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.

Hits: 9

21 thoughts on “Everything Must Go!

  1. Hank Beckmeyer

    Since we need to quote Vonnegut as of late…”so it goes.”

    Maybe Thorsten is giving up scientology for Buddhism? Shedding himself of earthly attachments?

    1. Eric de montigny

      Well actualy i saw an ad for a used overgaard lenshood so some peoples buy into this stuff.

  2. Stephen J

    Just before I read this, I was reading a popular Leica forum, it was just one of the several results from my “duckduckgo” search. I was looking to see what sort of price I might get if I ebayed my 50mm Summitar.

    It had all the joy that this piece has, to quote Vonnegut (again), the granfalloons that gather together to chew the fat, can be both informative and funny (in both ways).


    Still at least, there are some priceless comments and strident declarations, both traits that I am happy to be guilty of.

    I once went to a wedding at the home of scientology’s inventor… The man did well, before he was whisked off to Mars, or wherever it was that he went (and Vonnegut again).

    1. Rob Campbell

      Health Warning.

      These posts are getting dangerously close to sci-fi. It’s difficult to understand this fascination with old Leicas. With old Nikon reflex cameras, yes, I can see some sense there as long as you stop before the F3: battery dependency is not convenient. Jeez, you might as well be stuck in digital if you accept that!

      Slr cameras are simply far more usefully versatile, which is why they completely replaced most 135 format rangefinder cameras right across the pro world except for, you guessed it, Leica fans like Overgaard, not that anyone is calling him a pro, of course. It’s golf where handicaps are considered normal; not that I really know anything much about golf, mark you, except that I have no intentions of playing it. It’s sticks are as badly designed for their function as any rangefinder system… masochism isn’t my bag.

      🙂 🙂 🙂

      1. Jonathan Leavitt

        I remember those Nikon Fs and used them for years, always wondering why my photos were never as sharp as I expected them to be. At some point I had enough money to buy a Leica and I was shocked how much better the pictures were. They had things I’d never seen before, like sharp contrast along strongly backlit edges, and a degree of sharpness you could see even in a 5×7. I continued to use the Nikons (now autofocus) on business for their convenience. But now, when I tried the old F lenses on the M10, I see they are OK, but not nearly as good. Also I think there was always some degree of blur from mirror vibration. Anyway, I’m sure the current Nikon digital cameras are absolutely superb, but I’m not going back. They are enormous and make the photographer hard to ignore. When I use the Leica M10 people scarcely recognize it as a camera.

  3. Lee Rust

    Back some years ago when I was first thinking about getting a digital Leica, I happened upon Thorsten Overgaard’s very long series of blog posts and videos about his ecstatic experiences with the M9. He seemed sincere, and his accent was distinctive, so I followed along for quite a few months.

    After a while I decided that the M9 shutter sound was really annoying and the sensors were too flaky. About that same time Thorsten pivoted his full attention to the next generation Leica and proceeded to create another very long series of blog posts and videos about his ecstatic experiences with the M240.

    Eventually I figured out that Overgaard was really nothing more than an early example of a new breed of internet creature that we now categorize as “influencers”… a peculiar blend of free-form salesperson and shameless self-promoter. Later on… after Thorsten’s oddly glamorous young wife Joy Villa thrust herself into the Donald Trump campaign as a stalwart MAGA bimbo songbird and Trump invited the couple to the White House for an inaugural reception… I stopped paying attention.

    1. Dogman

      “Shills”. They’re called “shills”. “Influencer” is the newspeak.

      Vonnegut and Orwell. Wouldn’t you have loved being in the room if these two ever got together.

    2. Rob Campbell

      Lee, amongst much else, my last employer had both an M3 and a Nikon F. We used the M3 with a 21mm for room sets for BBC TV shows. It was the only usage it got, so the choice was ever there, and not a matter of lack of camera options…

      What I have repeatedly claimed is this: printing from all of the boss’ negatives, those shots from the M3 looked different to me. I can’t really identify the difference, but to me, as printer, I could see it in my results. Richer? That said, it simply wasn’t a versatile enough system to allow a wide range of use.

      Ernst Haas also used Leica, but he used the slr bodies a lot: long lenses. You simply can’t cover all the bases with a little rangefinder. If your work requires a system, it just can’t cut it well enough.

      Another chap who used Leica (with 21mm!) was Jeanloup Sieff. But he also used Nikon, Rolleiflex and Hasselblad for, I suppose, the same reasons I outlined above: we need more than one system if we seek to cover enough bases within our genre.

  4. Rob Campbell

    If Donald digs them, then they are dead.

    Do you think Donald is a photographer? Does he try to flog stuff on micro-sites, just in case the two day jobs collapse?


      1. Rob Campbell

        There are many such guys, including a few good photographers, Nick Knight being one of them. I only have an early Samsung, and using it to make a picture that ended up in my website also ended up costing me when a would-be client wanted that shot enlarged to grace the salon of his Sunseeker. It couldn’t be done.

        If there was a positive side to the sad tale, it’s that it proves yet again that content counts, but you better be sure you use a tool that allows you to do something with it!

        1. Rob Campbell

          Oops! In the interests of clarity and full disclosure: the boat wasn’t a Sunseeker, it was a Fairline. Anyway, the owner, not the skipper who had made the pitch to me, ended up in jail for financial shenanigans, and I suppose I’d never have seen payment anyway.

          Life on the shores of the Mediterranean.

          1. Ed

            The limit to a decent enlargement of a 135 mm negative or slide is 8×10 or optimistically 16×20 if a tripod was used. There are reasons photographers use larger format cameras.

  5. Rob Campbell

    That’s interesting, Ed. I was producing 40″x60″ black/white prints for fashion exhibitions with my Nikons F and F2; however, for the colour ones, we went onto Hasselblad.

    In the spirit of total disclosure: for those prints I had to sub the work out; my darkroom didn’t have troughs in which to roll-develop these big babies. However, I supplied a master print to which the printers had to work. They also mounted on boards for me, another service I was not equipped to perform at that size.

    I’m glad that neither I, my clients nor the printers suspected that we were limited to 8″x10″ prints!


    1. Rob Campbell

      You know, memory plays tricks.

      I’m in the slow, painful and fairly arduous process of redesigning my website. (Don’t bother – not much visible has happened to it yet.) As part of that redesign gig, I remembered that I had a couple of old real prints in a box that might be worth looking at for this purpose. So out I pulled them and it broke my friggin’ heart.

      There on the desk lay the few surviving fruit of the printing training that I’d received in the industrial photo unit where I spent six years prior to doing my own thing. There, at 15″ tall, is a headshot of my daughter made on FP3 or FP4 via a Nikon and a 3.5/135mm Nikkor. It’s quite amazing. Printed on a Durst through a Componon, the detail, tonality and slight granularity is astoundingingly beautiful. The other print, of the same size, is a double printing of a model against a white roll. It came from a Hasselblad 500C or 500C/M with an 80mm. Also a Durst and Componon print, both shots were produced on double-weight WSG Kodak papers, beautifully glazed, and not the crappy plastic stuff, which I despised. The Hassy, for black/white, was always loaded with TXP film and there is no visible grain. Only an inner glow.

      I have a few boxes of A+ digital prints, and seen through their polyester archival sleeves they look pretty good. But not remotely as good as the real deal. Frankly, I had forgotten just how huge is the difference in aesthetic appeal. The saddest part of this is that money no object, it would today be impossible to return to those same materials. I had no idea just how deeply I really felt the loss of all of those decades of experience and output, how useless they had all been rendered by digital, a wonderful but ultimately inferior medium.

      Babies; bathwaters.

  6. Jac

    hmmm I don’t know anything about Overgaard other than like the 5-10 youtube videos I’ve seen of his randomly and this blog post, but from all of that he seems pretty average, I didn’t take that he was a Scientologist or was a Trumpite, which is obviously less than unsavory. Obviously a Leica-lover, a photo techy who goes out and buys the shiny new one because he can, but those are so common with everything nowadays I don’t really count that against him. I mean if I could buy an new M10-P with a new lens like it was sandwich and a soda meal deal I’d be pretty jazzed about it all too.
    That being said I’d still watch one of his little videos if they popped up on recommended again, because they’re very to the point/short and do not have the yelling at the camera or the obnoxious edits almost every other youtuber under 40 over the last decade seems to be enamored with. Not to mention they are vaguely informative for the novice that I am.

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