Leica 35mm Film Cameras And The People Who Use Them

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In 1970, as a 12 year old child, I fell in love with photography. That’s me at 12, in my parent’s bathroom mirror with my “Black Paint” Argus/Cosina SLR, already dreaming of my first Leica.

In 1977 I purchased my first Leica M camera, a new M5 bought from Cambridge Camera in New York City. Since that time, at one time or another I’ve owned and used every model of the Leica M.

Many of the 20th Century’s iconic images were taken with simple mechanical Leicas loaded with Black & White film, photographs by the likes of Andre Kertesz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Leni Riefenstahl, Robert Frank, Rene Burri,  Josef Koudelka, Garry Winogrand,  and Sebastião Salgado.

Ancient by today’s technological standards, Leica film rangefinders embody a timeless ethos wherein function and simplicity are guiding principles. A “simple” mechanical Leica film camera will never be cheap, because it’s been designed and built to last a lifetime.

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That’s me, above, at age 57. In the half century between the first and last pictures, I’ve used Leicas to document my life and the lives of the people around me, easily 300,000 negatives or more. And Yes, I still shoot film almost exclusively. Digital capture is amazing, but in a way, it’s too easy, and too much of my use of it devolved into overproduction and overthinking, killing the spontaneity inherent in pleasurable use.  I still use that first Leica, my M5, almost 40 years after I purchased it. I feel an allegiance to it – it’s an old friend. I know it and it knows me very well.  It’s simple, and it stays out of the way. When I’m gone, I plan to pass it on to someone I hope will appreciate and respect it the way I do. Try that with your digital camera.

I am a graduate of The New School in New York City, SPEOS Paris, and The Center For Documentary Studies at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. You can see my personal work at http://deadmetaphors.tumblr.com/

Unless otherwise noted, all content is written by me.