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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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The Family Album
Old 11-21-2018   #1
Bill Pierce
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The Family Album

Sorry for the disappearing act. The California wildfires called for a quick evacuation. We’re back now, no damage done except ash on the lawn furniture. While I left a great many prints behind, I left with hard discs that held the great majority of my images with one exception - those albums and boxes of snapshots that represent several generations of family history. Aged albums and boxes of fading drugstore prints sit on a bookshelf. Time has not been kind to many of them which have begun to fade or suffer physical damage. I thought I should scan those detiorating images too as much to preserve them as add them to the “in case of fire” boxes.

You don’t need an expensive scanner to scan small prints that you won’t be enlarging or just viewing on a computer screen. Many folks already own economical flatbed scanners in their offices. Is it time to scan the family albums? Your thoughts and suggestions…
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Old 11-21-2018   #2
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Glad to hear you escaped the fires unharmed Bill. You're right, this is a timely reminder to digitally back up those old family albums.. and slides.

Let's not forget also, to digitise those old 16mm and 8mm home movies. I'm guilty of this, put off by the cost, but it would be tragic to lose them.
just give me good light and a roll of film
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Old 11-21-2018   #3
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I have scanned a few selected prints, but there's just too many... Every couple of years I get out the carton boxes and have a look see... hard to let go, but at least in our family I can't imagine any interest in the next generation... particularly if viewed as a digital image... the "value" is the physical print - old, faded, and falling apart at the edges.
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Old 11-21-2018   #4
Eric T
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This is something I need to do for the many photos and VHS videos taken of our kids when they were young in the 1990s.
My family and I lived through the great fire in Canberra, Australia in January, 2003. I was there on sabbatical at the Australian National visit.
My colleague in the office next door at ANU lost his house. He hosts a house cooling party the next week. We learned from this experience that the only things of real value you lose in such a fire are your photos and videos.
Smart of Bill to pack up his hard drive when he escaped.
Bill - we are all glad to here that you are well!
Eric Triplett in sunny Florida
These days I shoot mostly with Sony A7Riii, Sigma Quattro SD H, Panasonic G9, Panasonic GH-5.
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Old 11-21-2018   #5
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I am glad that you fine, Bill.
The problem with scanning many old family photos is that time flies, and by the time we manage to do the extensive scanning, we are much older, and then suddenly there are more important issues to take care of. Maybe I am seeing things as complex when they are easy to do?
- Raid

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Old 11-21-2018   #6
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So many of our fellow Californians have lost everything, I am glad you escaped unhurt and your home wasn't a casualty.

I am lucky in that most of my family pictures are slides. My father brought them over a few years ago to scan them on my Nikon Super Coolscan 5000ED with the batch slide feeder. Most are Kodachromes, so that means no digital ICE. I do have a 9000ED which has Digital ICE4 that works with Kodachromes, but it doesn't have a batch feeder and is very cumbersome.

For prints, have a look at the Epson FastFoto FF-640 scanner. It's come down in price because the newer FF-680W came out. It's also a document scanner, so not a unitasker and useful for general office stuff, not just scanning photos. The important thing is either model has the software and automation required to make the chore of scanning old photos much more productive.
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Old 11-21-2018   #7
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Glad you're safe Bill.

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Old 11-21-2018   #8
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Glad you and your family are OK.

When my folks passed away, I grabbed everything photo-related I could find. I have literally hundreds of 1915 through 1960’s negatives and transparencies that somebody in my family took. It took me the better part of a year, but I’ve scanned all of them. Of course I have the original hard copies too.

Of particular interest are the 100 year old 4x5 glass plate negatives my dad’s great uncle took, and the pics my dad took while stationed in the Pacific during WW2. Absolutely priceless.

Jim B.
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Old 11-21-2018   #9
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I scanned MIL family pictures. And we have some of them enlarged via inkjet printing.

If old bw negatives looks like scratched, they might not scan well. Then I run into this problem with family negatives from seventies, I printed them under enlarger and it was much better than scans.
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Old 11-21-2018   #10
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I bought a printer 10 days ago with the sole purpose to print out family photos.
- Raid

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