A Journal of Life Pursued

Posts Tagged ‘Leica’

Santa Fe

In Photography, Travel on March 2, 2013 at 6:00 am

A little closer to home this week, photos (of the artsy-fartsy type) from New Mexico.

Bruns019

Lamp, Santa Fe

BrunsTuesday015 B&W

Prairie Farm

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Plastic Jesus, Blue Sky

Door, Taos

Door, Taos

Farm Panorama

Farm Panorama

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A Nod to Ansel

These were shot with a Leica M8 digital rangefinder with a fixed-focal length 35mm Lux lens. At one point, doing a lot of projects, I owned two M8s. I’ve sold them both. My Leica MP (film) remains in my bag.

Thanks for stopping by.

Gentlemen of Baltimore, Wayne

In Life, Photography on June 21, 2012 at 6:00 am

Wayne, Age: 45

From the Gentlemen of Baltimore project, Wayne, age: 45

Wayne noticed my camera, a Leica. “Good camera,” he said. “Expensive. German made. I used to have a Yashika.” He told me he had taken a photography course, had take some shots at the Inner Harbor and hoped to sell them to a magazine. “But I’ve got no mailing address.” He told me he had mild mental illness. “I’m trying to get on my feet.” He had been on the street eight years, since losing his job. “Some people had something against me and got me fired.” He continued, “When I was a teenager I did stuff to take care of myself. You get tired of going to jail. When you get old enough to do right you’ve already got a record.” He had not had a shower in two weeks. “I don’t feel good about myself. I’m dirty.”

The nature of the thing itself.

In Creativity, Curiosity, Happiness, Photography, The Examined Life, The infinity of ideas, Truth, Wisdom on June 13, 2011 at 5:27 pm

I went to Maryland over the weekend for the marriage of a dear friend of the family. It was a wonderful opportunity to renew old friendships, catch up with people I care about and have a general good time. Late in the evening Duer sat down next to me. The last time I saw him was at my son’s wedding, over four years ago. Duer is a serious amateur photographer. Although the weekend’s bride and groom had hired a wedding photographer, Duer, the step-dad of the groom, was photographing as well, working with vigor and enthusiasm. By the time he sat down with me, the evening was well on and the Johnny Walker wisdom was running high, as Leonard Cohen says.

I had my trusty little Leica wrapped around my wrist, my camera bling of choice. I’d been, throughout the evening, hunting for intimate shots, hoping I might make a photograph that the hired-gun missed with his shoulder-breaking hardware. The last time Duer saw me, four years ago, I was holding the same camera, working in the same fashion. “Man,” he said, “you and your Lieca. It’s film, right?” I nodded. “Black and white, I suppose,” he said above the din. I nodded again, smiling. “Man, you have a passion. I admire that, a real passion.”

There’s passion, then there’s passion. There was an article in yesterday’s New York Times, Sports Section, called The Mets’ Bat Whisperer. Accompanying the piece is a picture of Carlos Beltran holding a bat to his ear. The caption reads: “When Mets’ Carlos Beltran receives a new box of bats, he likes to listen to them as he gently taps them. He divides them into game bats and batting-practice bats based on the pitch.” It is an understatement to say that Carlos Beltran has passion.

Steve Ballmer of Microsoft recently told the graduating class of the University of Southern California that passion is “the thing that you find in your life that you can care about, that you can cling to, that you can invest yourself in, heart, body and soul.” Ballmer was echoing Joseph Campbell and his famous admonition to “follow your passion.” But I fear Campbell’s sage advice has sadly lost some of its punch. Sometimes simple truths wear out in the usage. Ironically, they can get lost in the shuffle of things. But not always, and not for everybody. I interviewed a canoe maker a couple of years ago, Rollin Thurlow. He makes canoes by hand up in northern Maine. Rollin has passion, like Beltran has passion. Nothing is lost in the shuffle for these types of people. I aspire to that.

That to me feels like the core of it all; that passion is the pursuit of, as well as the practice of a discipline. That is what Duer was suggesting, I think. My camera is a tool, as the bat is to Beltran. I know it well and as a good tool will do, it responds to my need without complaint or effort on my part. Part of a passion, I sense, is the seamless nature it affords one–a pursuit without hinderance. Words for the writer, oils for the painter, ideas for the scientist and so on. Satisfyingly, I recognize in the pursuit of such efficient elegance as passion affords, the nature of the thing itself.

Phase of Authenticity

In Philosophy, Photography, The Examined Life, Truth on March 1, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Is it just me, or do other people feel less authentic than they used to? It’s probably just me. I’m not even sure what I mean when I say authentic, but I know it when I feel it. (Kind of like Supreme Court Justice Stewart in 1964, writing about hard-core porn: “I shall not today attempt further to define…[b]ut I know it when I see it.”) I can’t define it, but I know it when I feel it.

But I am famous, in family circles, that is, of going through phases*. Going through a phase is something I have done all my life in an effort to avoid the static. Really, who wants to be static. Static is roadkill.

I was at dinner last week, a progressive dinner for The Telling Room here in Portland. I had my photographer’s bling around my neck. That would be my Leica MP with a short stubby sexy 28mm lens. (Yes, I am a camera geek/dork…) And the gentleman next to me, of all things, was a pin-hole camera hobbyist. We started talking photographer’s talk, film and f-stops and all that stuff, when someone across the table sort of demeaned the craft, specifically the film-photography craft in the day and age of digital. I said that I was in a life-phase going somewhat analogue, as best I could. Shooting film was a start. Are you, she asked, smiling bedevilingly, ready to stand in a bank queue at 6pm on a Friday night? (Well, for starters, I don’t get a paycheck on Fridays, but I sensed where she was coming from.) Do you remember, she continued, the days before ATMs and computer banking, when the banks stayed open late on Fridays so you could deposit your paycheck? Yes, I lied. I remembered. That was analogue, she said. Touché. Okay, Uncle. I give up. Analogue does not equal authentic. But is it closer? Is listening to vinyl more authentic than listening to my iPod. That’s silly. But…

I sense that the further I get from my origin the less precisely I feel I am living. (A friend, Vernon Hines, once proclaimed, We can never escape our biography.) I’m not sure I can explain that in a manner that warrants serious consideration. It is, after all, an intensely personal comment. But of this I can be sure: There are ways to think about living that are more genuine than other ways and I want to experience them. Again, intensely personal. In general, for starters, it is not about stuff. Despite my bling, stuff turns on you, and ends up owning you before you know it. Aspiring to stuff is aspiring to bondage. Believe me, I know. (“Possessions are a way of turning money into problems,” Brian Eno.) Stuff is not authentic. Style is. (But not the way you think.) Stay tuned.

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*Phases: “Phase of Understanding” followed by “Phase of Existence (cogito ergo sum backward)” followed by “Phase of Being Present (my Zen phase)” followed by  current “Phase of Authenticity”

Not for the coffee table.

In Creativity, Photography on February 1, 2010 at 9:52 pm

A few weeks ago I ordered some photography books. Not for the coffee table. For the eye. They are:

Robert Doisneau, a Taschen “Icon” series book.

Bernard Plossu, So Long

and two monographs:

Edouard Boubat &

Lee Friedlander

Not a photography book, per se, but I also purchased Clive Scott’s Street Photography, From Atget to Cartier-Bresson. I have not read it yet, but it seems a bit pedantic. Stay tuned. I also reread David Hurn and Bill Jay’s fantastic book, On Being a Photographer. Every photographer should have this on the shelf.

When the books arrived, Carole remarked, “More photography books?” She commented on how big and heavy and thick they are. I said, “If I were a poet, the books I’d study would be small and slim. But I’m a photographer, not a poet.” (I’ve heard it argued, however, that all the artistic disciplines aspire to that of poetry. That seems correct.)

The one I to talk about, because it has been the most thought (eye?) provoking of the group is the Friedlander, properly the Peter Galassi MoMa’s retrospective exhibition book, 2005. Thought provoking because I never much cared for Friedlander’s work, to put it bluntly. Now, though, like so many things in life, I think I didn’t care for it because I didn’t understand it. Not that I “get” Friedlander. At least not everything. Much of his work is Hindemith to  Stravinsky, Pollock to Jasper Johns, if those references make any sense. (Ulysses to Finnegan’s Wake?) I know I don’t get the “landscape” work of the 90s. But here’s another reference that seems to make sense to me. If Cartier-Bresson is Dickens; and Robert Frank is Hemingway; then Friedlander is David Foster Wallace. If you’re not the music or literary type, what I’m trying to say is that Friedlander is an evolution of the discipline in a post-modern sense.

They say that there is nothing extraneous in a Friedlander photograph, which is saying a lot. His most successful work is thick and complex, and not easy. That is largely the late(r) stuff. It’s not as witty, and strikes me as more earnest. But what is to be said about anyone’s work over thirty or forty years? Just the consistency is inspiring.  What I started by saying, that there is nothing extraneous in his photographs, is startling to me–and freeing somehow. It’s as if the (apparent) randomness, at first glance, is to the contrary, order. What a way to look at life! Is that art? I think so.

A long way from home.

In Adventure, Travel, Writers on January 29, 2010 at 7:11 pm

Can there possibly be a greater American juxtaposition: Portland, Maine to Las Vegas, Nevada? But then Las Vegas (I feel weird calling it Vegas, we’re not that close) makes for a stark comparison to most any other place.

I had to go, yes, had to go, to Las Vegas to attend to some last-minute–and unexpected–business. This is my third time in that city. The first, I guess six or seven years ago, was particularly weird. My daughter Allie and I had been climbing in Joshua Tree, dirt-bagging it, tearing up our knuckles on those famous cracks, getting sunburned and thriving a pitch off the deck. Good stuff. Camp fire at night. Great stuff.

Carole and Jeff (I think Tim was in Michigan, at camp) flew out and met us in Sin City. Allie and I drove out of the desert, still dirty and thrilled at the great climbing, and into the evening glow of Las Vegas. As we pulled into town she looked at me like we’d just landed on a moon of Jupiter. Las Vegas is weird, she said.

In 1968 Joan Didion wrote Slouching Towards Bethlehem. In an essay called Marrying Absurd she wrote:

“Las Vegas is the most extreme and allegorical of American settlements, bizarre and beautiful in its venality and in its devotion to immediate gratification…”

That was a long time ago. But it still rings true. Las Vegas is an event seeking participants.

This time, a few years older and knowing what to expect, it is, well, still weird. There are some places that feel right. And some that don’t. There are, I think, more people to whom Las Vegas feels right than not. Not me. But I revel in contrariness. Coming to Maine was arriving at my destination. Every place else seems a little weird from home. Some places more than a little.