Go Back   Rangefinderforum.com > Cameras / Gear / Photography > Coffee With Mentors > Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

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!

 


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes

Drugstore or Darkroom?
Old 06-30-2015   #1
Bill Pierce
Registered User
 
Bill Pierce's Avatar
 
Bill Pierce is offline
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 1,172
Drugstore or Darkroom?

When film was king, if you sent your film to a drugstore, you accepted the print you got back. It was sort of the equivalent of the unaltered jpg. It preserved a lot of memories and made a lot of people happy.

But, as expensive as a good wet darkroom was, especially if you had a good enlarger with several lenses, that was the route many photographers chose even if they could turn their work over to a good commercial lab or, for editorial photographers, their publication’s darkroom. For many, photography meant both taking the picture and printing the picture. So many variations were possible in the print, the dark print, the high key print, the harsh print, the print that highlighted the important and subdued the unessential - but only one of those prints was a reflection of the way the photographer saw or felt about the subject.

Perhaps because we can see an acceptable image almost immediately after taking a digital picture, many folks accept that image as “their print.” Actually, I think of it as the camera’s print, and I don’t think you should take orders from your camera. Pretty soon it will start demanding a credit line.

The digital darkroom is a lot cheaper than the wet one. Everyone has a computer. Many folks already have printers that will do a good job with photos. And you don’t have to black out the windows in the spare room and lose it to all other purposes outside of darkroom. For me, not only taking the picture but printing the picture, whether it be the darkroom print, the inkjet print or just the image on a computer screen, go hand in hand. There are just too many important choices in both pushing the button and making MY print.

Your thoughts?
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-30-2015   #2
nikon_sam
Shooter of Film...
 
nikon_sam's Avatar
 
nikon_sam is offline
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Alta Loma, CA
Age: 59
Posts: 4,943
Before being able to develop my own film and prints I would have been happy with what the local Fotomat would return to us...
Later, I was okay with the prints I made but something was always not just right...later again I figured out what that was...I was still getting a cropped image...I was using a printing easel with predetermined print sizes...when using cameras with 100% view finders I would crop my image in the camera...when I started printing full frame images I was so much more satisfied with the outcome...
Maybe it all comes down to wanting full control over my image but I don't see that as a bad thing...I was there when the picture was taken, I know what the colors or tones were like and I know how I want it cropped...I don't want someone else doing this for me...besides I love the darkroom...
__________________
Sam
"tongue tied & twisted
just an earthbound misfit...I..."
pf
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-30-2015   #3
mfunnell
Shaken, so blurred
 
mfunnell's Avatar
 
mfunnell is offline
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Sydney, Australia
Posts: 2,460
One of the reasons I lost interest in photography for a good while was my inability to get decent prints of decent size at reasonable expense from my film shots. To get a decent larger-size colour print, cropped the way I wanted and printed with reasonable (to my eye) quality usually took multiple expensive iterations even from so-called professional labs. Black and white had it's own difficulties once I lost access to a darkroom. So I more-or-less gave up, beyond family and travel snaps, until digital came along.

...Mike
__________________
There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness." Dave Barry

My flickr photostream has day-to-day stuff and I've given up most everywhere else through lack of time or perhaps interest.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-30-2015   #4
Ko.Fe.
Kostya Fedot
 
Ko.Fe.'s Avatar
 
Ko.Fe. is online now
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: MiltON.ONtario
Posts: 7,284
I have no problem to get my digital images to be printed at Costco.
At any size and quality my files provides.
Honestly, having your own printer is expensive and waste of time.

Computers and printers which needs constant upgrade are cheaper what enlarger and the rest available for free and it has to be accrued only once?

Also I can't afford paper for printers, if it isn't Walmart crap. While darkroom paper is next to free where I'm.

Not to mention what fun in the darkroom is priceless.
I have basement with 10 feet long counter-top and sink.
It is next to my turntables and amplifier with speakers and all of it in the finished room. I have absolutely no needs for separate darkroom.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-30-2015   #5
CMur12
Registered User
 
CMur12 is offline
Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: Moses Lake, Washington, USA
Age: 67
Posts: 1,038
I got my first "serious" camera, a demo-model Yashica TL Super SLR, in 1972 when I was a student. My aspiration was B&W photography, but I didn't have access to a darkroom. I sent film to a local lab and the resulting prints were pretty good, all things considered, but I knew that I had very limited control over the final product.

That being the case, I decided to shoot positive/transparency/slide film as the only way to actually see what I had accomplished in-camera.

I'm still shooting film, though I'm now contemplating developing B&W negs at home and scanning them. I still tend to think of photography as an in-camera process, and when I contemplate going digital, I'm interested in in-camera functions, such as white-balance control and such. I much prefer doing it this way, at least in concept, to doing it in post-processing.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to work up any enthusiasm for processing photos on a computer.

- Murray
__________________
Still shooting film: Medium Format with assorted TLRs; 35mm with manual-focus Minolta SLRs and a Canonet.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-30-2015   #6
charjohncarter
Registered User
 
charjohncarter's Avatar
 
charjohncarter is offline
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Danville, CA, USA
Posts: 8,728
Sorry, there is nothing like a silver gel print (period)(even drugstore). But in the 21st Siglo; I see your point.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-30-2015   #7
Ranchu
-
 
Ranchu is offline
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 2,695
I get RA4 (?) machine prints from the same place that processes my film. I really don't like inkjet prints, and it's like throwing money down a hole they're so expensive.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-30-2015   #8
dasuess
Nikon Freak
 
dasuess's Avatar
 
dasuess is offline
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Age: 67
Posts: 506
I don't think I've had a drugstore print since the very early 1970's. Since then I've either done silver darkroom prints or, more recently, inkjet prints. No one can print my images better than I can.
__________________
"You can't count on others to think or see for you." David Vestal, The Craft of Photography

David A. Suess
Nikon Df: 24/f2.8, 28/f3.5, 35f/2, 43-86/f3.5, 55/f3.5 Micro, 85/f1.8, 105/f2.5, 180/f2.8, 200/f4, 300/f4.5
http://DavidSuessImages.com
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-30-2015   #9
Michael Markey
Registered User
 
Michael Markey's Avatar
 
Michael Markey is offline
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Blackpool ,England
Age: 68
Posts: 4,128
Had a darkroom for a number of years and I also used one at work.
Can`t say that I really cared for the process though.

Ilford now print my stuff and do a far better than I ever could.

There are a number of bespoke printing services in the UK.
  Reply With Quote

Old 06-30-2015   #10
thegman
Registered User
 
thegman is offline
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Australia
Age: 40
Posts: 3,819
I did a little development on my own, but quite frankly, my fingers don't have the delicate touch required to load a reel (4x5 was OK, but even then, I found it a pain), and my quick-to-anger constitution does not suit hunching over a sweaty changing bag.

I've always got good results from labs, never really had them mess up, and I'm probably liking more and more the idea of just sending off a film, getting prints, and that's that. If I've got scans, I might alter them a little, straighten a horizon maybe, tweak the colours, sharpen a little if required.
__________________
My Blog
  Reply With Quote

Old 07-01-2015   #11
RichL
Registered User
 
RichL is offline
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Portland Oregon
Posts: 435
I actually break it into two parts.

If I'm on a walk and see a "Kodak Photo Spot" (so to speak) I will tweak the print till it is as I want to remember it. When taking snapshops at say, a picnic, then it will stay as the lab prints it unless something is drastically wrong. The first example is a reproduction of a scene I want to see again while the second is simply a memory jogger of an event I want to remember.
__________________
ting
  Reply With Quote

Old 07-01-2015   #12
Michael Markey
Registered User
 
Michael Markey's Avatar
 
Michael Markey is offline
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Blackpool ,England
Age: 68
Posts: 4,128
Quote:
Originally Posted by thegman View Post
I did a little development on my own, but quite frankly, my fingers don't have the delicate touch required to load a reel (4x5 was OK, but even then, I found it a pain), and my quick-to-anger constitution does not suit hunching over a sweaty changing bag.

I've always got good results from labs, never really had them mess up, and I'm probably liking more and more the idea of just sending off a film, getting prints, and that's that. If I've got scans, I might alter them a little, straighten a horizon maybe, tweak the colours, sharpen a little if required.

Yep .... exactly the same for me.
  Reply With Quote

Old 07-01-2015   #13
John Bragg
Registered User
 
John Bragg's Avatar
 
John Bragg is offline
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Penwithick, Cornwall U.K.
Age: 58
Posts: 1,267
At the beginning of my photographic journey, I shot transparencies and enjoyed them. I then changed to Black and white and was soon developing and printing my own. These days, I have no room for a darkroom, but instead I develop and scan. I do yearn for a real darkroom again, but modern ways and technologies ensure that I can still shoot the film that I love and enjoy sharing the output. I do print inkjets as well and they are of amazingly good quality. This Hybrid workflow seems to be the best of both worlds and I can also use my beloved film cameras without having to worry.
  Reply With Quote

Old 07-01-2015   #14
jsrockit
Moderator
 
jsrockit's Avatar
 
jsrockit is offline
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Santiago, Chile
Age: 46
Posts: 19,873
When I used film, I used a proper darkroom and spent the time to make nice prints in B&W and color. With digital, it is the same... proper computer, software, and printer (and I spend the time processing each photo). And now I can get books self-published easy. Whatever it takes to get what you want from your photography.
  Reply With Quote

Old 07-01-2015   #15
bence8810
Registered User
 
bence8810's Avatar
 
bence8810 is offline
Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Age: 39
Posts: 754
I just got the taste of the darkroom work this January and since I am spending more and more time printing. Since I managed to turn a room into a hybrid darkroom, I spend about 7-10 hours a week under the red illumination. Having a blast!
Things go slow but to me there's nothing more satisfying then seeing a print come out of the fixer just the way I wanted it to be (which I must admit is rare)

But what's above said is true. Whatever works for an individual - as long as it's fun - it's all good.
I just seem to be having a high silver blood content and come alive in the dark.

Ben
__________________
IG
  Reply With Quote

Old 07-01-2015   #16
photomoof
Fischli & Weiss Sculpture
 
photomoof's Avatar
 
photomoof is offline
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 786
Never occurred to me to have prints made at a drugstore, that was something my mom did.


Now, I "never" print.
  Reply With Quote

Old 07-02-2015   #17
leicapixie
Registered User
 
leicapixie is offline
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Toronto.Canada
Posts: 1,598
I always develop my own BW films.
In the 60's as I began doing Professional work, i tried "Pro" labs.
The only films that have faded are those done at such labs..
Thankfully only a few rolls.
Color a totally different problem.
There was Kodak Processing in Johannesburg, South Africa.
It was good but "Kodak" would never mount extra frames..
You paid for 36, you got 36 mounted.
Their Ektachrome line a disaster.(for me).
A batch of 9 x120 rolls on a pro job were ruined.
Kodak only admitted one replacement roll, as compensation..
Kodak screwed other rolls but harder to prove..
Agfa was the worst.Prints faded to red, films looked like pre-war.

Pro labs were all pretty terrible until one lab opened.
I had a happy relationship with them.
Printing my BW became the norm.
Today I still do my own BW films.
I scan for internet but find the quality, the look, sickening.
I am about to restart my Wet Darkroom, for a few prints.
  Reply With Quote

Old 07-02-2015   #18
photomoof
Fischli & Weiss Sculpture
 
photomoof's Avatar
 
photomoof is offline
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 786
Quote:
Originally Posted by leicapixie View Post
I always develop my own BW films.
In the 60's as I began doing Professional work, i tried "Pro" labs.
The only films that have faded are those done at such labs..
I have had prints hanging under a 8x5 foot skylight for 15 years from Duggal in NYC, no sign of fading.

Which "pro" labs did you use? Sounds more like you were using consumer labs like those run by Kodak, for the general public?
  Reply With Quote

Old 07-02-2015   #19
robert blu
quiet photographer
 
robert blu's Avatar
 
robert blu is offline
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Italy
Age: 70
Posts: 5,826
I love inkjet printing my photos. Of course a few of them and after having post processed in LR or PS.
My post processing really imitates what I was doing in the darkroom many, too many years ago. A little bit more contrast here, dodging that area or burning this one. Not much, almost invisible but still perceptible.
I set a rule for myself: each time I go out with a camera, doesn't matter which one at least one photo has to be printed, larger or small. A printed pictures is a joy to discover when times flies...

robert
__________________
Remember: today is the Day !
from Ruth Bernhard recipe for a long and happy life

my quiet photographer's blog

My RFF photos and my albums on RFF
  Reply With Quote

Old 07-02-2015   #20
willie_901
Registered User
 
willie_901's Avatar
 
willie_901 is offline
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 5,304
To me, digital printing of high-quality photographs is extraordinarily difficult.

For color work, managing color technologies throughout the entire workflow is a daunting task.

The printers themselves are not only expensive, but just as with cameras, significant improvements in printing technologies present a similar upgrade challenges. Unlike digital cameras printer maintenance is important, annoying and tedious.

Printing supplies and media can be very expensive. Quality inks are more expensive on a per milliliter basis than high-cost perfumes. Monitor quality matters and high-quality monitors are expensive.

B&W printing is equally demanding and expensive but in different ways.

For these reasons I find it more economical in terms of total costs, my time usage, and significantly less frustrating to use professional printing labs. I'm fortunate to have a couple of great labs in my city. I have found using excellent labs on the internet.

I have yet to find a reasonably priced source for printing self-published B&W photography books.

Of course printing good enough photographs is less demanding and some of the above is not relevant.
__________________
Basically, I mean, ah—well, let’s say that for me anyway when a photograph is interesting, it’s interesting because of the kind of photographic problem it states—which has to do with the . . . contest between content and form.
Garry Winogrand
williamchuttonjr.com
  Reply With Quote

Old 07-02-2015   #21
photomoof
Fischli & Weiss Sculpture
 
photomoof's Avatar
 
photomoof is offline
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 786
Quote:
Originally Posted by willie_901 View Post

For color work, managing color technologies throughout the entire workflow is a daunting task.
I have a woman friend who did it, she invested an unreal amount of money and time into building a proper color darkroom. It is impressive the work she came up with.

But of course when she finally got a dealer she printing way too large for her darkroom, and went to a pro.
  Reply With Quote

Old 07-03-2015   #22
Martin Carone Santos
Registered User
 
Martin Carone Santos is offline
Join Date: May 2015
Location: São Paulo, Brazil
Age: 42
Posts: 50
I don't believe in color, so only B&W. And always make my own enlargements, in my own darkroom.
  Reply With Quote

Old 07-03-2015   #23
Oscuro
He's French, I'm Italian.
 
Oscuro's Avatar
 
Oscuro is offline
Join Date: May 2015
Location: North America, Europe
Posts: 281
Dear Bill,

With regard to the camera making choices....

The more time you spend with a digital camera (as with transparency film) the more you find that you drive it to where you want. An organic internalization occurs and you find the sweet spots. Bracketing the h3ll out of it helps when things are less obvious.

I always shot slide film. So no real post even with the limited choices available in the dye-transfer/C/M etc process.... Only no, no, no, yes, no, no, no.... Selection is the edit, not manipulation.

I think with digital there may be the phenomenon where people change cameras too fast, never really finding the sweet spots as they would have had they stuck with a camera and really learned, not just the obvious technical points, but how to really drive it to where it worked for them. Just like learning how to use slide film and have the colours sing without being mud or cartoonish.

Black and white digital? All bets off, señor. Better get your tools in order if you want a good B&W print from digital.
  Reply With Quote

Old 07-04-2015   #24
Ronald M
Registered User
 
Ronald M is offline
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,496
Two places near my home print as well as I and I am very good. One is $.27 per 4x5 and are 95% as good as the prolab that charges >$1.

I take care to give 27 cent house a file with good black point, good WB, good histogram. Then I ask he turn off image intelligence and he knows how to do it. Prints are on real photo paper. Machines base exposure on black point.

If you think you can print yourself cheaper, lots of luck.

Add that I have never seen but a few ink prints that were any good. They look like a picture in a book, not a luminous photo.
  Reply With Quote

Old 07-04-2015   #25
shadowfox
Darkroom printing lives
 
shadowfox's Avatar
 
shadowfox is offline
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 8,801
Can anyone recommend a digital printing service that allows me to choose from a choice of thick paper like Hahnemuhle Rag Baryta or Awagami Bamboo and the likes?

I understand it won't be cheap, but do they exist at all?
__________________
Have a good light,
Will


  Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 18:47.


vBulletin skin developed by: eXtremepixels
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.6.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

All content on this site is Copyright Protected and owned by its respective owner. You may link to content on this site but you may not reproduce any of it in whole or part without written consent from its owner.