sequence of 83 pictures in The Americans is non-narrative and nonlinear; instead it uses thematic, formal, conceptual and linguistic devices to link the photographs. Unlike Peru, in which the order of pictures was not firmly established, The Americans displays a deliberate structure, an emphatic narrator, and what Frank called a “distinct and intense order” that amplified and tempered the individual pictures.

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Although not immediately evident, The Americans is constructed in four sections. Each begins with a picture of an American flag and proceeds with a rhythm based on the interplay between motion and stasis, the presence and absence of people, observers and those being observed. The book as a whole explores the American people—black and white, military and civilian, urban and rural, poor and middle class—as they gather in drugstores and diners, meet on city streets, mourn at funerals, and congregate in and around cars. With piercing vision, poetic insight, and distinct photographic style, Frank reveals the politics, alienation, power, and injustice at play just beneath the surface of his adopted country.

Since its original publication, The Americans has appeared in numerous editions and has been translated into several languages. The cropping of images has varied slightly over the years, but their order has remained intact, as have the titles and Kerouac’s introductory text. The book, fiercely debated in the first years following its release, has made an indelible mark on American culture and changed the course of 20th-century photography.

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* THE ROBERT FRANK COLLECTION, NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART, WASHINGTON D.C. The Robert Frank Collection at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, was begun in 1990 with a generous gift from the artist that included 27 vintage photographs, one of the three extant copies of Black White and Things, 1952 (a handmade book of 34 original photographs made between 1948 and 1952), 999 work prints, 2,296 contact sheets, and 2,241 rolls of film, as well as annotated book dummies for The Lines of My Hand. In the three years that followed, the Gallery acquired a total of 61 objects, including one print of every photograph reproduced in The Lines of My Hand, 1989. In 1994 Frank gave the Gallery another large donation that included 91 vintage photographs, 442 work prints, and 814 contact sheets. In 1996 he gave a third gift, this time including 12 photographs and his volume of photographs, Peru. Then in 2010 Frank gave one photograph and his volume of photographs, 40 Fotos. Most recently, Frank gave four photographs, six contact sheets, one work print, and three videos in 2012. The Gallery has continued to collect works by Robert Frank, acquiring 61 objects from 1994 to 1996, seven objects in 2000 and 2001, three objects in 2006, 20 objects in 2010, and one object in 2011.

Nearly all accessioned objects in the collection came to the Gallery directly from Frank’s own collection. The exceptions are: four objects given in 1991 by, respectively, Amy and Philip Brookman, George F. Hemphill and Leonore A. Winters, Christopher and Alexandra Middendorf, and the Middendorf Gallery; 16 objects given in 1996 by John Cohen; six objects given in 2000 by Jane Watkins; one object given in 2001 by Lee and Maria Friedlander; and 20 objects given in 2010 by the Estate of Kazuko Oshima.

The collection is available online at http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/features/robert-frank.html