A Genuine Special Order black paint Leica M Owned by Busby Cattanach. Offered for Sale by Third Man Cameras in Stuart Florida.
Many of you may remember Henry Obert (aka Henry Obertiii) and Erica Obert, the hapless “Leica Experts” pawning off repainted Leicas with all sorts of faked provenances on Ebay a few years ago. ( http://leicaphilia.com/caveat-emptor-again/ ). It was a fairly transparent scam, although a number of folks with more money than sense ended up buying “genuine” black paint lenses and/or bodies for stupid money from these morons. My sense: if you’re stupid enough to fall for the con, you deserve it.
It took only a few internet searches from the comfort of my home and I discovered that Mr. and Ms. Obert were garden-variety crackheads who had bought a large stock of excess Leica parts and went into business faking black paint items and then selling them on Ebay under the moniker of “Third Man Cameras.” Some quick correspondence with Ms. Obert – Third Man’s “Office Manager” – easily uncovered the whole scam. It didn’t hurt that a few Google queries uncovered mugshots for both from a crack cocaine arrest.
Just for the hell of it, having nothing better to do, today I did an updated Google search for these two and found a 2018 arrest for Henry – a felony charge of, apparently, selling counterfeit concert tickets. That’s his mugshot for that arrest over on the right. Apparently, the internet notoriety drove him out of the Fake Leica business and into fake concert tickets. Erica, meanwhile, having apparently moved on from both Henry and her job as “Office Manager” of Third Man Cameras, is currently waitressing in Tuscumbia, Alabama.
UPDATE JULY 10, 2020
And then, one final search found this, which is sad for the poor bicyclist Mr. Obert recently hit and injured while driving impaired:
JENSEN BEACH — A Port St. Lucie man was accused of hitting a bicyclist while he was driving under the influence in Martin County.
Henry Obert, 44, of the 3300 block of Southwest Vendome Street in Port St. Lucie was arrested on one charge of driving under the influence causing serious bodily harm to others.
Florida Highway Patrol troopers said around 7:35 p.m. Thursday they were called about a bicyclist hurt after being hit by Obert. When troopers arrived, they said they found the bicyclist seriously injured. It is unclear what hospital the bicyclist was taken to and what his condition is Friday. Despite multiple attempts, a spokesman for FHP was unable to be reached. Troopers said the crash happened at Jensen Beach Boulevard and Northeast Sunview Terrace in Jensen Beach.
The street cafe provides a unique setting, special to cities: a place people can sit lazily, legitimately, be on view, and watch the world go by […]. Encourage local cafes to spring up in each neighborhood. Make them intimate places, with several rooms, open to a busy path, so people can sit with coffee or a drink, and watch the world go by. Build the front of the cafe so a set of tables stretch out of the cafe, right into the street.
Christopher Alexander et al., A Pattern Language, p. 437,439
by Stephen Jennner
If the current “pandemic” has done anything for us ordinary folk, I suppose the chance to get off of the bus and reflect on the way we live and interact has probably been uppermost. It has also given us time to undertake a real “spring clean”, many of us are combing through our clutter, looking for stuff to throw out or retain. Every time we come across something that we had almost forgotten, the memories come flooding back. Such is the legacy of modern materialism. I have been re-reading some of Leicaphilia’s recent blogs and one strand in particular led me to re-read Camera Lucida which I had not really read properly initially, but kept on the shelf, because I liked some of the pictures. I realised also that it is a translation, and very well regarded, but perhaps less readable in English.
There was also the recent passing of the well known English philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, who I knew by name, but whose work I had never read. The ritual disdain verging on the celebration of his death by the institutionalised lefty media led me to investigate. He couldn’t have been that bad after all, I thought. I read England an Elegy first and enjoyed that, so I sallied forth and bought two more books, How to be a Conservative and Green Philosophy – How to think seriously about the planet, the first of those two was the thinner, so I read that, I am currently ploughing through the second, over 400 pages. They are very readable and surprisingly accessible for being the work of someone who is described as a philosopher.
But, back to the COVID clearout, since the last of our kids cleared off, the room in which he festered has been where everything material gets discarded, and was becoming impassable. So it was there that the great undermining began. It wasn’t long before I came across a pile of books, discarded but kept, because of a “one day I will read that again” sentiment. My eyes settled on a book that I have read and gushed over for nearly forty years, and I sat down and started leafing through it once again. I don’t know much about the authors, I think they are American, or at least naturalised Americans, the names look English, Japanese and Jewish, but together they have produced a universal language, which has since established a format that is used repeatedly, notwithstanding the specialised blog format, where the host invokes others to chime in by way of comment, and sometimes submit their own pieces.
The book is called A Pattern Language and the credited authors are Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, along with contributions by Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King and Shlomo Angel”. Think of it as a photo book about issues of social architecture; there are many excellent photographs and illustrations accompanying the text, many by well-known exponents, some unattributed snappers and daubers, and I presume, some by the authors.
The theme of A Pattern Language is in a nutshell, how to approach, conceptualise and plan for the built environment for a beautiful, practical and sustained past, present and future. It is profoundly conservative in sentiment rather than its political allegiances, regarding human beings as essentially animals that are universally similar, yet differ locally and thus and employ different ways of being, different traditions, different gods. The layout is very structured, the book indexed by levels of what the authors regard as layers of significance.
There are several main headings which are then further subdivided, beginning with a “summary of the language”, then describing “independent regions”, “towns”, “buildings” and finally “construction”. Those main headings are further subdivided into small one or two-page chapters, which are described in levels of importance by the addition of either no, one or two asterisks appended to the title. Each chapter describes a particular aspect of human habitation along with an illustration or photograph by way of visual explanation. The photographs serve the text well, lending an added meaning that isn’t capable of being articulated by words. The book is an object lesson on the different meanings conveyed by the written and the visual, how the two are distinct yet can accommodate each other to produce a larger meaning.
I had never really appreciated the importance of the photographs until I read Roland Barthes book again, even though I had not related that book to A Pattern Language until I picked it up and read it again. The feelings that a good photograph can imbue, and the memories that resurface, being what I believe Barthes devotes Camera Lucida to.
One of my favourite little chapters is entitled “Zen View” and the opening illustration is a painting by Pierre Bonnard. The text describes a beautiful view in Japan, including in the distance, the sea. Many a modern architect would design a massive window into the main room of the building that he is constructing. The Zen approach might be to instead, include a small window facing the view, halfway up a staircase. It is only seen as one climbs or descends that staircase, sometimes one stops, usually in a slightly different position to look and consider, every time, the prevailing conditions whether it is night or day, sunny, raining or shady, the view, the light, is different. It never bores, but since you deliberately stopped, invokes a new thought or memory. The effect is to really see. Sublime.
The experience that I derive from this book, is that human beings all have similar needs, even though at a local level, we have different ways of solving them. They are never fixed, since newer ideas and threats regularly surface and need to be incorporated into those ways, and the best way to do this is to ensure that the paramount human urge is conservative and localist and most importantly, not de(con)structive. In my view and that of the authors, the manner in which we can solve our global problems is by looking after our local community issues through negotiation, a public secularity, local judgements where disputes arise, and a sense of history applied to the present and held in trust, for the sake of those yet to be. It is what the ancient Greeks, and Roger Scruton (among others) sum up in one word – “Oikophilia”. The love of home and beauty, and the avoidance of mere utility. If we look after the parts that are within our scope, we can manage the whole planet, and hold it in trust for the foreseeable future. And the method for achieving this, is what the Irish politician and philosopher Edmund Burke described as “The little platoons”.
Anyway, to sum up, this book is an essential read, and I note that Amazon still lists it, if anyone wants to take a punt.
“Dixie Dixon would photograph her stuffed animals as a child. Now, she’s one of fashion photography’s brightest stars, and one of the first sixteen Nikon Ambassadors in the United States. “I don’t think I’d be myself without being a photographer,” the native Texan explains. “
If you’re gonna claim to be someone to aspire to photographically, and in doing so claim some affinity with the glory days of photojournalism by appropriating its technology (in this instance a plain prism 60’s era Nikon F), then at least satisfy us that you know how to operate the camera. To begin with, you might want to learn where you look into the plain prism viewfinder.
Let me get this out of the way: I’m not ragging on this young lady simply because she’s ‘attractive’ in a social media sort of way. I’ve looked at her work, and it’s competent, although nothing special, nothing you won’t see thousands of times over wherever you look. It certainly doesn’t stand out in a way that would warrant a cush advertising gig with Nikon. I suspect she’s a “Nikon Ambassador” because she’s cute and social media savvy. In fact, I’m positive.
Let’s call it the “Overgaardization” of photography as a practice. Being a photographer is now a ‘lifestyle.’ It’s about being hip and technologically and media sophisticated. It’s about ‘branding’, about creating a narrative about yourself that in most cases has nothing to do with reality. It’s about creating the reality. It’s how some blue-collar woman with a high school degree from some backwater town becomes “Princess Joy,” or her grifter husband goes from working in a sawmill to claiming he’s royalty…and a company like Leica, inheritors of a proud photographic legacy, embrace them as spokespersons for their ‘brand.’ It’s all about being ‘beautiful’ and using beautiful things and having those beautiful things define you. That’s why you should buy your Nikon or your Leica. It’s called selling the sizzle and not the steak.
As for the quality of photographic output, basically irrelevant now, given how easy we can duplicate a look or a style with a few keystrokes. Anyone can do it competently. Just push a few computer buttons and we’re all Richard Avedon. What’s really important is being thought of as hip while doing it, and that means carrying the correct camera and looking the right way while you do so. Knowing how to use it, apparently, optional.
12 megapixel APS-C M Mount Ricoh GXR, with box, charger, 2 batteries. Excellent condition.
NOTE: the EVF shown is not included.
I’ve got three of them, so one must go. Think of it as the smallest and best crop sensor digital ever built specifically for M-mount lenses. At the price they’re currently selling, these are screaming deals. Paired with a scale-focused VC 21mm, it makes the perfect street photography camera, small, unobtrusive and unthreatening.
The GXR with M-mount is one of those cameras that hits the sweet spot. I’m not sure anything Leica has produced matches it for its ratio of price to function. Just like the M series cameras, the GXR M-module sensor is designed to maximize usage of Leica mount lenses with their short ‘film to flange’ distances. Given its live-view, you can also buy a cheap Nikon to Leica adaptor and use your old manual focus SLR Nikkors on it.
I’m convinced these things will be collector’s items someday, much like the Epson Rd1. They’re becoming harder and harder to find in good condition.
$425 shipped nationally within USA. $450 shipped anywhere in the world. Pay by Paypal to email@example.com.
If the Dp1 Merrill is medium format, think of the DP2x as 35mm digital B&W. It offers a 41mm 2.8 equivalent lens. The lens is tack-sharp wide open. The detail in the files is stunning for the pixel count. Colors really pop, if that’s your thing. Like the Merrill, it’s hard to describe; you’ve got to see it to understand.
The camera with retractible lens is really small, easily fitting your pocket. It’s a great walk-around camera. The files it produces convert very nicely to B&W images with the look of 35mm film. For B&W 800 ISO is fine. Convert them from RAW via the Sigma Photo Pro software and then run them through Silver Efex, or shoot color jpegs at 200 ISO.
The DP2x uses the same 14 megapixel (2,652×1,768×3 layers) Foveon sensor as the SD14, SD15 and other DP series cameras. No low-pass filter. Like the Merrill, shoot in either JPEG or RAW. Also like the Merill, it can be a pain in the ass, but the output is stunning for such a small camera with a 5 meg sensor.
Excellent condition, everything works perfectly. Auto lens cover attached. Comes with charger and battery.
$325 shipped nationally within USA. $350 shipped anywhere in the world. Pay by Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll admit I don’t like the red dot. It’s tacky. When Leica was Leica, there was no red dot. I’m proud to say that, when I bought my first Leica, there was no such thing as a red dot. The red dot is post- Leica M5, the M5 being both the best and worst thing Leitz ever did. Best, because it’s the last and best version of a hand-assembled M, incorporating everything Leitz had learned about interchangeable lens rangefinder cameras up to that point and, in spite of what its detractors claim (invariably they’ve never used the M5), its a better, more complete camera than the film M’s – M4-2, M4-P, M6, M7 – that came after it, which were essentially retrenchments to a fixed formula. Worst, because Leitz confused a marketing failure with a technical failure and returned to the meterless M4 in M4-2 and M4-P versions, both of which signaled Leitz’s transition from producing professional cameras to models aimed at the consumer market. Hence, Leica’s slow inexorable slide into professional irrelevancy and the rise of internet-era clowns claiming the title “Leica Photographer.”
That’s One Ugly-Ass Red Dot IMHO
The ‘Leitz’ red dot goes back to the company’s Binocular and Microscope divisions, which used the dot on their products for many years before someone decided to impale it on the hapless R3 and M4-P. Binoculars from the mid/late 60s have a rarer black ‘Leitz’ dot. As best I can tell, the Leitz red dot first appeared on the 50th Anniversary Leicaflex SL2 in 75 followed by the1976 R3. As for the M’s, it’s first seen on a preliminary 1977 run of a few hundred M4-2, and then into full production of the M4-P, which is, with its numerous top plate markings and huge Leitz red dot, the ugliest Leica M ever, although you can get rid of the red dot easily by replacing the vulcanite. Revisionist history aside, for late 70’s – early 80’s Leicaphiles, the red dot coincided with the end of the most desired models (M3, M2, M4, and M5) and represented a perceived decline in the quality for which Leicas had theretofore been known.
1980 black M4-P red dot
1983 chrome M4-P red dot
1987 R5, red dot moved to the right side
R6, R7,RE, R6.2 red dot on the right
M6 (1984) Leitz red dot on top center
R8 (1996) Leica red dot moved to the left again
M7 (2000) Leica red dot on top center
Leica’s final film camera, the MP (2003), thankfully did away with the red dot, although it’s been resurrected with the digital M’s and all the other assorted digital models they’ve produced. Why, I don’t know.
Leica has learned to monetize the red dot and certain consumer’s aversion to it. Witness the M9-P upgrade, which allowed you pay $US1995 to upgrade your red dot m9 for a dotless M9-P. Granted, removal of a red dot alone didn’t cost two grand — Leica also replaced the LCD screen with sapphire glass (apparently a good thing they hadn’t bothered to use on the original M9), and threw in some new leatherette. They also got rid of the tacky M9 logo on the front plate. Gotta admit, the M9-P looks a lot better than the garden variety M9.
A madness, an extraordinary fanaticism took possession of all these new sun-worshippers – Charles Baudelaire 1859
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) was a poet, essayist, art critic, and translator of Edgar Allan Poe. His most famous work, a book of poetry titled Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), is about finding beauty in the industrializing world of the mid-19th century. Baudelaire’s work influenced a generation of French poets including Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé. Think of him as the Patti Smith of his day. He is considered the father of the aesthetic movement now known as ‘Modernism’ and is credited with coining the term “modernity” (modernité) to designate the experience of urban life and the responsibility of the artist to capture that experience.
Baudelaire was, paradoxically, deeply ambivalent about modernity and specifically, the role mechanism played in the productions of creativity. Baudelaire’s 1856 poem, Correspondences reduces the ‘Realist’ aesthetic (i.e. the description of things as they appear, of which Photography as a practice is concerned) to irrelevance. Baudelaire saw 19th-century ‘Realism’ as something new in human history, a secular version of what the Greeks called metanoia: a change of mind, a new way of looking at oneself and the world… but it was mistaken. Reality was actually an immaterial “forest of symbols,” a dictionary of subjective associations, metaphorical forms rather than concrete phenomena. Photography, rooted in ‘Realism,’ could never represent this true reality.
In this 1859 commentary on photography, Baudelaire critiques the public’s fascination with photography. “It is useless and tedious to represent what exists because nothing that exists satisfies me…. I prefer the monsters of my fantasy to what is positively trivial.” Baudelaire’s anti-materialist perspective and this commentary on photography will influence Symbolist poets and artists in the decades after his death. Baudelaire’s aesthetics will subsequently be used to support every modernist movement from Fauvism and Cubism through Abstract Expressionism. As such, understanding Baudelaire’s thinking about photography can teach us much about the assumptions underlying both photography and modern art.
Baudelaire’s Salon of 1859 was first published in the Révue Française, Paris, June 10-July 20, 1859. This selection is from Charles Baudelaire, The Mirror of Art. Jonathan Mayne editor and translator. London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1955.
“During this lamentable period, a new industry arose which contributed not a little to confirm stupidity in its faith and to ruin whatever might remain of the divine in the French mind. The idolatrous mob demanded an ideal worthy of itself and appropriate to its nature – that is perfectly understood. In matters of painting and sculpture, the present-day Credo of the sophisticated, above all in France (and I do not think that anyone at all would dare to state the contrary), is this: “I believe in Nature, and I believe only in Nature (there are good reasons for that). I believe that Art is, and cannot be other than, the exact reproduction of Nature (a timid and dissident sect would wish to exclude the more repellent objects of nature, such as skeletons or chamber-pots). Thus an industry that could give us a result identical to Nature would be the absolute of Art.” A revengeful God has given ear to the prayers of this multitude. Daguerre was his Messiah. And now the faithful says to himself: “Since photography gives us every guarantee of exactitude that we could desire (they really believe that, the mad fools!), then photography and Art are the same thing:’ From that moment our squalid society rushed, Narcissus to a man, to gaze at its trivial image on a scrap of metal. A madness, an extraordinary fanaticism took possession of all these new sun-worshippers. Strange abominations took form. By bringing together a group of male and female clowns, got up like butchers and laundry-maids in a carnival, and by begging these heroes to be so kind as to hold their chance grimaces for the time necessary for the performance, the operator flattered himself that he was reproducing tragic or elegant scenes from ancient history. Some democratic writer ought to have seen here a cheap method of disseminating a loathing for history and for painting among the people, thus committing a double sacrilege and insulting at one and the same time the divine art of painting and the noble art of the actor. A little later a thousand hungry eyes were bending over the peepholes of the stereoscope, as though they were the attic-windows of the infinite. The love of pornography, which is no less deep-rooted in the natural heart of man than the love of himself, was not to let slip so fine an opportunity of self-satisfaction. And do not imagine that it was only children on their way back from school who took pleasure in these follies; the world was infatuated with them. I was once present when some friends were discretely concealing some such pictures from a beautiful woman, a woman of high society, not of mine—they were taking upon themselves some feeling of delicacy in her presence; but “No,” she replied. “Give them to me! Nothing is too strong for me.” I swear that I heard that; but who will believe me? “You can see that they are great ladies,” said Alexandre Dumas. “There are some still greater!“ said Cazotte.
As the photographic industry was the refuge of every would-be painter, every painter too ill-endowed or too lazy to complete his studies, this universal infatuation bore not only the mark of a blindness, an imbecility, but had also the air of a vengeance. I do not believe, or at least I do not wish to believe, in the absolute success of such a brutish conspiracy, in which, as in all others, one finds both fools and knaves; but I am convinced that the ill-applied developments of photography, like all other purely material developments of progress, have contributed much to the impoverishment of the French artistic genius, which is already so scarce. In vain may our modern Fatuity roar, belch forth all the rumbling wind of its rotund stomach, spew out all the undigested sophisms with which recent philosophy has stuffed it from top to bottom; it is nonetheless obvious that this industry, by invading the territories of art, has become art’s most mortal enemy, and that the confusion of their several functions prevents any of them from being properly fulfilled. Poetry and progress are like two ambitious men who hate one another with an instinctive hatred, and when they meet upon the same road, one of them has to give place. If photography is allowed to supplement art in some of its functions, it will soon have supplanted or corrupted it altogether, thanks to the stupidity of the multitude which is its natural ally. It is time, then, for it to return to its true duty, which is to be the servant of the sciences and arts— but the very humble servant, like printing or shorthand, which have neither created nor supplemented literature. Let it hasten to enrich the tourist’s album and restore to his eye the precision which his memory may lack; let it adorn the naturalist’s library, and enlarge microscopic animals; let it even provide information to corroborate the astronomer’s hypotheses; in short, let it be the secretary and clerk of whoever needs an absolute factual exactitude in his profession—up to that point nothing could be better. Let it rescue from oblivion those tumbling ruins, those books, prints and manuscripts which time is devouring, precious things whose form is dissolving and which demand a place in the archives of our memory—— it will be thanked and applauded. But if it be allowed to encroach upon the domain of the impalpable and the imaginary, upon anything whose value depends solely upon the addition of something of a man’s soul, then it will be so much the worse for us!
I know very well that some people will retort, “The disease which you have just been diagnosing is a disease of imbeciles. What man worthy of the name of artist, and what true connoisseur, has ever confused art with industry?” I know it; and yet I will ask them in my turn if they believe in the contagion of good and evil, in the action of the mass on individuals, and in the involuntary, forced obedience of the individual to the mass. It is an incontestable, an irresistible law that the artist should act upon the public, and that the public should react upon the artist; and besides, those terrible witnesses, the facts, are easy to study; the disaster is verifiable. Each day art further diminishes its self-respect by bowing down before external reality; each day the painter becomes more and more given to painting not what he dreams but what he sees. Nevertheless it is a happiness to dream, and it used to be a glory to express what one dreamt. But I ask you! does the painter still know this happiness?
Could you find an honest observer to declare that the invasion of photography and the great industrial madness of our times have no part at all in this deplorable result? Are we to suppose that a people whose eyes are growing used to considering the results of a material science as though they were the products of the beautiful, will not in the course of time have singularly diminished its faculties of judging and of feeling what are among the most ethereal and immaterial aspects of creation?”
Next: Walter Benjamin, (1982-1940) German Jewish philosopher, cultural critic and essayist critiques Baudelaire’s critique of photography.
This was sent to me by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous:
Once upon a time – actually a fairly recent time – my email address found its way onto the distribution list of Thorsten von Overgaard. “von” Overgaard (the ‘von’ being added a few years ago, after he married a princess) sent me numerous invitations to his free “Masterclass”. Apparently he wished to share with me some of his secrets, totally free. Actually, he’s been bombarding my inbox for some time now. Thorsten really wants to share his photography knowledge with me. And it’s all free. Nice chap, I thought.
I’d been around the world photographing people and things, won some awards, had a museum show or two along the way – nothing super-special, never photographed a Royal though. What I’ve learned through all of it: stay humble and stay hungry…and you’re never too good to learn a thing or two from a recognized expert. To assess Mr. Overgaard’s credentials, I checked his website. Lot’s of bokeh, his motto “Always wear a camera,” and a publicity photo of him with a strip of 35mm film wrapped around his face. Working photographers stopped using film for their pro work in, oh, 2003 or thereabouts. What the fuck was that about? Back in 2003, as I understand it, Overgaard, yet unaware of his royal roots, was working as a coal miner or something like that. Maybe he was shooting film in the coal mine. Well, his class is free; what have I got to lose, right?
I took the plunge and joined his webinar. It began with a ‘host’ reviewing von Overgaard’s numerous accomplishments and then introducing him. After his intro, Thorsten commenced to share what he had learned in a long career photographing royalty, celebrity, and armed conflict around the globe. As for inside information – it was, according to Overgaard, “all about the light,” light being very important. Frankly, I’m not sure I’d really thought about that before. Light. Important. We could learn more if we ordered his book The Freedom of Photographic Expression, wherein everything was laid out in simple, easily understood terms. Plus, it had many of his award-winning photos, photos that used light to great effect, especially if you used a Leica. Leica was important as well. It was all there in the book. Some guy from Canada seemed to think the book was worth every penny: “Exactly what I craved. Excellent book. I plan to attend one of your workshops this year.” C. S. (Toronto) During this, comments running along the right side of the screen exclaimed, “Incredible masterclass,” “I’m learning so much,” “This is incredible!”.
After a few minutes, I went back to doing my own work. Over the course of the next hour I checked back a few times, finding what appeared to be greatly satisfied customers streaming compliments as Overgaard pitched his products, which apparently are designed to comprise a “system.” von Overgaard sells his complete package for $5,688. But today, and today only, we could get the whole thing for $479.99. The complete package. Shipping, of course, was extra. A number of satisfied customers remarked that that seemed an incredible deal. Hell, just think how much a Leica cost. I had to admit – that was a helluva discount. Plus, if you wanted the best, you had to pay for it. No doubt.
In my brief and random returns to the webinar, I did see one comment complaining that there wasn’t really any instruction going on. However the overwhelming majority were saying how great the webinar was. Just for fun, I wrote a comment, “Where’s the substance?” and was kicked out of the webinar and summarily banned.
What I took from all of it? It’s all about the light, and his book will explain it better. Imagine my surprise when I saw you can now pick up a copy for 9 bucks, when a week ago it was $197 before shipping. That’s a 97% savings.
Being both a photographer (documentary/street) and a writer (stand-up comedy/screenplays), I came to the realization that there is a correlation between the two. Because both require something of me. See, I carry a Leica and notebook everywhere I go.
When my parents took photographs when I was growing up, they took them out at Christmas, at the Jersey Shore, at backyard birthday parties. Maybe they pulled out a Kodak Hawkeye or Retina IIIc, then they put the camera away until the next big occasion.
The photofinishers famously said, “Many rolls were snow, sand, snow!”
That’s one way to use a camera–bring it out when you expect to see something “photo-worthy”, though in this phone-crazed world, that’s everything and all the time. I don’t mean shooting your lunch. So, disregarding how most people use phone cameras–more as diaries like where they parked their car, or a pic of a receipt–typically folks use cameras for special occasions.
But I have one in my pocket (IIIf fits nicely with its collapsible lens in my front jeans pocket), or over my shoulder (typically an M2, M6 or M9) all the time. Friends and family wouldn’t recognize me without one.
The difference is I’m not looking for a special occasion. I’m not taking it out to photograph.
My friends might bring a DSLR to a backyard party, but would not usually bother to take photos at Tuesday night dinner. I have my camera at Tuesday’s dinner and every dinner every evening.
Same with my notebook. For when an idea strikes, I can write it down before I forget it. That’s so important. But I think something else is happening when I carry these items. Almost like luring the muse, asking for inspiration to find me.
The Leica and the notebook are attractors. Like magnets to metal. They bring the photographs and writing ideas to me.
If I were to leave without a notebook, my subconscious doesn’t have to be on the lookout for ideas. It knows I have no way to record them. But if the notebook is in my pocket, the ideas come. I don’t know how they do, but they do.
If I were to go out without a camera, I don’t have to look for possible photographs. Even peripherally. At the most, all I’ll see are the ones I would have missed, so better to discount everything before really taking a good look, not to get disappointed in not being ready to take the shot.
So, for me, the object, the camera and the notebook are much more than devices for photography and writing. They’re an agreement for my creative, my subconscious, to be watching and listening, because I’m ready and open to their input, their awareness.
I don’t go out to take photographs. Or to write.
But I do. Both.
Kenneth Wajda is a photographer who loves old cameras, film photography, and storytelling with images. Kenneth hoots with a Leica IIIf, M3, M6, Rolleiflex 3.5F, Hasselblad 500c/m, Nikon F3, among others. Sometimes digital too, with a Leica M8 and a Fuji X100.
By Teju Cole. Reprinted from The Guardian 2/24/2020
Where can one find temporary help in this hectic world? People go on retreats, join religions, cushion themselves in headphones or lose themselves in novels. We counter the rush-hour stampede with a walk in the park, and against the public squall of political debate we set the private consolation of poetry. In an age of mayhem, everyone needs ballast and, for most people, I would guess, that ballast is made of several different things. Near the top of my personal list: photobooks. I take a photobook off the shelf and spend 20 or 30 minutes with it, and this brief immersion provisionally repairs the world.
It might be a book I’ve already looked at many times – which is even better. I’m not talking about simply looking at photographs. There are photos everywhere, and most of them are like empty calories. Many photos, even good ones, tend simply to show you what something looks like. But if you sequence several of them, in a book, say, or in an exhibition, you see not only what something looks like but how someone looks. A sequence of photographs testifies to a photographer’s visual thinking, a way of seeing revealed through choices of color, subject, scale and perspective. The photographs encountered in an exhibition might be beautiful new prints or vintage ones imbued with the aura of originality. But there are disadvantages to exhibitions: they can be noisy and crowded, open during inconvenient hours and have closing dates. With a book, though, the images and the photographer’s arrangement of them are yours for all time.
The photobook was born, by one account, when Anna Atkins made an album of her cyanotype studies of British algae in 1843. Henry Fox Talbot began to issue The Pencil of Nature, with tipped-in calotype images, the following year. It did not take other photographers long to seize on commercially distributing their photography in book form. The middle of the 20th century saw the publications of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment (1952) and Robert Frank’s The Americans (1958), and those two books, in strikingly different ways, became the looming influence against which almost all subsequent photobooks were measured. Even today, ask photographers what sent them down their chosen path and one or both of those books is likely to be mentioned as exemplars. The strength of the individual pictures is central to the success of a photobook (The Americans, like The Decisive Moment, is almost nothing but winners), but there are photographers of genius who have never made a truly great photobook; at best, they have made books of their great photos, which is a different matter.
What makes a photobook great is how well it combines a large number of variables: the paper; print quality; stitching and binding; the weight, color and texture of the cover; the design and layout of the interior; the size and color balance of the images; the decision to use gatefolds or to print across the gutter; the choice to include or exclude text and, if so, how much of it, where in the book, and in what font; the trim size and heft of the book; even the smell of the ink! Every great photobook is a granary of decisions, an invitation into the realm of the senses. If a poem is great, I’m indifferent to the design choices made for the book in which it is published, unless the design is particularly atrocious. But I can tell whether a photobook has been meticulously made, or is merely a pile of pictures printed one after another. Truth be told, not all photographs in a photobook need to be great, and the real artists of the form know how to aerate their stupendous images with less forceful transitional ones.
But what a joy it is when all of those decisions seem right, when the print quality is meticulous, when a book crying out for matte paper is made with matte paper, when the color profile favors magenta over yellow, or cyan over magenta, depending on what the pictures need. The experience becomes multidimensional, and the memory of the work becomes idiosyncratically specific. I think not only of certain photographers’ styles, but also of the tactile and sensory trace of their books. The luxuriously uncut double pages of Rinko Kawauchi’s Illuminance are as much a thrill to the hands as her glimmering images are to the eye. Liz Johnson Artur’s self-titled book has a flawless combination of color images with those in black and white, the better to convey the effervescent generosity of her vision. The stippled deep purple cover of Gueorgui Pinkhassov’s Sightwalk is a braille-like prophecy of the delirious scatter of light within. These qualities are more enduring than whether a project is “important” or not. Investigative reports are important, but in our intimate moments it is sensibility that best restores us to our human selves. This is not to downplay the ethical dimension of photography, but to suggest that the ethical flourishes best when the formal conditions are in place to protect it.
Of all the elements that make a photobook truly special, the most important is the order of the images. Look at this, the photographer says, then look at this, then look at this one. All books are chronological, but the feeling of being guided, of being simultaneously surprised and satisfied, is particularly intense in photobooks. I think of Masahisa Fukase’s legendary Ravens (1986), which is largely about the titular birds. It is gloomy, making great use of blur and nocturnal shooting, with a black and white palette, and set entirely in Japan. I thought about Ravens a lot when I was preparing Fernweh, though my book is superficially very different: set in the Swiss landscape, shot mostly in clear bright color in summer weather. I was aided by the way Fukase looked and looked again at the ravens, finding remarkable new ways to think about those unsettling birds. In one magical sequence, an image of a congress of ravens in the snow is followed by one of a single wing against a white field, followed by a photo of numerous corvid footprints on a lightly snowy surface, the footprints startlingly like the shapes of the birds themselves. And so, black on white was followed by black on white, which was followed by black on white – a virtuoso display of analogical thinking. This is language without words. Elsewhere, among many pictures of ravens, a sinister-looking cat suddenly appears and then a nude sex worker, and later an almost abstract closeup of a plane in flight. The trust in variation is wonderful. I tried to keep that trust in mind in making Fernweh.
In a world of deafening images, the quiet consolations of photobooks doom them to a small, and sometimes tiny, audience. They are expensive to make and rarely recoup their costs. In this way, they are a quixotic affront to the calculations of the market. The evidence of a few bestsellers notwithstanding, the most common fate of photobooks is oblivion. But it is precisely this labor-intensive and financially unsound character that allows them to sit patiently on our shelves like oracles. Then one day, someone takes one of them off the shelf and is mesmerized by the silent and unanticipated intensity. (The experience of reading a novel, by contrast, is not so silent, for the reader is accompanied by the unvocalized chatter of the text.)
20/10/19 18:07 For more than 35 years I have been intimately involved in the Leica world, encompassing the history of the company, the analysis of the products and the use of the products, all under the umbrella concept of the Leica World. I have experienced and discussed in detail with relevant persons in Wetzlar (old), Solms and Wetzlar (again, new) the digital turn and how the company evolved and changed while adopting the digitalization of the photographic process and the changing world of the internet based photography. The most recent event is the evolution from a manufacturing company to a software-based company. While a commercial success, this change of heart has accomplished a, perhaps not intended, impact: the soul of Leica products has been eradicated. A renewed interest in classical products is the result. The SL and Q are currently the hopeful products for the future. The ghosts of Huawei and Panasonic can be seen all over the campus and while the M-system is still being promoted as the true heir of the Leica lineage, it is now sidelined. Once upon a time, Leica followed its own path, guided by gifted and pioneering engineers and keen marketeers. Nowadays its products are as mainstream as every other camera manufacture. The company has sketched a future and follows a path that I am no longer willing to go.
Next up: Thorsten “von” Overgaard threatens to stop production of Leica inspired Elephant skin leather bags due to “soulless” bokeh of recent Leica optics.