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Tuesday, January 31, 2006


My Camera History, Part Deux

Leica IIIc
After college, I came back to Batimore, where I got my first engineering job, and where I lived for four years, until 1975.

On a day trip to NYC in late summer of 1973, I bought a Leica IIIc at Olden's, along with a Canon Seranar 50mm f/1.8 lens. With 2 or 3 rolls of Plus-X in my pocket, I was suddenly a Leica photographer, in the company of Cartier-Bresson and Eisenstadt. I had parked the car in Hoboken, and after returning there, I sneaked a shot of this gentleman reading his Daily News in the Erie-Lackawanna terminal.

Man on Bench, Erie-Lackawanna Terminal, Hoboken 1973That Leica, when I bought it, was already 33 years old, but it was a thing of beauty. Compared to my Nikon, especially with its heavy and clunky Photomic T finder, it was a featherweight, and a pleasure to carry around. For some reason, compared to an SLR, the rangefinder mechanism and all the fine knurling on the various knobs gave it a feeling of watch-like precision. It may be a guy thing, but I found myself often picking it up at odd times and playing with it - not shooting pictures, just looking through the viewfinder and rangefinder (two separate windows in the old screw-mount Leicas!) and focusing it, and dry-firing it.

L'homme sur Banc, bis - Central Park, NYC 1974The Serenar was a really excellent lens, but I had really wanted a Leica lens so as to be more "authentic." A year after buying the camera, I purchased a near-mint collapsible Summicron 50mm f/2.0. I wasn't disappointed, as this turned out the be the best lens I've ever owned prior to the digital age. Besides its amazing optical performance, it was also a better physical match for the small camera than the heavy Serenar. With the Summicron collapsed, I could slip the whole package into a coat pocket.

Here's another "Man on Bench" shot, taken in New York's Central Park, September 1974, with the Summicron. I was living in pre-Urban Redevelopment downtown Baltimore at the time, which seemed pretty boring to me, so I tried to get up to New York City a few times a year for picture opportunities.

Dog on Shoulder, Madison Avenue 1974And here's one to show that I'm not afraid to get right up close to a subject and look him in the face! Check out the classic mid-'70's painted t-shirt and slightly pre-disco hairdo. This shot taken on Madison Ave in NYC, August 1974.

Like these photos here, most of what I took with the Leica was black & white. After Roger's thorough training and several years of experience developing and printing B&W during college, I wouldn't let anyone else develop or print my negatives. During those first post-college years, my darkroom was a tiny hallway between the bathroom, bedroom, and living room in my one-bedroom apartment. There was a door to each room, so I just closed the ones to the bedroom and living room, set up a table in the hallway for my enlarger and trays, stuffed towels under the closed doors to block out stray light, and I was in business.

Just one more Leica photo for now, this one from the time after I had moved to Manhattan to work for GE....

Montmartre Steps - Rue Foyatier, Paris 1977Rue Foyatier, this oft-photographed stairs, climbs up the Butte Montmartre in Paris, ending near Sacre Couer basillica, the highest point in the city. It was a soggy, overcast day, and I wanted a somber, lonely look. I waited with my Leica IIIc and this solitary lady obliged me by starting the long climb upward. December 23, 1977.

And here's a shocker... the other day, I used Google Image Search to Google "Rue Foyatier", and of all the photos in cyberspace, this one is the first one!

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