10 October 2007

In praise of a camera

Anthony Lane wrote in praise of the M-series Leica cameras in a surprisingly interesting essay in the Sept. 24 issue of The New Yorker.

There have been Leicas since 1925, and as Lane points out early in his piece, the famous head shot of Che Guevara, the one reproduced on countless posters and tee-shirts over decades now, was taken on a Leica, as was the "celebrated smooch caught in Times Square on V-J Day, 1945" the photo in which a nurse gracefully bends in a half-circle while receiving a sailor's festive attentions.

You can read Lane's article here.


In the letters sections of the more recent TNY, the one dated Oct. 15, I see two letters that expand a bit on the Leica cult. One of them is from Frank Van Riper, a Washington-based commercial and documentary photographer himself, who writes that the great thing about his two M6 Leicas is that they don't look intimidating to the subjects. The great bugaboo of serious photography is that spontaneous moments like that kiss can't really be caught by the "typical photojournalist, bristling with ling lenses attached to S.L.R. bodies whose shutters and motor drives sound ominously gunlike."

I'm a lousy photographer, and take bad touristy shots, but listening in on the fervent discussions of almost any cult can be interesting. And in this case, the real issue is one of preserving and recovering the past.

(I was sufficiently captured by the exchange to look up what the initials S.L.R. mean. Single lens reflex. It's a camera in which the photography views the subject through a mirror. Sadly, I don't feel any wiser for having looked that up.)

No comments:

Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.