Happy New Year

2020 couldn’t leave soon enough. COVID, a Cancer diagnosis, an attempted Fascist coup by an insane American ‘President.’ 1/3rd of Americans believe prominent Democratic politicians are running a cannibalistic pedophilic sex ring out of a pizzeria in Washington, DC. Seriously. Personally, I despair where it’s all going from here. Think of Weimar Republic Germany for an apt analogy.

As for me, I’m rededicating myself to shooting the remaining 2000 feet of B&W film I’ve got stuck in a deep freezer. Maybe I’ll get through it before my eventual demise. I keep on selling excess cameras, divesting myself of ‘unnecessary’ inventory, only to buy back twice as much as I’ve sold. My current new favorites: a black paint Canon V with black paint 50mm 1.8 and 35mm 1.8, a beautiful Leotax F with f2 Topcor 50mm, a Nikon S3. ( While I have my M5, film-era Leicas have simply become too expensive – $3000 for a garden variety M6? Right.) Something about those old mechanical jewels fascinates me. I often find myself walking around the house with one or the other in my hands. Yup, I’ve become that guy.

As for all the photos, God only knows. Bodies of work that include time lived in Paris and Amsterdam and NYC, extended visits to Oxford, Cuba, Morocco, Eastern Europe, Spain, Italy, Delta Mississippi, rural NC. A six week trip up the Yangtze River with a Leica M4 and a 35mm lens, passport stolen in the middle of Chinese nowhere (try traveling in China without a passport), sleeping in a Buddhist monastery overlooking the river west of Wuhan for a week, dinner in a Communist Party’s members-only Tiananmen Square restaurant exchanging cigarettes and tall tales with Chinese apparatchiks. All those photos will go in the trash once I’m gone. Why not?

*************

It’s the family photos that I go back to. The other stuff is vanity. I made a conscious decision, years ago, not to have kids, so the family photos probably get trashed too. In confronting my mortality, I’m struck with the simple fact that what I’ve dedicated a life to, the product of a 50 year obsession, really has no value to anyone but me.

But that’s OK. Its meaning is for me.

29 thoughts on “Happy New Year

  1. Shuya

    But they do have meaning, to all of us who read your posts, and to all those who now and those to come who appreciate photography. Your images are often poignant, sometimes amusing, and almost always beautiful.

  2. Gavin Lowe

    Yup. I agree with Shuya. I like your images and the insight into your world, and I really enjoy your writing – yours is the best thinking on the web about photography and what it means. I trained as an academic philosopher in the 1980s before giving up (the university departments were being closed down) and becoming a lawyer, and I can’t tell you how good it is to have Kant, Kiergkegaard, Heidegger etc popping up in posts about photography. We may have significance for others that we don’t ourselves recognise at the time. I hope you beat the cancer and keep going, and keep leicaphilia going as well. Happy New Year.

    1. Leicaphila Post author

      Thanks Gavin. I always appreciate it when a reader tells me they like the philosophy and its implications for photography. I’m fascinated by classic philosophical questions, and often worry that my fascination is boring people. Comments like yours help!

      1. Rob Campbell

        Tim, neither your photos nor your writings are boring; if they were, do you think any of us would be here?

        This site is unlike any other I’ve found in years of searching the Internet. On the one hand I wish that it were better known and more people took an active part, but then the thought comes that were that so, it couldn’t keep its standard flying high as it does.

        As for your allusions now and again to writers of whom I have sometimes heard but almost never read, I do enjoy those brief trips into foreign lands; for me, culture lite in digestible chunks. Gracias!

        You speak of facing mortality. Well, illness is one way, but age is another. Going the age route, and finding oneself the last guy standing of one’s generation, one realises that nobody gets out of here alive, and that for there to have been a purpose to any of it, and with such purpose often hard to see, there must inevitably be a future after this stage if only to achieve a state of natural equilibrium. I can’t imagine all of this being accident, and even if it were, there always has to be something already around for accidents to happen. Quite what, we shall perhaps find out.

        1. Leicaphila Post author

          I tend to agree with you, Rob, although I’m not a religious man in any sense of the word. It just seems that reality, if you think about it, is so weird, and we can’t even begin to know the half of it. Illness has been a positive in the sense that it really makes you think about your life and what it means to you. And I sympathize with the aging part; it must not be pleasant to see your peers gone and people treating you like you’re “old.”

          We are not “old.” Damn it. Beautiful women still dig me. Probably you too.

  3. Stephen J

    I didn’t realise that Biden was POTUS, I know that he is insane, but… We shall see…. He isn’t President yet Tim. (cheesy smile emoticon)

    I lived in a house very much like the one in the top picture when I lived on Victory Drive in Savannah, I love that building style, since it can be done by anyone with a hammer and saw, which is a bit like film photography, DIY friendly. I still have some pictures, I remember the day the wife and I thought that it would be a great idea to clear the roaches out of the common trash area. The other residents thought that we were mad, as did I by the end of the day.

    Please try not to dismiss your body of work so readily, you were there, and you did see, and family is more than “the now”, not so much vanity as history. I know that when my old man left us, there was a house full of rubbish to clear…. We kept the snaps. Oh… and a civil service “round rule”, just for its mystery.

    He hadn’t picked up a camera since my mum passed, but there were pictures from his adventures during WW2 from across the world. South Africa, India, Afghanistan, Ceylon, Burma… Apparently avoiding combat on each occasion.

    He did make one major mistake, when I was around 8 years old, he bought a super 8 and dumped his TLR, later he transposed this film onto VHS (and threw the film away!), of course, it turned into mush a few years later. I still have much of it on HDD, but it is hard to watch. Later, he discovered the Canon “Sureshot” and we have thousands of genuinely boring pictures of them being tourists, with friends that they met along the way… Who any of them are, I cannot fathom.

    Always good to keep organised Tim, but please don’t chuck snaps out, they are more valuable than you suggest.

    Oh and this might sound trite, but I have just celebrated (18th Dec) my twentieth year since I was told, that I was likely due for the early bath. Sometimes things have a way of turning out differently, indeed, it also marks the birth of my renewed interest in snapshottery.

    At risk of repeating myself…
    KBO.

    PS: I seem to remember that you maintained another site, was it Tumblr? I did look, but couldn’t quite remember. Instead a number of obscure French sites started falling out of the woodwork, with the usual excellent compositions.

    1. Leicaphila Post author

      Oh and this might sound trite, but I have just celebrated (18th Dec) my twentieth year since I was told, that I was likely due for the early bath. Sometimes things have a way of turning out differently, indeed, it also marks the birth of my renewed interest in snapshottery.

      That’s encouraging Stephen. Thanks for the thought…but I must warn you – any more Trumpery and you may get a temp ban from the site! [smiley face thing]

  4. Keith Laban

    “As for all the photos, God only knows. Bodies of work that include time lived in Paris and Amsterdam and NYC, extended visits to Oxford, Cuba, Morocco, Eastern Europe, Spain, Italy, Delta Mississippi, rural NC. A six week trip up the Yangtze River with a Leica M4 and a 35mm lens, passport stolen in the middle of Chinese nowhere (try traveling in China without a passport), sleeping in a Buddhist monastery overlooking the river west of Wuhan for a week, dinner in a Communist Party’s members-only Tiananmen Square restaurant exchanging cigarettes and tall tales with Chinese apparatchiks. All those photos will go in the trash once I’m gone. Why not?”

    Tim:

    My New Years wish would be to see permanent access to the above resource, personally chosen, curated, catalogued and in galleried form.

    No doubt we all have differing opinions on the topics discussed here – what would be the point if this were not so – but I doubt there’s much divergence of opinion concerning your images.

    1. Leicaphila Post author

      Thank you Keith for the kind words. I may curate and publish my best stuff. I need to find a decent place to host it. Any suggestions?

      1. Rob Campbell

        Surely the best way is via a website of your own?

        I never thought of mine in that sense when I started it, and if I had, I think it would look very different today. Sadly, I discovered a few weeks ago that even trying to put a different look to the existing one becomes a 24/24 job, and I lack the patience to see that through, not to mention staying with the boredom factor derived from looking at my own stuff too much.

        As Keith has suggested earlier, should he be the first to pop his clogs, he’d like his wife to keep his site alive for a while; I’d hope for the same from my kids, but I’m not altogether sure about suggesting it. However, as all they’d need do is keep the payments going, perhaps it’s not too much to ask. There would be no need to do anything with the pictures, best left as I’d have left them with the suggestion of a work in progress…

        It had, however, crossed my mind that if that Q2 Mono (I think I have returned to wanting one) came along, then it would provide a brand new departure for my website, where I could forget about reconditioning the old girl and just make a fresh section devoted to that one black/white camera. But the thing had better come soon: I like winter for snaps far more than I do summer.

        Saul’s non-commercial work didn’t get much recognition until very late in his life: I guess you could say that I’m leaving it later than Leiter. 🙂

        I’d never really given the idea of artistic legacy much of a thought; my interests have been far more practical, hoping to leave behind no bills or financial messes for others to clean up on my behalf. It’s been the driving force behind my desire to sell the property and free the kids from foreign (from their perspective) tax requirements and obligations. Even that step is governed by factors outwith my control… what with Covid etc. I can expect no visiting viewers, despite estate agency desires to cash in on their 5% – 6% commission. (It used to be far higher than that at one time, so thank goodness my problem exists today and not back then.)

        As for beautiful women still digging me: only if I still had calendars to cast. But I do like your positive sense of humour!

        Rob

  5. George Feucht

    I don’t know. I really like “Car Sick” and the rest of your simple, honest photos. Those that I’ve only seen fleetingly still echo in some way. The writing is great too: Both the philosophical as well as technical. The Monochrom to Tri-X comparison you did years back reinforced everything I felt deep down about the look of the Monochrom. I not only didn’t buy it, but I doubled down with another M6 (immediately before the prices skyrocketing).

    As for meaning, I’ve realized I have a lot of existentialism in me. If nothing really matters in the grand scheme of things, then do whatever interests you despite anyone caring or not about your China pictures after you’re gone. If you enjoyed making them, that’s all you need. Right now there’s some dead miserable fuck somewhere in the ground who made incredible things but didn’t enjoy the process. He or she is famous for what they made and collectors spend millions on the work. Does it matter to them? No. They’re dead. And they hated life when they were making it. I’d rather make things I enjoy than have my stuff appreciated after I’m dead.

    Beyond that, you need to beat cancer because we can’t take on Lord Thorston Von Overgard on our own.

    1. Stephen J

      Hi George, you wrote above, “I really like “Car Sick” and the rest of your simple, honest photos.”, do you have a copy of Car Sick, or are you referring to the various posts on the subject?

      I agree with your sentiments both regarding Tim’s unique style and the actual photographing process, the hunting is more important than winning the trophy.

  6. Bob Palmieri

    The daunting task of getting your body of work into curated and retrievable form is, I imagine, both hard to ignore and hard to face, like other things.

    Shooting is something we so often feel compelled to do, as can be the pursuit of bringing beautifully conceived and crafted instruments for shooting into our hands.

  7. Dan Newell

    I think we all philosophize a bit too much. If you have an eye you end up shooting because you cannot not shoot.
    As for the bucks…..way too much. At least I didn’t give it to my kids, they would have spent the money on devices that would have divorced them from reality even further. Therefore, I have fulfilled my parental responsibility. I will, today, engage in my parental responsibility even further as there is a lens I need.

    1. Rob Campbell

      ” If you have an eye you end up shooting because you cannot not shoot.”

      Which is exactly why some of us become pros. It isn’t always career choice based on logic or thoughts of earning a great living. Of course, that does not exclude those who become snappers because they failed at everything else; that they will possibly fail in photography too is but a further step along the way.

      That said, there are times when indeed you do not shoot even thought you want to shoot. Opportunity is a great factor; shooting for the sake of it is silly: one needs a genuine purpose beyond exercising the finger. For a while, early in this pandemic, I thought that I could get by and keep the devils at bay by shooting around the apartment. It didn’t work out, because I really need to feel excited enough by what I hope to find in order to sit at the computer and go though the actions. How long can you feel excited about a structure you’ve lived in for forty years, whose every ornament or trick of the light no longer thrills?

      Health dangers aside, this state of living under a pandemic is a terrible strain on enthusiasm. I used to derive quite a lot of pleasure simply from sitting in a bar/café having a coffee, reading the supplied newspapers and watching the people come and go, wrapped up in their own worlds. It’s fun watching the different ways that young guys try to charm their lady companions… and conversely, how few men of a certain age are ever seen with their wives at those same bars: those older groups tend to be totally male. Sometimes I’d shoot a picture, but mostly not. Out of context, many things mean nothing. As the late Frank Horvat claimed: “photography is the art of not pushing the button.” Currently, that must render me a truly great photographer!

      Rob

      1. Dan Newell

        No doubt it can get mundane these days especially if you don’t shoot still life’s. It’s even worse in some respects because there’s a stark reality to it all. It’s more of “an absence of” rather then the normal.
        But…I was struck the other day at the beach when a father had taken his two children to walk on the beach and the children were swept away and the father drowned trying to save them. It was obviously a dangerous surf but he really wanted those kids to have a beach walk as he had experienced during his normal life.
        I had my camera. I could have taken any number of shots but I didn’t. Still wrestling with that……

  8. Keith Laban

    A few weeks into the pandemic I accepted what normally occupies my time and creative drive wasn’t on the agenda. I needed another outlet and decided to start a new photographic project that was in some way – at least in my mind – connected to these dark times. That decision has kept me occupied and sane.

    What the hell else was I to do?

  9. Rob Campbell

    “an attempted Fascist coup by an insane American ‘President.” … Tim

    Watching the embarrassing news live today, beamed across the world, the spectacle of Russia’s, China’s Iran’s and North Korea’s dirty work being done for them by a departing president of the US.

    You’ve had 9/11; never forget the meaning for worldwide democracy that is Washington, 06/01/21: the moment that the US took on the cloak of the world’s largest and most dangerous banana republic. I feel so sorry for all Americans everywhere, that, after all the wars you thought you’d fought for democracy, it could come to this.

    Maybe we were better off in 2020.

      1. Leicaphila Post author

        Sartre on fascism: ” La bete immonde a plus d’un nom ” translated as ” The foul beast has more than one name “

    1. Dan Newell

      Not to worry. This will affect the stock market. Phone calls will be made.
      Sedition is bad for business.

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