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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 01-02-2018   #41
Dogman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
...

All of this is possible with digital images. You can be more studied and selective before you press the button. While darkroom printing is a much slower process with far fewer distractions than ink jet printing in the office, you can slow down and slowly fine tune a print over several copies. And yet, MOST OF US DON'T. WHY???

....
When people talk about how different digital and film photography are and how they prefer one over the other, I'm a bit mystified. Maybe it's because I was never interested in digital manipulation or because I'm really a simpleton at heart and I don't know how to do a lot of the stuff others do digitally. But I really don't see that much difference in methodology.

Personally I approach shooting digitally the same as I did when I shot with film. And when I prepare a photograph for printing, I take the same care as when I worked in the dark. I don't do a lot of manipulation, never did. I'll dodge and burn and spot or bleach (clone/heal) some areas but nothing fancy. I don't use Photoshop, everything I need to do is in Lightroom. Just a few basic procedures. The process is pretty much the same but the steps are in different orders and, of course, the print is made in an Epson instead of in a big yellow Kodak tray.

The computer is my enlarger, the monitor is my easel and the printer is my set of trays.
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Old 01-02-2018   #42
newsgrunt
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Originally Posted by davidnewtonguitars View Post
...A car to have fun with? Vintage (ancient) slow, high maintenance, leaky, rusty in spots, stinky, beautiful, desired by everyone who sees me go by.
I'm guessing you have a Westfalia (aka affectionately as Wasserleaker)
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Old 01-02-2018   #43
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Originally Posted by rolfe View Post
With respect to a number of postings above, the best darkroom tool I have added in the past decade is the RH Designs Analyzer Pro. It has pretty much eliminated test strips, and for a reasonable negative, I can often hit it on the first print.

http://www.rhdesigns.co.uk/darkroom/...lyser_pro.html

Rolfe
Good point!

I see how can advances in technology would make a huge difference.
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Old 01-02-2018   #44
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Originally Posted by rolfe View Post
With respect to a number of postings above, the best darkroom tool I have added in the past decade is the RH Designs Analyzer Pro. It has pretty much eliminated test strips, and for a reasonable negative, I can often hit it on the first print.

http://www.rhdesigns.co.uk/darkroom/...lyser_pro.html

Rolfe
Agree 100% , best bit of film kit I've bought. It's made a massive difference to my ability to get into the darkroom. A medical condition limits how long I manage. The analyser allows me to be productive with only a few hours in th darkroom.
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Old 01-02-2018   #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
All of this is possible with digital images. You can be more studied and selective before you press the button. While darkroom printing is a much slower process with far fewer distractions than ink jet printing in the office, you can slow down and slowly fine tune a print over several copies. And yet, MOST OF US DON'T. WHY???
A lack of discipline?
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Old 01-02-2018   #46
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I find digital to be a much better learning tool, as it allows me to experiment more widely than I was able to do with a few rolls of 36 exposures.
I agree with this... even though I originally learned with film.
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Old 01-02-2018   #47
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My commercial work is all digital--anything I do for clients is either going straight to a website or will need to be digital to be printed on paper. For myself, I shoot film in vintage Contax III or IIIa bodies with various Zeiss and Nikon lenses. While digital is great in many ways, I grew up with film and the controls of the ancient RF Contaxes fit my hands and feel logical to me. DSLRs and their menus just aren't the same.
I don't have my own darkroom set up now but I do have access to a good darkroom at the community college where I teach a course or two each semester, so I still wet print from time to time and still enjoy it. To my eye there is still a difference between conventional darkroom prints and inkjet prints, and as good as inkjet prints have become, for B&W prints I still prefer the darkroom product. Does film guarantee better results? Probably not, since the photographer has always been the limiting factor and always will be.
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Old 01-02-2018   #48
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From PetaPixel:

The 20 Most Expensive Photos Sold at Auction (As of 2017)

"The overwhelming majority of these photographs were created via analog cameras, suggesting that film photography is considered far more valuable than digital. "

https://petapixel.com/2017/12/21/20-...-auction-2017/


.
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Old 01-02-2018   #49
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Originally Posted by PKR View Post
From PetaPixel:

The 20 Most Expensive Photos Sold at Auction (As of 2017)

"The overwhelming majority of these photographs were created via analog cameras, suggesting that film photography is considered far more valuable than digital. "

https://petapixel.com/2017/12/21/20-...-auction-2017/


.


PKR do not take this as any criticism of you, its not but on side bar issue, is anyone else with me in thinking that the vast majority of these "most expensive" photos are uninteresting, trivial and tedious? One or two have artistic merit. One or two have historical interest. The rest seem to be made by tried hards generating product for the art market. Their "mystique" is wholly lost on me apart from the fact that they are expensive. (There is always a mystique in money - especially when you do not have it. :^) )
Gursky's photos are especially lost on me. It is no surprise that the photos that appeal to me most are ones like the Steichen which was made in 1904. Modern art and especially post modern art has truly run out of ideas and seems only to run on $. But I suppose in a post modern world it is "revisionist", "reactionary" and "regressive" to think that art should have actual artistic merit. Far more important that it be socially "relevant". And of course even more important that it will bring in big bucks because its creator is a "name".
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Old 01-02-2018   #50
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Originally Posted by peterm1 View Post

PKR do not take this as any criticism of you, its not but on side bar issue, is anyone else with me in thinking that the vast majority of these "most expensive" photos are uninteresting, trivial and tedious? One or two have artistic merit. One or two have historical interest. The rest seem to be made by tried hards generating product for the art market. Their "mystique" is wholly lost on me apart from the fact that they are expensive. (There is always a mystique in money - especially when you do not have it. :^) )
Gursky's photos are especially lost on me. It is no surprise that the photos that appeal to me most are ones like the Steichen which was made in 1904. Modern art and especially post modern art has truly run out of ideas and seems only to run on $. But I suppose in a post modern world it is "revisionist", "reactionary" and "regressive" to think that art should have actual artistic merit. Far more important that it be socially "relevant". And of course even more important that it will bring in big bucks because its creator is a "name".
It's trickle down, as I see it. I make my non work photos on film but, print pigment. They would command more money - to a wider market, if I was again silver printing (or could make dye transfers). It's a trend in photo collecting that I see, regardless of style, or the photographers fame.

Curators and gallery owners hold analogue silver images in a high regard,(over anything digital) that was my point. It seems to not be "time of creation" dependent, from what I see.
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Old 01-02-2018   #51
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It's trickle down, as I see it. I make my non work photos on film but, print pigment. They would command more money to a wider market if I was again silver printing, or could make dye transfers. It's a trend in photo collecting that I see, regardless of style, or the photographers fame.

Curators and gallery owners hold analogue silver images in a high regard,(over anything digital) that was my point. It seems to not be, "time of creation" dependent, from what I see.
As I said my comment was no criticism of you or our point of view or work. But looking at almost all of the photos in the PetaPixel article I was unimpressed by those works by those photographers. No matter how much they sold for. Basically almost none of them moved me or stood out as enduring works. They tended to look contrived, posed. Photos for the sake of the art market. And this applies whether they are made in film or by digital means. You may be right - film images sell better than digital. My point was that either way what is important is the artistic value of the images not the medium.. cheers.
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Old 01-02-2018   #52
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As I said my comment was no criticism of you or our point of view or work. But looking at almost all of the photos in the PetaPixel article I was unimpressed by those works by those photographers. No matter how much they sold for. Basically almost none of them moved me or stood out as enduring works. They tended to look contrived, posed. Photos for the sake of the art market. And this applies whether they are made in film or by digital means. You may be right - film images sell better than digital. My point was that either way what is important is the artistic value of the images not the medium.. cheers.
I understand that you don't care for the imagery, that's selling for big money. The Düsseldorf School has produced several very collectable artists. It's just what's happening, like it or not. Many of these collectors and gallery owners know much more about a photo's value than I do. There is a whole lot of art that's held in great value that, I wouldn't cross the street to view. But, that doesn't change the work's value or change the market.

I was told a while back, my photos weren't selling because for the cost of a few of them a Picasso drawing could be bought in a depressed market. So it goes.. I make my personal photos for me. If I can cover my costs of materials and travel, I'm happy. Anything beyond that is great. If I don't sell any work, it won't keep me from making photos that I enjoy making.
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Old 01-02-2018   #53
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I agree with this... even though I originally learned with film.
Me too. 1970 to around 2004 was film only. Many, many hours in B&W and color darkrooms. But then marriage, family, and digital all happened at about the same time. There were a few years transitioning from film to digital, but its been 100% digital for the past 8 years or so (with the exception of a few sheets of 4x5 film run through the Speed Graphic).
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Old 01-02-2018   #54
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For me film is much more fun. The photos on film do not look as sterile as digital photographs. Take for example the work of Junku Nishimura.

Leica M2, Summicron 50mm f/2 rigid, TMY2-400.

Erik.

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Old 01-02-2018   #55
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I follow him on Flickr. I don't think he does it on film scans. Scans are as sterile as any digital file is.

Leica M-E, Nokton-M 50 1.5 aspherical, digital negative print:
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Old 01-02-2018   #56
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I'm guessing you have a Westfalia (aka affectionately as Wasserleaker)
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Old 01-04-2018   #57
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I shot film in high school and the learning curve was steep, and without resources gave it up for many years.

Got into sports and wedding a decade ago. Digital and technology has a place but after a half million images I hated photography.

Gave it up.

Occasionally take a college darkroom class. Enjoy being around youth, chemicals, and printing.

Will build a small darkroom in my house in a few months.

If not photography, then etching.

The failed artist in me enjoys the frustration and accomplishment of my meager printing skills.

Yes, I know time is money. However, film is cheap for the amateur by many metrics.

Whether it be 4x5, medium format, or 35mm there is professional equipment lying around un-used waiting to challenge anyone game enough to tackle the mystery.

I keep a Nikon D200 around for ebay, and have a smart phone and a iPod strictly for digital with a bunch of wiz bang apps. It all fits in my pocket and is an extreme challenge in itself. In fact, I will probably sell the remaining digital gear and stick with the phone/pod for ebay. Gotta love technology.

The Mamiya RB67 "kit" was a joyous beast and cost less than $350. Leica more expensive but even better. No need for ASPH glass, when older equipment was what I wanted and could never afford but is now in reach.
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