From the archives:
Princess Bridge, Melbourne, 2011
This picture was made whilst I was travelling on the train to Fairfield in Melbourne.
By now I had morphed into a photographer who was straddling the film and digital worlds with little idea of the digital world was closing in on me, or was reshaping photography. I was primarily looking at images on the monitor but still thinking of photography in the old film terms --eg., the snapshot of the Nth Melbourne railway station whilst I was on the road.
I had not yet realised that curators would frame the pushing the boundaries of art photography as primarily coming from the use of computer software to create complex imagery that stood in stark contrast to the mundane and normal digital photography being produced.
I was vaguely thinking in terms of self-publishing the best photographs from my portfolio. Only I didn't really have a portfolio. Nor was I sure how to go about creating one---other than taking lots of photographs, selecting the best, and approaching Blurb.
John Szarkowski challenged the ability of photography to explain large-scale public subjects in both the preface to The Photographer's Eye (1966) and in Mirrors and Windows (1978). In The Photographer's Eye he wrote, "Photography has never been successful at narrative" and he declared the fields of photojournalism and documentary non-effectual in Mirrors and Windows writing, "Photography's failure to explain large public issues has become increasingly clear...Most issues of importance cannot be photographed." He argued that attempts to photograph World War II were unable to explain events without heavy captioning.
Some hold that there are two kinds of photographers, collectors and sculptors. Sculptor type photographers are those who set up a scene, creating it from scratch, and then take a picture of it. In contrast, collector type photographers wander, bringing things home that they find out in the world and they often have a vague idea or kind of personal fantasy that they look for out in the world.
The process of wandering is central to my Leica snapshots. When I walk the city my route is seldom pre-conceived and I am not looking for very specific things. I did not have a list of things to photograph in my notebook. I would often walk with the standard poodles.
The Leica camera's has a classical minimalist design. For Leica form follows function. This is such a contrast to the computerised digital cameras of today.
The bottom line of the Leica camera (film based or filmless) is that it is grounded in the great German tradition of solid engineering. The film based products, like those from Linhof, last forever and do not bring repeat business.
During the 20th century Leica developed excellent technical solutions, supplied reliable goods and created long-lasting relationships with the customers. The main qualities - over-engineering, obsession with detail and an extreme emphasis on durability - demand a price: the products last a lifetime and do not bring repeat business.
The M4-P (1981) was primitive technology compared to the Cannon and Nikon DSLR's that other photographers were using. Leica is a conservative company--the single lens reflex film cameras had eclipsed rangefinders in the 1970s!
The M4-P did not add much to the progress of the rangefinder camera. It is a manual-focus camera and it did not add automatic exposure metering with manual selection of either shutter speed or aperture that was very accurate. I still had to use a hand held light meter or guess the exposure. It was primitive technology compared to the Cannon and Nikon DSLR's that other photographers were using. Leica was a conservative company.