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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

"Never ever confuse sharp with good, or you will end up shaving with an ice cream cone and licking a razor blade."  

 

Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Old 10-24-2007   #41
3js
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Wet forever. Show me one 100 years old ink jet print, and I´ll show you a liar. Sorry, but they really just want to sell those printers to you... Wake up.
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Old 10-25-2007   #42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3js
Wet forever. Show me one 100 years old ink jet print, and I´ll show you a liar. Sorry, but they really just want to sell those printers to you... Wake up.
Sorry, I have to disagree with that. Obviously there are no 100 year old ink jets, yet. But there will be. And, sadly, there will be silver prints that fall apart before that. Long lasting silver depends on proper fixing, proper washing, perhaps toning and more washing, proper drying and proper storage. You have only to work for a news organization to see plenty of prints that don't meet that criterion turn brown, lose highlight detail and suffer from the ailments of old age fairly early in their short lives.

Ink jet prints need the right paper, the right inks, degassing, perhaps coating and the proper storage and display conditions. I've followed Henry Wilhelm's work from the time he was a civil rights photographer, a producer of film and print washers, a researcher, author and consultant on the storage and display of still film and moving images and then printed digital images. Although I was offended to see a rather snippy remark about Henry in these forums, I think paying attention to his work will allow a number of digital photographers to leave an archive of long lasting work behind them. Those who print in black-and-white may have prints with a projected life two to three times greater than the predicted life of similar prints made with color inks.

And when we come to conventional, chemically processed color, Crystal Archive is unique in coming in with a life, by Wilhelm standards, of 100 years. Most other color materials fall below that. The right ink jet print can become the leader, doing better than the chemically processed papers.

Bill
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Old 10-25-2007   #43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce
And when we come to conventional, chemically processed color, Crystal Archive is unique in coming in with a life, by Wilhelm standards, of 100 years. Most other color materials fall below that. The right ink jet print can become the leader, doing better than the chemically processed papers.

Bill
??? Kodak Eudura Paper has a archival life of 100 year. 200 in dark storage. That is the current c-print paper being used.
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Old 10-25-2007   #44
Bill Pierce
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Finder
??? Kodak Eudura Paper has a archival life of 100 year. 200 in dark storage. That is the current c-print paper being used.
Those are Kodak's figures from their tests. You should see the figures they released for the older C paper, which was no archivist's favorite.

Here's an article that goes into more detail. You'll find other material on the web. Many of the manufacturers have submitted materials to Wilhelm and accept their relative standing in his published test results. Kodak uses different standards for their test procedures and comes up with different figures.

http://www.wilhelm-research.com/koda...estMethods.pdf

Bill
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Old 10-25-2007   #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce
Those are Kodak's figures from their tests. You should see the figures they released for the older C paper, which was no archivist's favorite.

Here's an article that goes into more detail. You'll find other material on the web. Many of the manufacturers have submitted materials to Wilhelm and accept their relative standing in his published test results. Kodak uses different standards for their test procedures and comes up with different figures.

http://www.wilhelm-research.com/koda...estMethods.pdf

Bill
Old inkjet inks and papers don't do very well just like old c-print material. Dye transfer was great. I have 20-year-old color Polaroids that are vivid. But that old c-print paper, like Dye-Transfer, is not around and so rather a moot point in terms of printing today.

Yup, and different test methodologies produce different results. As Wilhelm Research points out there are a lot of factors in the life of a print. So my Kodak print can last 200 years in dark storage or fade in five years on the dashboard of my car. So can an inkjet. I don't happen to stick my color prints on my fridge, which seems to be a condition Wilelm Research thinks is a viable option so maybe their numbers don't reflect my prints (no pun intended). But that is the nature of test and why the testing method is transparent (there again, no pun...).

So where does this leave us - nowhere or everywhere. Prints can last a long time if printed on an injet or with chemistry. How long they last depends on how they are treated. There is no reason to suppose that chemical technology will stop while inkjet technology alone will advance.
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Old 10-25-2007   #46
Bill Pierce
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Agreed. My feeling is that inkjet will advance relatively quickly, just because it's at the beginning of its run. Silver will advance more slowly simply because its been around a long time.

Bill
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Old 10-25-2007   #47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce
Agreed. My feeling is that inkjet will advance relatively quickly, just because it's at the beginning of its run. Silver will advance more slowly simply because its been around a long time.

Bill
Possibly. Ink and dye technologies have been advancing together for a long time. Inkjet was not made in a vaccuum as it is founded on older technologies. It is hard to predict where technology will go or how far it can develop. The fact that any of it works is amazing to me. Certainly there is more effort and money being poured into Inkjet, but that may disappear if another technology proves easier and cheaper - archival quality is not the most important factor in consumer products as dye transfer has shown.

I don't think I could sway folks away from c-printing today. I do a lot of large-format inkjets. The quality is very nice. But it is not the same as an optical print. That is not saying one is better than the other, but I feel the process adds to the result. While that is not what most ever see consciously, I do believe there is a very subtle subconscious affect.
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Old 11-04-2007   #48
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I'm wet. Totally.

To clarify that, I have to say I no longer do photography for a living. If I had to depend on photography to put dinner on the table again, my photography would be dry.

But, I don't have to depend on photography for my daily bread. I can do it however I please. I started out shooting black and white and printing in the bathroom and I've come full circle. The difference these days is that I now have better quality equipment in the bathroom than I did in the beginning.

Not that I have anything against digital. Except for the insipid overmanipulated photos posted all over the internet, that is. I think digital can be an expedient way to do high quality commercial photography and photojournalism. I just haven't warmed up to it as a routine way for me to take and make pictures.

One of the first things I did when I bought a computer several years ago was to buy a film scanner and a decent quality inkjet printer. For a couple of years, that was all I used. But I got bored with it and decided to go back to shooting only black and white and doing it the wet way. I few months ago, I bought a DSLR. Unfortunately, I'm not getting much use out of it. The whole process seems insubstantial to me. If I find a subject worthy of a picture, I'd rather shoot it on film. I like the tactile quality of negatives. I like looking on the shelf and seeing those boxes of negatives with labels on them instead of turning on the computer and locating a file. This afternoon I souped 11 rolls of HP5+ and FP4+. I liked it. I used to consider the processing of film to be the most boring part of photography. Now I actually like doing it. I don't get the same feeling of accomplishment when I plug a CF card into the card reader and click an icon with the mouse.
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Old 01-10-2008   #49
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For other folks, I shoot digital and do inkjet. I'm switching to dye sub. It's like shooting color neg used to be. But more fun.

For me, I shoot film, and make fiber prints.

Time in the darkroom has a Liturgical function for me,
and without it, I can't shoot anything. Digital-for-work
puts me on the same side of the problem as my clients,
and THAT is a great relief.


The hybrid thing is new, and fills an ambition that I couldn't touch before.
35mm TX makes a cool palladium print, so does a little jpg file.

This is a lot of fun.
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Old 01-18-2008   #50
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I'm staying wet. I know it, I understand it, I seem to burn and dodge and pick contrast filters without concious thought after doing it since 1961. Learning a whole new medium at this point makes little sense to me when there's such an ongoing rapid change in hardware with digital. My Omega B-22XL with a 50mm El Nikkor and 80mm Componon still function just fine. Best of all it's paid for, and has paid for itself God only knows how many times over. "If it ain't broke don't fix it!"
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Old 01-18-2008   #51
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Both. Dry sometimes because there are often kids to mind and the computer bears both intrusions and breaks, wet because I much, much prefer it. Compared to my relatively simple inkjetprinter I get far better results, and it's more -what's the word- meditative, I guess...
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Old 01-18-2008   #52
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Well, I have a space for mine now. Just gotta get it started. So Im in between right now.
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Old 01-18-2008   #53
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How did I miss this thread???

Wet printing for me...watching the photo develop in the trays is the best part of Doing it Yourself...holding the final print...a good fiber based photo after it's been toned is a thing of beauty...and then giving that photo to the one it was intended for...
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Old 01-18-2008   #54
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wet printing!
unique, beautiful (if well done) especially lith prints
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Old 01-18-2008   #55
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I prefer the quality of well made silver prints and enjoy the process as well as long as I have a nice place to work. However I have spent the last year working on a hybrid process and I am impressed with the results. However the process does not begin to compare with the darkroom.
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Old 01-18-2008   #56
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Sopping wet.

I like the silver halide look, it's cheap, and it's faster since I'm not as tempted to try to make silk purses out of sows' ears.

Color is another matter: I shoot E6 and let someone else do the prints.
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Old 01-22-2008   #57
Bill Pierce
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris101
I have spent the last year working on a hybrid process and I am impressed with the results. However the process does not begin to compare with the darkroom.
Chris -

Could you elaborate on the "hybrid?" Is it scanning film and printing digitally? This seems to be getting quite popular.

Bill
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Old 01-22-2008   #58
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Professionally I work exclusively with digital tools. All my work is for publication, the Web, or for exhibit panels handled by designers. Because of this I have never really explored inkjet printing.

I maintain a wet darkroom at home for my personal work that for the past 15 years has been a simple TX, D-76, Dektol 1:3, fiber paper process. I used the same basic materials whether I was working with a view camera or the Leica. I abandoned testing and experimentation because all it ever did was create self doubt and lower output.

Working in the darkroom is a practice that energizes me once I start. It's quiet and slow, something that helps me shed some of the noise and chaos of daily life. It works much the same way on my spirit as riding my Vespa scooter does instead of commuting in my Ford Ranger truck.
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