Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Leica File: I Did The Right Thing After All

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved (Click to Enlarge)

As those who follow The Travel Photographer blog may know, I bought the Leica M9 and a couple of lenses (Elmarit 28mm and the Voigtlander 40mm) earlier this year, and I've been using it since for street photography in New York City...which was the main reason I decided to become a "Leica aficionado".

At the time, the decision to spend such a large amount of money on Leica gear seemed frivolous and unnecessary. Believe me, I went through periods of angst and head-scratching as to why I did buy it. At first, I tried to convince myself that I needed it...that it would speed up my photographic evolution...and then that I would enjoy it more than all the other cameras I use.

When I'm asked why I bought, or use, a Leica, I sometimes use this analogy: if I were to drive on the mountain roads in Europe; say between France and Switzerland, would I rent a super modern BMW X5, or would I choose (assuming it was available) a Series 1 Jaguar E Type with manual transmission? I would certainly choose the latter, to maneuver the curves the way they should be, and heel and toe downshift to my heart's content. The analogy is imperfect of course, but I would certainly enjoy the driving experience much more with the I found I enjoyed photography with the M9 more than with the Canons.

"All I know is that I enjoy photographing with the Leica whether it's stuck to my face, or dangling on my waist/hip."
In an earlier post, I question if shooting from the hip (by the way, it's one of the most viewed/read post on this blog) was really photography. Many have said yes...I really haven't decided yet, although I confess that I don't care any more. All I know is that I enjoy photographing with the Leica whether it's stuck to my face, or dangling on my waist/hip.

To me, that's the bottom-line answer to my angst-ridden self question as to whether getting a Leica was a good idea. It was all about enjoying it....having fun with it. That's it. I am not a tech-head so whether the Leica is technically a better camera than the Canon 5D Mark II or the Fuji X100 is incidental. I just appreciate it for what it is... a solid, well-built, quirky, irritating, rewarding, reliable and a pain in the ass photographic tool. But to go gaga and weak-kneed over it like some do, is not one of my talents. And speaking of talents, I don't over-intellectualize photographs...whether mine or someone's else.

I like street photography in New York City (who doesn't?) and, emulating seasoned street photographers, I take my camera whenever and wherever I can. Sure, I make lots of mistakes when I use the shooting from the hip technique, which I probably wouldn't do if I had a Canon and an auto-focus lens. For instance, the photograph of these two women "Get Sweet On Salt" would have been better composed (no ice cream cone growing out of a head, for one thing) had I viewed it through a viewfinder, either with the M9 or a Canon. But their expressions (notice the pout by the woman on the left) would have been different....they would have noticed me for sure, and could have either smiled or scowled.

For further street photography in New York City, I have a separate gallery on The Leica File.