24 September 2007


A friend points me to a recent article in The New Yorker about Leica, king of camera brands.

To non-photographers, Leica, more than any other manufacturer, is a legend with a hint of scam: suckers paying through the nose for a name, in a doomed attempt to crank up the credibility of a picture they were going to take anyway, just as weekend golfers splash out on a Callaway Big Bertha in a bid to convince themselves that, with a little more whippiness in their shaft, they will swell into Tiger Woods. To unrepentant aesthetes, on the other hand, there is something demeaning in the idea of Leica. Talent will out, they say, whatever the tools that lie to hand, and in a sense they are right: Woods would destroy us with a single rusty five-iron found at the back of a garage, and Cartier-Bresson could have picked up a Box Brownie and dmore with a roll of film—summoning his usual miracles of poise and surprise—than the rest of us would manage with a lifetime of Leicas. Yet the man himself was quite clear on the matter:
I have never abandoned the Leica, anything different that I have tried has always brought me back to it. I am not saying this is the case for others. But as far as I am concerned it is the camera. It literally constitutes the optical extension of my eye.
Asked how he thought of the Leica, Cartier-Bresson said that it felt like “a big warm kiss, like a shot from a revolver, and like the psychoanalyst’s couch.” At this point, five thousand dollars begins to look like a bargain.

There's something irresistably satisfying about the Crafty Little Lump of Metal: the Leica camera, the Curta calculator, the Zippo lighter, the M1911 pistol, the Leatherman tool ...

1 comment:

d a r k c h i l d e said...

As the holder of both a photography degree and a camera, I make no bones that the brand I prefer is a Nikon. Still, I've not indulged myself to anything grander than an old F5 and a CoolPix digital. I may want a Nikon digital SLR...but there are still things I find needful in the digital Nikon product range and I'm unwilling to shell out the bux for something good old film does better.

As for Leica. If someone willed me one, I'd certainly use it with glee, but until my photos fetch over $1500 a pop, it's out of my budget and the ROI on the camera is unbalanced.

I know, I know. I'll be to object of scorn by my MFA-wielding, Zone-clinging cohorts. That's okay. I'll sing old Adam and the Ants songs to them: "I don't follow fashion...'cuz that would be a joke."

To quote my most beloved photo professor EVER...the man who made me change my major TO photography, Mr. Kevin Jerome Everson; "If you can't take a good photo using an oatmeal box pinhole...no fancy-pants brand will help you."

May the Gods bless you Mr. Everson...all of them.