1.12.2022

At John's (implied) Request We're Taking a Break from Writing about Leicas. At least for this morning.

 

this is my original painting of a "to go" coffee cup. Years ago I had a one person show of my paintings at Trianon Coffee in Westlake Hills, Texas. This was a favorite of the patrons of that outpost of good coffee. 

It was Tolstoy who wrote: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

When I sit down to write fiction, or about my life as a photographer, I usually have two thoughts. The first is: "I've been so lucky to have such a wonderful life, complete with a wonderful partner and a kind family. Lucky to have done well in business and especially lucky to have spent those business years immersed in making art." 

But my second thought, which follows on the heels of the first is: "If I'd suffered horribly I might have more interesting stuff to write about." And then I quickly beg the gods not to punish me for such a self-destructive thought.

This morning I "moderated?" a comment from John, who has grown somewhat disinterested in the blog since my recent purchase of Leica products. And, rather than taking umbrage or becoming defensive I found myself agreeing with John about the blog. 

Not because of the Leica gear but because reading about challenges, problems and their solutions, or narrow escapes from failure, is always more fun and titillating than reading that some old guy bought himself more cool photo stuff and took a walk and played with his cool stuff, had a coffee and then came back home to his nice, comfortable home whereupon he ventured out to his large, attached and very private office to write about his "adventures" on his shiny iMacPro while leafing through yet another folder of images of mostly cosmopolitan comfort and abstraction with which to illustrate posts about his repetitious forays.

I completely agree with John. It's tiresome. But I am cursed with what my wife calls, "An optimistic memory." When I think about the past I remember all the good stuff like exploring castles on the Turkish  coast with my parents and siblings, back in the 1960s. Swimming through the 1970s and beyond. Being asked to teach at UT. Being lured from UT by $$$ to direct an ad agency. Marrying the woman of my dreams. Having a perfect child. Who is now a (mostly) perfect adult. Making decent money making decent photographs. Buying fun cars. Getting bored by fun cars and then having an equal amount of fun buying boring, practical cars. I remember the thrill of months long backpacking trips through Europe in my college years with beautiful girlfriends and endless mornings of swim practice at a private club in my middle age. Of the unbelievable opportunity to be coached by swimmers who won gold at Olympic games. And having ready access to really good coffee all the time, without ever having to scrape together change from a change jar to pay for it. 

But the sad truth is that nobody really cares about all the happy moments. It's just not good material to write about. Who cares if a Leica is a good camera or not? What does it matter if someone buys a new lens? Who would ever want to read about how you paid off your house or invested wisely? Nobody. 

I'm toying with the idea of creating a completely fictional life in which every moment is fraught with peril and sadness in order to keep my readers interested. But to what end? How will I be able to monetize this dystopian creation so I can at least rationalize the time and effort it might take to become truly miserable enough to be an interesting writer? 

I could write about the thrill of racing to the top of Mt. Everest without auxiliary oxygen in order to document a comet exploding in the upper atmosphere but suffering from massive cardiac arrest which I survive by taking some potion that might eventually kill me, while dragging myself back down the mountain on my frostbitten hands and knees. Only to find that the memory card, with the once in a lifetime cosmic event, was hopelessly corrupted and then, because of a horrible contract with shady characters who threaten my loved ones, having to reimburse the clients who sent me in the first place. With interest. Lots of interest. Contract subsequently cancelled via sordid gun play and mayhem. But not before being severely injured in the melee...

Maybe stuff like that will keep people entertained. And there always seems to be good money in writing about run-ins with serial killers and such. And I do like science fiction so there might be an angle about dangerous and uncomfortable space travel or being enslaved, off world, to mine unobtainium on distant asteroids for lizard people who secretly rule the galaxy with iron claws....

I'll think about it. But first I'll jog over to the club for the noon swim practice  on a sunny, sixty degree day in the middle of paradise. And maybe lunch afterwards.  Lots and lots to think about here. 

Thanks for the nudge John.


14 comments:

Eric Rose said...

Great rebuttal. Screw John ;)

Eric

Unknown said...

And all we have here on the ISS is Nikon cameras and lenses. How we suffer. Maybe next crew someone will bring up a Leica. ( A fictional comment)

TMJ said...

"reading about challenges, problems and their solutions", I think M.J. has that covered, especially recently.

Robert Roaldi said...

Are there any sci-fi serial killer novels?

David Aiken said...

I don't own a Leica but I'm happy to read about your Leica fun and games and it can be helpful to me, even if it doesn't send me racing to the camera store to buy a Leica.

A few days ago you mentioned in a post about a lens that it produced flat, lower contrast files that were good to work with when shooting high contrast scenes. That got me thinking and I decided to try a lower contrast camera profile in Lightroom with some shots of high contrast scenes that had given me processing problems in the past. Using a lower contrast profile like Adobe Neutral not only made processing those files easier for me when it came to shadow detail but for some reason I had less trouble with noise with some of those files. It seems there's more than one way to get a lower contrast file and I don't need to look for older Leica lenses to adapt to my Fujifilm cameras and force my ageing eyes to struggle with manual focus again after years of the joys of autofocus :-)

As for the Leica side of things, it's fun to see how the "other half" lives. If I were to buy a Leica, and I could afford to, I'd go for a Leica M because I like the type of photography it seems tp excel with, just as I once dreamt of using a large format view camera because I like the work of a lot of the f64 group of photographers. What I've learnt over the years, however, is that given the way I like to shoot, both view cameras and Leica M rangefinders have characteristics that would drive me crazy and which make them particularly bad options for me. That doesn't mean that the work and experience of people using those cameras, or doing photography in some other way which would drive me equally crazy, isn't interesting or useful to me. I'm never going to be a Gregory Crewdson who goes out and arranges to close a street so he can have a bus tipped over in it in order to stage a scene he can photograph with a view camera but I can still appreciate the photo and find interesting and useful ideas about things like composition in it.

I'm happy to see you continue writing as you have been. You never know what readers get from a post and for every one who gets tired of a particular theme there's probably also one who finds a hint about something different that helps them in the same posts. Posts about one thing can jog readers' minds about something quite different. Keep up the good work.

MikeR said...

Kirk ... unTucked?

Nah! Just do what you do.

Anonymous said...

A good article and good comments.

Michael Matthews said...

Clearly, anyone who is a member of the exclusive Five Leica Club can write about anything he damned well pleases. Probably Leicas.

But here’s a thought. You still have one Panasonic, I believe, the S5? Seems to me the Leica SL and it are in many ways similar, the Panasonic offering the advantage of image stabilization. And did you not at one point suggest that with today’s cameras incorporating image controls…color, contrast, sharpness, curves…it’s possible to make one produce essentially the same result as any other?

Then have at it. Someday, when nothing else is stirring, tweak the Panasonic to render the same image as the Leica then take them both for a walk. If it turns out the results are indistinguishable, pass that formula along to the rest of the world. You’ll be a hero.

RayC said...

Variety I think is key. That doesn't mean a Leica in every column can't deliver variety; add some swimming, a bit about challenges of the weather, some insights on how you view your business this week :-), the latest visit to Precision Camera, etc. Despite the title of the blog it is the vision of life, not the science of photography that I come here for.

Augie said...

I believe David Aiken hit a proverbial home run above when he finished his comment with -

“I'm happy to see you continue writing as you have been. You never know what readers get from a post and for every one who gets tired of a particular theme there's probably also one who finds a hint about something different that helps them in the same posts. Posts about one thing can jog readers' minds about something quite different. Keep up the good work.”

Kudos to you both!

Chuck Albertson said...

Pretty close to the truth. One of my beloved profs in college survived a night out on Everest after summiting late in the day, but lost all of his toes to frostbite. NatGeo, which underwrote the expedition, gave every climber on the trip a Nikon F and an unlimited supply of Kodachrome II. In hospital back in Katmandu, Willi (having nothing else to do) used both to shoot a time sequence of his toes gradually turning back, shriveling up and falling off. Those slides became the climax (of sorts) of his annual Everest lecture at the college, and there were always a few people who didn't get the memo, and wound up running for the exits to do the Big Spit when they flashed up on the screen.

In Unity said...

Many years ago I was asked to write a biography of a friend who was an internationally syndicated cartoonist. He had already written a volume of memoirs and two novels based on characters not unlike himself. Of course I couldn’t, mainly through lack of skill. That said his life was so astonishing I’m not sure anyone would believe it if I’d written it. Certainly no one believed me when I told some if his stories.

Luke Miller said...

In many ways your current life mirrors mine. UT grad and former faculty member. 65+ (a lot plus). Great wife. Comfortable home. No longer doing paid work, but lots of photography requests and video work. Leica M owner (I have three) and lots of other camera and video gear. I enjoy your shots of Austin taken during your daily excursions. As a student I thought Austin was the best place in the world to live and your shots allow me to keep up with it.

MartinP said...

You mentioned writing, so wasn't the idea of the "artist starving in a garret" originally from a Mr.Foote at the end of the eighteenth century? And he was writing about writers, rather than painters and so on.

Maybe there is a story to tell about van Gogh's unrecorded friend, the photographic portrait artist, in the late nineteenth century?** At least you get to visit some nice bits of the Netherlands and southern France doing the research!! Of course, most garrets have been converted in to bijoux 'studio-apartments' (more accurately known as cramped, single-room accomodation) by now though, oops.

**Except doing portraits was quite lucrative at that time. Perhaps a contrast between the successful photographer / technician, still being jealous of the output of the crazy van Gogh?? I may be overthinking this . . .