Tag Archives: Thorsten Overgaard

Thorsten Veblen Explains Why Your Leica Takes Much Better Pictures Than Your Nikon…And Helps You Pick Up Beautiful Women

Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) was a famous Norwegian-American economist and critic of capitalism. In his best-known book, The Theory of the Leisure Class, Veblen coined the concepts of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure. He argued that wasting money on pointless possessions was hard-wired into us as a species. According to Veblen, high cost is the major factor in what we consider desirable and beautiful and those purposely engaged in wasting money on such high cost items are ultimately sending signals about their desirability by signaling they have the excess means to live wastefully. It is not, and never has been, about reasonable calculation and cost/benefit analysis.

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Suppose, says Veblen, two similar cameras, one “handmade” by a German brand known for its luxury items, the other mass produced to exacting specs from high-grade materials by a highly regarded Japanese maker. As visual objects, its merely a matter of aesthetic preference – some like one, some like the other. Objective analysis (e.g. sensor ratings, pixel peeping etc) proves that they work identically and produce identical results. Yet people will pay $7999 for the handmade camera, while paying $2400 for the mass-produced one. And interestingly enough, with time general opinion will morph into the conclusion that the expensive camera, the handmade German one, actually produces better results (see “the Leica Glow”), small but important things incapable of complete articulation but there none the less.

Now, suppose we examine the “handmade” camera and find that its signs of being handmade are somewhat of a stretch, only the last few screws of the top-plate being applied by hand; and we also learn that it’s not manufactured in Germany but through a third party camera maker in Japan. None of this was divulged to the buyer given the top-plate was actually screwed onto the camera at Wetzlar before it was put into the box. Immediately, according to Veblen, this camera’s value should decline in level, much closer now to that of the second camera even while the photos it produces – the raison d’etre of the camera – remain the exact same.

Per Veblen, this is because our sense of quality “is in great measure a gratification of our sense of costliness” i.e. hand-made in Germany by luxury goods purveyor equals costliness equals desirability; then, via sleight of hand, ‘better’ invariably becomes substituted for desirability.

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Veblen’s ideas have profound aesthetic implications. His insights have been explained away by many contemporary commentators as being about capitalism and the distortions it imposes on our tastes and aesthetic values. Dennis Dutton, in his fascinating book The Art Instinct, argues that these commentators are wrong. Dutton, citing Darwin’s work on ‘sexual selection’ (a corollary of “Natural Selection”) claims that the equation of costliness=better is hardwired into us as a species, arising as it does from the intrinsic connection we make with wealth and social status and better evolutionary fitness. Extrapolate such inherent biases to inanimate objects and you get the phenomenon of luxury goods. In other words, humans who engage in conspicuous waste – Porches, $10,000 Gucci handbags, Lenny Kravitz Leicas – are sending out signals about their inherent evolutionary fitness, i.e. “Look at me! Why mate with the loser with the Nikon D90 and when can have me, the Guy with the uber-expensive Leica with Noctilux!”

This is why hucksters like [von] Overgaard invariably marry their false claims of competence with ostentatious shows of wealth. This is why he hangs out with pseudo-designer meatballs who claim to make bespoke do-dads for the beautiful people. This explains the pathetic claims to royalty and the marriage to a woman who calls herself a Princess. This explains the supposed travel to exotic places accompanied by his designer leather bags. These are all not-so-subtle dog-whistles used to subconsciously subvert your critical faculties and to support his otherwise specious claims to being an important, high-status person to whom one should listen. Engage in this thought experiment: what if [von] Overgaard used a Nikon , claimed extensive knowledge about Nikons, but drove a Volvo and dressed like a solidly middle class Dane? No claims to royalty, no marriage to a Princess, no supposed elbow-rubbing with the rich and quasi-famous. Just a guy who loves Nikons and knows all about them and wants to impart his knowledge to you, Joe Nikon, to “help you achieve your photographic vision.” Would that work?

Deconstructing The Illusion

I’ve got to hand it to some of the self-promoters who’ve hitched their wagon to Leica. They are, in the proper sense of the word, ‘parasites’ i.e.

  1. An organism that lives and feeds on or in an organism of a different species; and/or
  2. One who lives off and flatters the rich; a sycophant.

Since starting this blog in 2013 I’ve gradually become (a very minor) part of the secondary Leica media machine, which has made me aware of others involved in the same thing. I suppose that makes me a parasite too, except that I don’t monetize the blog. I’ve probably spent over $10,000 in the last 9 years to keep this up and running without ads. I did add a “Buy Me a Coffee” thing to the site, for which I won’t apologize, because you are totally free not to buy me a coffee, and 99.9% of you freeloaders don’t (thank you to the .01% who do). You, dear reader, get it for nothing. Think of me as a benevolent parasite.

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Recovered From the Way Back Machine: Back in 2014 He Was a Photo Journalist, Apparently. Most of it is Bullshit.

Let’s do a deep-dive on Mr. Thorsten [von] Overgaard, the gentleman above with the film wrapped around his face, the “Specialist in Reportage.” [von] Overgaard is, in my opinion, the premiere Leica parasite in the strict sense of that term. The picture itself is instructive. It implies that [von] Overgaard has a long history as a photographer who cut his teeth professionally in the film era (i.e. before 2000). Certainly that’s what I take from it and I think that’s what it means to do. The truth is he doesn’t have any photographic history stretching back to the film era. If my understanding is correct, he didn’t even begin to photograph until about that time. Prior to that he worked in the advertising industry and had no connection to photography of any sort. Apparently, at that time he became a Scientologist and had an epiphany that he could be a photographer, or at least that’s what I remember of a blog post from his early days that has since disappeared from the web (or, as I discuss subsequently, has been buried so deep it’s pretty much impossible to now find).

The film photo is what people in the ad business refer to as ‘puffery’, exaggerated claims used in the service of publicity. No overt claim need be made; it’s there to subtly plant the seed in your mind – Overgaard/film – this guy has competence that goes back to the film era, and era intimately intertwined with Leica history BTW.

It’s one small misrepresentation in a much larger history of misrepresenting much about himself, his history using Leica cameras, and his connection to Leica. He’s massively inflated – and sometimes outright made up – his background and career accomplishments. It’s a shame, because he does publish good information about Leica’s. And there’s a lot of it. It’s just that it’s in the service of all sorts of workshops, books, videos, correspondence courses, print sales that all rely on him being perceived as an expert, seasoned professional photographer. He’s not. He’s what the dictionary defines as a “huckster” i.e. one who uses aggressive, showy, and sometimes devious methods to promote or sell a product, most of it puffery and/or downright duplicity with an eye to selling $800 books and $5000 workshops to Leica owners.

What’s the proof, you ask? As someone trained as an attorney who spent 32 years deconstructing evidence given me by the opposing side, I’ve gotten pretty good at finding confabulations i.e. falsities, lies. Deviousness and confabulations are easy to uncover if you know the tells. Overgaard’s website is chock full of tells. Man, there’s a lot to unpack here, to put it mildly. So let’s go:

According to his self-written bio “Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish born multiple award-winning AP photographer, known for his writings about photography and Leica cameras.”

Claim 1. AP, Getty Image, Wire Image Photographer. Apparently Overgaard is or has been an AP Photographer. He does not, and never has “worked for Getty Images and Wire Image.” AP members are newspapers, broadcast stations and individuals that do their own original news reporting. Once you are a member, the AP has the right to take the local news you report and rewrite it for use elsewhere. While he apparently is a member of the AP, he’s not very prolific, to put it mildly. Run his name under the AP individual photographer search and you come up with 6 photos of Seal sitting on a bench and 6 photos of Kelly Preston…and I found 1 photo of Hans Blix on his website that he’s given the AP designation (why he would need an AP designation for his own work on his own site is a mystery). That’s the extent of his 20 year AP career. I can find no evidence that any of these 12 photos has been subsequently circulated by AP. There is no evidence he’s been commissioned to do any AP work. Ever. There’s no evidence that he’s been paid for work through the Associated Press. There are no photo credits on any site, or in any magazine that I can find, citing him as the AP photographer. None. As best I can tell, he’s never been to a war zone to report with his camera, never done a human interest story sold through AP, never covered a news event of any sort that was subsequently distributed nationally or internationally by AP. And there’s certainly no evidence that he’s a “multiple-award winning AP Photographer”; that claim is patently false, period. As for “Working for Getty Images and Wire Image”, complete fabrication. Getty Images is simply a stock photo agency. One does not “work for Getty Images.”Likewise, WireImage. Using his criteria, you too can work for WireImage – just submit a photo of your cat. Verdict: False.

Getty and Wire Image Search 11/22. Oops! I love the fact that 5 of the 7 Images he’s submitted to WireImage are of him. The 2 Denmark Royals are at a Public Event. Clearly, Getty and WireImage Aren’t Paying [von] Overgaard’s Rent

Tsunami Reportage? More Flim Flam

Claim 2. Awards? Nothing. No mention anywhere, on 3rd party sites or his own, of any specific award he’s received for his photography work. Certainly nothing for his work as “an AP photographer” (which is the implication). None. There is a screen shot from the APA “American Photographic Artists” claiming one of his photos won an award there in 2017. Entirely plausible…but frankly, not very impressive. The APA is a vanity organization. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can join and be a member. Just pay the fee ($350 if you want to be labeled a “Professional”) and you get a membership card and a “Pro Media ID card”., which, according to their website “is specifically designed to help expedite quick check-in service at airports, as well as to facilitate the pro media discount on excess baggage, available through many airlines.” Seriously. And, of course, they offer “photo contests”, (i.e. money making devices for the sponsor) where they charge people to enter a photo in a contest and some lucky guy or gal gets to claim they won and put it on their CV. Verdict: False.

Claim 3. Known for his writings .Yes, he is known for his writing about photography and Leica cameras… but that’s been built on the claim of his long, distinguished history as a famous photographer, a claim which is a complete fabrication. In his defense, he is a decent writer and he knows a lot about Leica’s and how to use them. Much of what he writes, stripped of the self-promotion, is valuable information that less-experienced Leica users can learn from. Verdict: True with a caveat.

Claim 4. Claims to have “thousands” of images for sale through Getty Images Etc. [First, see above] When you click the website link where he makes such claims you get nothing but a recursive loop runaround to a site called “PSI Photography Services Inc” (supposedly located with main office in Hollywood (No Address or phone number given) and a “studio office” in Clearwater, Florida (No address or phone number given)) which bills itself as “a full-service agency for photographers” but yet claims to represent only one client – you guessed it, Thorsten [von] Overgaard (see above). The site has no photos nor a link to any photos. There is no ability to view [von] Overgaard’s photographs or order his photographs. It is a complete dead end. It gives no physical address or even a phone number. The “Inc.” of course, indicates that it’s an incorporated business entity in CA (or maybe Florida). A quick check of incorporated business entities through the Secretary of State’s office in both CA and FL finds no such corporation. It’s a complete fabrication. It doesn’t exist.

Where ARE All these Images? Apparently, You’ll need a Forensic Computer Specialist to Find Them

Further digging unearthed this above. He claims to previously have shot for Life, AP, Getty Etc but “pulled his archive” from them in 2013 and moved them to PSI. Let’s parse this out. First, The idea that he shot for Life is simply ridiculous. Life folded in 2000; by his own admission elsewhere, he hadn’t even started photographing yet and was working at a Danish ad agency, and even if he had been around, Life wouldn’t have looked twice at an inexperienced hack like him. Second, claiming you pulled them all from these various archives is a convenient way of hiding the fact that you’ve never had any there to begin with, because it can’t be confirmed. Third, There’s nothing at PSI where these vast archives are supposed to have been moved. Nothing. PSI itself is a fabrication. PSI doesn’t exist except as a webpage buried behind a bunch of hyperlinks. There is no physical PSI location anywhere, though he claims it to be “located in Hollywood”. None of these “thousands of images” can be accessed anywhere I’ve been able to locate, which, if you’re a professional photographer partly subsisting on the sale of your images, isn’t a very good thing. I guess you have to contact PSI and talk to their “Director of Sales”. Good luck finding them. Verdict: False, coupled with serious deviousness to hide the fact from the public.

“By 2006 he was concentrating more on photography, specialising [sic] in more portrait work for international magazines and eventually for actresses and celebrities such as Seal, Kelly Preston, Anne Archer and for Bill Clinton and members of the Danish Royal Family.”

Claim 5. Photographed Bill Clinton: [von] Overgaard claims to have photographed Bill Clinton. Well, he has, in the sense that he stood outside somewhere with a bunch of other people and grabbed a snapshot of him as he got out of his car. If you do a deep dive on him with Google (“Thorsten Overgaard Bill Clinton”), you’ll find a few photos of Clinton getting out of a car amongst a throng of people (Thorsten just another member of the general public standing in a big crowd taking a photo) and one B&W photo, an informal shot of Clinton in the Oval Office – a photo he misleadingly uses on his website – that was taken by Robert McNeely. That’s it. Claiming you’ve photographed Clinton as part of your bio is like me claiming I’m friends with King Charles because I shook his hand once. Verdict: False.

Claim 6. He photographed Seal: Yes. Six informal photos of him sitting outdoors. That’s it. No studio sessions. Verdict: Puffery.

Claim 7 And Kelly Preston: B Grade celebrity and Scientologist. Six really banal photos of her, apparently in a studio. [von] Overgaard is a Scientologist. Verdict: Minor puffery.

Claim 8. And Ann Archer: B Grade celebrity and Scientologist. He photographed her while she was was presenting 50,000£ to charities on behalf of the L. Ron Hubbard Foundation, amongst them the East Grinstead Museum where [von] Overgaard shot a few quick “portraits” of her. He’s posted these to his website with a big article about how he photographed her. I’ll let you be the judge of his work. Verdict: Large puffery.

Claim 9. Portrait Work for International Magazines: His bio claims he has shot for Vanity Fair, GQ, Vogue and the Times (https://www.overgaard.com/about) in addition to the Life claims I’ve noted above. I can find no evidence for any of these claims. There’s nothing on his site to back up said claims. Run a search for “Overgaard Vogue” and you come up with lots of hits – all for Anders Overgaard, who is a legit fashion photographer. For Thorsten, Nothing. “Overgaard GQ”? More Anders Overgaard. Thorsten: Nothing. Vanity Fair? Well, you get where I’m going…. Any other legitimate “international magazines”? None that I can find. Verdict: False.

Claim 10. Royalty. [von] Overgaard claims royal lineage by virtue of the “von Overgaard” name change. This is a complete affectation. A few a years ago he gratuitously added the “von” to his name, apparently to claim some sort of noble lineage when in fact he comes from humble lower middle class roots in Denmark. This mirrors his wife, Joy Villa, another Scientologist who bills herself as “Princess Joy Villa” when in fact she’s a HS graduate from Orange California, although in her latest bio she’s dropped the Princess claim and now claims to be a famous recording star. She and [von] Overgaard are no longer married, apparently. Verdict: Royalty? False.

Claim 11. Has Photographed Members of the Danish Royal Family. Yes, he has. Verdict: True.

Claim 12. Has Photographed for Life Magazine. Oh boy. [major eye roll] Hilarity ensues. Verdict: No. Full Stop.

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I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but I find the Google search result above very suspicious. Do a search on [von] Overgaard and, after two or three pages of links to his website and a bunch of self-written bios, you get this. And you get literally pages and pages of it, again and again and again and again, ad nauseum. Click on it and you get a link to a nonsense PDF that you can’t access without membership. Now, a few years back, had you done the same Google search, after 3 or 4 pages of self-promotion you’d have found a number of interesting articles about [von] Overgaard – one a long-ago bio post he had written himself when he not yet a photographer and was working for an ad agency. A lot of what he said then flatly contradicts the history he’s since spun about himself. You’d also have found a post by a former friend – apparently a photographer who helped him gain membership to AP – calling him out for all his false claims about his backstory and labelling him a liar. These things don’t come up anymore, because they’re buried behind endless pages of this site above.

More egregiously, his name is linked there to Humans of New York as if that was his blog or that he has something to do with it. It isn’t. He doesn’t. He’s got nothing to do with it. Started in November 2010 by photographer Brandon StantonHumans of New York developed a large following through social media. Stanton’s book based on the blog subsequently spent almost a year on the New York Times Bestseller list. The closest [von] Overgaard ever got to that blog is that he probably read it once or twice. Another laughably cheap, duplicitous attempt at appropriating other people’s work, purposely done to deceive (it takes time and effort to create a link that shows up so many times in a Google search. Somebody who knew what they were doing created that link).

I’m convinced someone has created and placed that PDF site and tagged it in such a way that it comes up again and again in order to bury sites critical of [von] Overgaard or that contradict his current backstory while also insinuating that he has some connection to the Humans of New York project. To put it mildly, it’s just low, patently dishonest and a grave disservice to Mr. Stanton and all the great work he’s done on his blog. [von] Overgaard should be ashamed. He owes Mr. Stanton an apology if nothing else.

Which brings a larger question: Why isn’t the mainstream photo press calling him out for all this? You’d think that at least one of them would do some basic fact checking. 30 minutes and a few clicks of the mouse and you’d be aware of some serious issues.

UPDATE: I owe La Vida Leica an apology. They actually called [von] Overgaard out way back in 2014. Well done.

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Thorsten [von] Overgaard Obsessing Over Aesthetics

“Obsessed with the aesthetics of the world, Overgaard has been blessed with an innate ability to paint with the light he sees.” More word salad. I do understand the need ‘to sell oneself.’ I get that’s what he’s doing, mixed in as it is with a lot of downright fabrications. And, it’s not like there isn’t a veritable cottage industry of famous people who’ve invented backstories. The ‘Art World’ is full of them. [von] Overgaard is selling a dream to people dreaming the same dream – it’s the dream of exclusivity, access and specialized knowledge. So what if it’s all an illusion. There’s always going to be people happy to partake of the illusion. Thorsten [von] Overgaard is just giving them what they want, right? Unfortunately, the dream he’s selling is fabricated, parasitical of the hard work of legitimate photographers who’ve used a Leica and all the associations that come along with it.

Surely, a Prolific Famous Award Winning Photo Journalist Like [von] Overgaard has a Book or Two of his Collected Work on Amazon, Right?

And, as I said previously, I do think that he is doing some good things. His site has a ton of information about Leica’s; he’s obviously put a lot of work into it. People who take his workshops say he’s a nice guy and that they’ve enjoyed the experience. Fair enough. I give him credit for all this. I just wish he’d stop with all the puffery. Is he, or has he ever been, a photographer seriously embedded in day to day photography practice either as a freelance photographer, a staff photographer, or a gallery represented ‘Art Photographer’ or the author of industry published and recognized photo books? No. Does he have any significant ‘body of work’ that singles him out as an accomplished photographer either from an artistic or popular perspective? No. Does he have a gallery that represents his interests, exhibits his body of work and offers it for sale? No. As best I can tell, he is not, and never has been, represented by a gallery anywhere, let alone one in the usual centers of artistic practice – NYC, Paris, Berlin, LA. Again, as best I can tell, the only gallery shows he’s ever had have been self-generated vanity projects where the artist rents the space and throws a party to himself. As best I can tell, there are no extant reviews of his work by any recognized, independent photography or art critic associated with any independent publication or website, ever. He doesn’t even appear to have, or have ever had, a studio where he practices his “portrait work.” His own website doesn’t seem to have a gallery of his best “portrait work.” The only thing his For Sale Gallery page offers is 7 photographs, one of a horse, one of a girl sitting by a window, one of a guy in a snowstorm. You get the idea.

Has he offered a site – ignoring the self-generated puffery – with a lot of good, practical information about Leica’s? Yes. That should be good enough. Hell, without all the puffery and self-aggrandizement I’d be a fan. Starting from basically nothing in 2000, he’s taught himself a lot about Leica, and he’s used his website, among other things, to impart that knowledge to the public. That’s impressive. I admire him for it. It’s all the other things I’ve noted here where he loses me; they’re the product of a calculated deviousness that most people with a conscience can’t pull off with a straight face. [von] Overgaard, meanwhile, seems to have doubled down on it all.

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Do a Standard Industry Search for “Photo by Thorsten Overgaard.” That should uncover all those industry credits for his remarkable work, right? This is what you get – Nothing but links to his website. I especially like the photo of him dressed up as Shakespeare…or is that Francis Bacon?

Here’s what [von] Overgaard should do: He should scrub his website of all the false, misleading information. He should scrub all the false links. He doesn’t even have to acknowledge any of it; no mea culpa’s necessary. He’s now been given a means of saving face. Just bill himself as an educator, someone who knows everything about Leica, their history, their cameras; he DOES know a lot. Invite real photographers – folks with recognized experience and expertise to talk at his seminars. Given how much he’s invested in the whole thing, it should be easy enough.

The business model he’s currently operating under is fraudulent. People are spending good money for his books, seminars, etc based on fraudulent claims. Someday, somewhere, an enterprising attorney is going to file a class action lawsuit against him for fraud. Plaintiffs will be those people who spent money on his courses, books, video presentations based on the expectation that they were going to receive instruction from someone who actually had the experience and past success he claims to have. In other words, they were induced to spend money based on patently false claims and the claimant knew they were false and made them for the purpose of inducing the public to buy what he’s offering. As part of the class action suit, serve him with interrogatories requesting proof of each of his claims. Sit him down and depose him under oath. Someone could have a field day with this. Just a thought.

Elements for Fraudulent Inducement in Florida:
Defendant made a false statement regarding a material fact;
Defendant knew or should have known the representation was false;
Defendant intended that the representation induce plaintiff to act on it; and
Plaintiff suffered damages in justifiable reliance on the representation.

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My bio, [von] Overgaard style:

“Award-winning photographer, photojournalist and gallery represented Abstract Expressionist painter whose photos and paintings hang in private collections both in the States and in Europe. His photos have been published in B&W Magazine and Vis A Vis Paris and exhibited at SPEOS Gallery in Paris and Sizl gallery in Carrboro, North Carolina. He has been gallery represented both for his photography and his painting by Sizl until their untimely closure in 2008. In 2006 his paintings and photographs were exhibited in a 2 man show along with award-winning Macedonian painter Robert Cvetkovski at Sizl. His photography permanently graced the walls of the iconic Crooks Corner Restaurant, an eatery whose recent closing literally made the front page of the New York Times. He is friends with King Charles and has dined with numerous celebrities, including Susan Sarandon and James Spader. He has sat at table with Susan Sontag in Paris and discussed her iconic book On Photography. He has shared a room with Henri Cartier-Bresson. He has travelled to numerous countries on 4 continents photographing in his unique, muscular B&W style. He has bumped into many famous people while engaged in ‘street photography’ in Paris and on the Lower East Side and Soho in NYC, but is sophisticated enough to leave them be. His photographic education includes study at The New School in NYC, The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, and SPEOS Paris, where he studied under Cartier-Bresson’s Master Printer George Fevre. Being a man of great integrity, he has consistently rejected commercializing his work, as such standing in the tradition of uncompromising artists like Robert Frank. He has also earned graduate degrees in religion/law/history from Duke University and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was a matriculated graduate student at Harvard (consistently ranked as the world’s finest University) until he was stricken with cancer. He is noted for his trenchant writing on his influential award-winning Leicaphilia blog. Photographing seriously since he was 12, he has been blessed with an innate ability to photograph with light he sees. In 2005, he brought that innate sense to his remarkable large canvas paintings. He always wears a camera.”

See how that works?

Everything Must Go!

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.

More Flim-Flam From Thorsten von Overgaard

Thorsten Overgaard and his Elephant Skin Camera Bag with Cashmere Lining. Perfect for your Sultan of Brunei Leica While Photographing Danish Royalty.

Luxury Camera Bags and Luxury Bespoke Suitcases for World Travelers
by Thorsten von Overgaard

You want the ideal product that fulfills all of your needs, made to make you happy every time you touch it, and made to last forever

Thorsten von Overgaard travel [sic] to more than 25 countires a year and live [sic] his life in a suitcase. Every bag is put to maximum use.

Thorsten von Overgaard and Matteo Perin joined forces to design luxury travel bags for people who appreciate the best and demands durability for a lifetime.


Thorsten von Overgaard [he’s added the “von” recently – “von” traditionally denoting aristocracy***] has transitioned into the luxury camera bag business. Apparently, when Goyard in Paris wouldn’t fix Thorsten’s Goyard Aplin backpack, damaged while travelling to his Royal Mongolian yurt, Overgaard decided to make his own bags. To do so, he sought “the best artisans […] using best possible materials, based on many years of experience, resulting in a product that could last for generations.” The end result is him “joining forces” with some fellow Scientologist meatball named Matteo Perin to produce crocodile and elephant skin bags. Who he’s partnered with to shoot the elephants to skin for the bespoke bags is not clear. Perin claims he “makes trunks, blankets and all the luxury items you can think of, for private airplanes, villas, cars and yachts.” Right.

It’s always been obvious to me that “von Overgaard” is a transparent huckster, a confidence man preying on  gullible low-hanging fruit, spinning some bullshit narrative about luxury and beautiful people and world travels and Leica, this just being further proof that a sucker is born every minute and some of those suckers will end up buying a Leica and taking a street shooter’s seminar with  “von Overgaard.”


*** Overgaard, who for some reason started referring to himself as “von Overgaard” a year or so ago, took up photography in 2005. Before that he worked in a lumber mill [true]. He seems to have no real gallery or publishing or photographic industry presence other than self-promoted fluff pieces hyped by a marketing agency and some self-published books. A deep dive into the footnotes of his scantily sourced Wiki is hilarious. Here’s some more interesting info on Mr. Overgaard.
Overgaard is married to fellow Scientologist “Princess Joy Villa.” The Princess was born in Orange, California, to the Rev. Joseph Villa, of Italian descent, and Mildred Angela Pierce Villa, of Afro-American and Native American blood. She attended Lompoc Public High School, no University education noted.  According to her Wikipedia page she is an “actress and producer,” “her acting career mostly consists of minor, un-credited appearances on television. These roles include an umbrella-wielding carny in a “Heroes” Season 4 episode.”  As for her claim to be a “producer,” no production experience is referenced. On October 27, 2017, apparently unfamiliar with the residency requirements for elected office, Villa announced that she was considering running for US Congress as a Republican in either Florida, California, or New York.   Her Wikipedia page contains no further update on her political ambitions since that time, nor any further “minor, un-credited” acting gigs, with or without umbrella.

Matteo Perin has been doing bespoke luxury for millionaires and celebrities for years.” [Sure he has.] Apparently, in between hobnobbing with all those aristocrats nobody bothered to teach Monsieur Perin to keep his feet off the Florentine ebony table. Obviously “New Money.” 

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Perin, presumably, modelling a croc duffle bag which apparently has no room for the M4. Someone needs to tell this guy to tie his shoes.

The Leicaphilia Guide to Leica-Related Websites

My thoroughly idiosyncratic, subjective opinion of various Leica-related websites, in no particular order. Take it for what it is…and sorry for offending anyone.

APUG: A-
Hardcore film users. Emphasis on “hard core.” Need to know developing times for some weird Hungarian film pushed to 6400 ISO and developed in Diafine? Someone here is bound to know. Bury your head in its archives for an extended period and you’ll learn everything you need to know about film photography.

Japan Camera Hunter: B+
Camera porn.

Erwin Puts: B
The perfect site for Leica techno geeks. Putts is obviously a bright, knowledgeable man who loves his Leicas and knows a ton about them. Reading the site, however, is about as interesting as reading the manual that comes along with your Canon Rebel.

Leicaphilia. C+
A weird melange of Leica history, facts, social criticism, self-righteous luddite indignation and ostentatious philosophical meandering. The functional equivalent of a reasonably intelligent college student blog, by turns entertaining and thoughtful, often paranoid, repetitive and stupid. Still can’t figure out who runs it, however.

Summilux.net. A-
The French Leica forum. I love the French and highly recommend the laconic and often world weary skepticism of almost everything here. Got to be able to read French though, which disqualifies 99.9% of American readership.

RFF: D+
Ahh, Rangefinder Forum. Unabashedly dedicated to over-the-top gear fetishism (“what three Leica bodies and six lenses should I take on my bus tour of Khazakstan?”; or “I’m wondering what gives better bokeh for pictures of my cat? The Elmarit 2.5 ASPH or the third version Cron?”). To be fair, It does have some decent people and technical info to offer, (Bill Pierce and Tom Abrahamssen are treasures, as is Sonnar guru Brian Sweeney, who seems to know everything ) but it too often devolves into the virtual equivalent of old guys meeting at McDonalds to discuss their grandkids. If you must go there, tread lightly, don’t suggest anything remotely thought-provoking or counter “common sense” (this place just oozes bourgeois insecurity) and, whatever you do, don’t challenge the self-appointed forum guru, an easily identified forum “mentor” whose idea of “mentoring” is to compulsively hector, in his most pretentious Queen’s English, anyone with the nerve to express an original opinion not first thoroughly vetted by him.

LUF: B+
RFF without the annoying and often sadly ridiculous RFF Moderators, and thus significantly lighter on the herd mentality and conformist passive-aggression toward independent thinking.

Steve Huff: C-
Likes to take pictures of his wife.
He is what he is. I admire his enthusiasm, and you gotta give him credit for finding and exploiting his niche, which he has done in an impressive manner, although his critical faculties leave something to be desired. Typical new gear review: “its the best camera ever! I’ve fallen in love with photography all over again! ….”. Rinse and repeat.

Ken Rockwell: D+
See Steve Huff. Rise and repeat except delete the wife photos and add some really cliched cheesy photography I’d be embarrassed to turn into an “Intro to Photography” course given at the local community college.

Thorsten Overgaard: C
Scientology meets Leica mania, or the Leica world’s particular version of “alternative facts.” There’s something weirdly fascinating about the site, as if it were an infomercial written by a Leica engineered Bot. I always feel slightly dirty after going there, like I need a shower.

Dante Stella B+
Mr. Stella is obviously a bright, well-informed man, and he’s an excellent writer. There’s a lot of good film era information here. Unfortunately, the website is hopelessly outdated.

Cameraquest: B+
Would get an A for all the useful info, except the website design itself has all the sexiness of the AOL era. My bet is he’s still using dial-up. The proprietor apparently is a licensed dealer of Voigtlander products (good on him), although from looking at his website, you’d assume he’s probably selling them out of the trunk of his Ford Taurus.

La Vida Leica: D-
Unofficial propaganda arm of Leica Inc., sort of the Fox News of Leica Nation. Leica “News and Rumors” for those who’ve drunk the Leica digital Kool Aid. Think “Shutterbug” magazine with nothing but Leica 24/7.