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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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A thought process in progress...
Old 04-06-2019   #1
Bill Pierce
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A thought process in progress...

In the last thread, Farlymac said, “You know, Bill, there is a awful lot of good camera gear out there that has just as good a reputation as Leica, so don’t feel bad about slumming around with a Voigtlander lens.”

This set me to thinking about the position that digital rangefinder cameras have today, at least for me. When I was a working stiff that traveled long distances with film Leicas, I had a lot of them - 3 around my neck, a couple of backups against theft or breakdown in the hotel safe and at least one out for a CLA (clean, lubricate, and adjust).

Today I have one that I use for family snaps and street photography. The relative simplicity of the controls (and the years I have been using them) let me concentrate on an active, changing subject, not the camera. Getting the focusing out of the way and watching for a somewhat decisive moment with a finder that lets me see what is happening outside the frame helps too.

But the small size, accurate focus with wide angle and normal focal lengths and outstanding image quality for the format size are now equalled by a number of equally mirrorless digitals which are more suited to the full range of lenses including long lenses and zooms, may have many more operating features and often have a lower price.

I am lucky. Selling old film Leicas raises money for a new digital Leica, And old lenses work on new bodies. But no question about it, I think the Leica is a specialty camera for pictures that are shot selectively, not in bursts, shot where focus is a set it and forget it operation, not something that you deal with constantly or continuously, shot with relatively normal lenses not extreme wide or long and most of all shot with a finder that does very little to preview the final image, but gives you a very clear and detailed look at what is in front of the camera. Fortunately for me, I love that kind of photography.

I have nine “professional” cameras that I use most often to take pictures for other people. Seven of them could easily do the same pictures for which I use a Leica. Technically the pictures would be just as good or even better. But the simplicity of the Leica and the lack of a huge range of menu and control options forces me to concentrate on the subject. I like that. Too bad simplicity costs so much more than complexity.

Your thoughts?
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