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Parallax Newsletter, December 2013

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Dear Leica enthusiasts and classic photographers, 

 

Thank you for allowing us to share some news and random thoughts with you.

Paolo Barzman’s Journey of Discovery

If you are like me, since the birth of digital photography, you too have questioned where our beloved métier and avocation is heading. After viewing Paolo Barzman's tour de force exhibition, Kairos, built on the ancient Greek concept of “a moment of indeterminate time in which something special happens,” I have reached the conclusion that we have been posing the wrong question! Through the eyes of this preeminent visual artist, what results goes beyond what we know as photography. While we have been consumed with how technology can be used to improve an image, and debated what are acceptable limits of manipulation, (especially since traditional photography had been held as a nearly inviolable representation of reality), Kairos presents us with an entirely new premise that begins with an abstract concept and leads to an idealized conclusion.

 

French-born Paolo Barzman uses photography to create these striking images, and the fact that he shows real people walking on real streets in real cities, makes a huge difference in how we view the prints. A writer and moviemaker for much of his life, this background has prepared him well to become a powerful advocate for the still image. Like a vivid and radiant film noir, these prints probe the relationship between man and his manufactured environment, and the line between what is imaginary and what is real. The breadth of the work and the research into the techniques necessary to realize the final results is truly an unprecedented accomplishment. 

 

As I listened to Barzman talking to a class of photography students visiting the exhibition, I was most impressed with the glimpse the artist provided into why he made these pictures. He began with an idea, and it was the commitment to the idea that provided the discipline to find the moments and places that could be photographed to illustrate his vision. As for how he made the images, suffice to say that the techniques employed (including prodigious use of Photoshop®) were chosen because they helped communicate a viewpoint the artist held.

 

Kairos is among the most important exhibitions I have seen in a long time. It both redefines how we view photography and establishes Paulo Barzman in the vanguard of contemporary artists.

 

These Self-Proclaimed Prophets are For Profit

In the past, if you were interested in photography you pored over books and magazines featuring work of photographers you admired. A small list of those who inspired me include Robert Doisneau, Helen Levitt, Mary Ellen Marks, Marc Riboud, Ara Güler and George Zimbel. Today the Internet landscape is less crowded with photographers, and chockablock with self-proclaimed pundits who, through sheer doggedness and indefatigability, have become go-to gurus for countless enthusiasts.

 

Let’s be blunt: some of these “experts” use their popularity for the principle purpose of monetizing their newfound fame through advertisements for large-box retailers, as well as offering themselves as glorified tour guides on workshop junkets from Iceland to Antarctica. Inflating the importance and pertinence of their own work, they too often project a strong bias toward what they perceive as technical perfection. If the 1950s was the start of what we define as modern, humanistic photography, then the legion of banal images with clinical sharpness and creamy bokeh proffered on us by today’s gurus, falls considerably short of the beauty and importance of pictures taken by the likes of Berenice Abbott, Lee Friedlander, Gordon Parks, Ruth Orkin and Larry Towell, to name but a few. 

 

As for the recommendations on gear that is the raison d’être for many of these sites, it is important to take those opinions with a grain of salt. By all means browse the Internet for opinions on the latest products, but as many of our clients would attest, we never jump to promote the most expensive item. We listen to your needs, then recommend a quality camera, lens or accessory that fits your style and budget.

 

’Nuff said.

Sony’s A7R: This New Kid on the Block Will Stir the Pot

Hats off to Sony. Their new A7R, a 36 megapixel, electronic viewfinder, interchangeable lens camera is taking the photographic world by storm. We now have had the opportunity to try several M-mount lenses aboard that 36-megapixel sensor and, in certain instances, were absolutely floored by the results. The biggest surprise? The 50mm f2 Zeiss Planar has a sharpness and character to the image that is absolutely breathtaking! 

 

As has been reported by many testers, the proximity of the back element of practically all M-mount wide-angle lenses presents a problem on the edges of the image. We experienced excessive vignetting, colour fringing and, in some cases, very unattractive smearing.

 

Please come to the Boutique to try the first, full-frame, EVF, mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. It is a welcome addition that must have several big-two camera company executives peering uneasily over the ledges of their Tokyo office towers.     

Why I Use a Leica

Are you among the photographers eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Sony A7R or other full-frame mirrorless cameras? Are you eagerly waiting for the next Leica killer?! Are you counting the days until you can mount your Leica M glass on a body that costs a fraction of the M 240 and has a 36 megapixel sensor to boot? That’s all fine and good, and I too hope that this new camera will become an excellent tool for many, but I do not foresee any EVF camera replacing my Leica. Here’s why: 

 

It’s the rangefinder experience, with its direct way of seeing and framing, which also lets me be constantly aware of what is happening in front of me. It’s the pleasure I get when I hold the camera to my eye. It’s my belief that the images I create with a Leica are special because the camera has provided me with maximum control and minimal interference, be it with a vintage, Canadian-made Summicron, or definitely-non-ASPH Summilux.  There are other great cameras available, but I will always come back to the M as my go-to camera. And while the modern 35mm Summilux has remarkable edge-to-edge sharpness and the 50mm Noctilux has no equal in rendition and low-light performance, I use a Leica M because when I hold it in my hands, IT INSPIRES ME!

Family Portraits: The Antitheses of the Kodak Moment

Choosing Fatherhood, photographer Lewis Kostiner’s beautifully produced book is not a homage to parenting. Instead, it tackles the problem of America’s deadbeat dads and the ramifications of their absence on their children.

 

Remarkably in your face, the images are void of pity or false sentiment. This is an unvarnished, faithful representation of fathers and their progeny working hard to make their second chance at fatherhood succeed. Because of the true-to-life depiction, these family portraits and accompanying essays are powerful and moving. 

 

Lewis Kostiner is a firm believer in the rangefinder ethos. The camera lends itself perfectly to his style of photography, pictures that challenge the viewer with snippets of life that are rooted in authenticity and an aesthetic based on accuracy and honesty.  All images are taken with a Leica M8, the camera that started the Leica digital revolution and, even today, remains extremely capable.

 

Available at the Boutique and on our website, Choosing Fatherhood pulls no punches, framing this critical family issue and presenting it to the viewer in a mature and profound manner.

Turkish Delight: New Photographs by Mike Hayes

Mike Hayes, a great friend and accomplished photographer has literally cycled around the world. His latest adventure brought him, his bike and his Fuji X100s to Turkey, and more specifically, to Anatolia.

 

A great study in colour, his images are spontaneous and, despite some marvelous, haphazard and incongruous juxtapositions that appear for mere seconds, absolutely beautifully composed. 

 

So, while Mike is out cycling, sit back, relax and enjoy this gallery of his recent images!

 

Under the Christmas Tree

For the Leicaphile, or anyone interested in great photography, the 2014 Leica calendar features inspiring black-and-white photographs from René Burri. Honoured with the Leica Hall of Fame award, the eighty-year-old Burri’s portraits of leaders and artists, and his photographic record of political hot-spots, stand as a valuable visual history of the mid-twentieth century. For the first time ever, these calendars actually arrived before the start of the New Year! Beautifully printed on heavy stock, they are available for $31.95 at the Boutique or online.

 

For the fashion-oriented Leica fan, we are also offering smartly finished Leica T-shirts in several designs. Just $34.95 and available at the Boutique or online (look under Neat Stuff!), they all come in L or XL (European sizes), with M available on special order. The designs are Bauhaus, featuring the new M against a black background; Bauhaus, featuring the new M against a white background; Lens, accurately depicting a classic 50mm Elmar against a black background; Lens, accurately depicting a classic 50mm Elmar against a white background; Lens, accurately depicting a classic 50mm Elmar in red against a white background; and 100-year Commemorative featuring line drawings and a red logo against a black background.

***

It seems like yesterday that Rita and I were enjoying early summer in the French countryside. Now we’re scraping ice off the walk and starting our preparations for Christmas.  

 

To all clients and friends of Camtec Photo, our sincere thanks for your kind support. Best wishes to you and your families for the Holiday Season and 2014!   

 

Always looking forward to your comments.

 

Photographically yours,

 

Jean Bardaji and Daniel Wiener

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