Thursday, 29 November 2012

Leica M Monochrom. Part 1 - Perspective and Synchronicity

So here I am. Suddenly I'm the owner of a camera that was, or so I thought, beyond my wildest dreams. This camera is like no other I have owned before. To put it into perspective, every camera or piece of equipment I have owned so far has either been classed as a student/beginner or serious enthusiast.

Praktica BX20 (student/beginner)
Pentax MZ-M (student/beginner)
Fuji Finepix S7000 (bridge camera)
Polaroid 600 Instant Camera (fun)
Nikon D300 (serious enthusiast)
Axomat 5 Black and White Enlarger (student/beginner)

A Leica system was just too far out of reach financially - a possible option when my lottery numbers came in.

I'm an experimental photographer. I started learning black and white photography at school when I was sixteen and within a year I was making photograms of bubble wrap and scratching into negatives. I have no formal qualifications in photography, only general art and graphic design (specialising in illustration), but I've spent a lot of time in the darkroom; dodging, burning, toning, multiple imaging, reverse printing, diffusing with a pair of tights, adding texture with crumpled papers, composite printing, etc, etc... I've turned a tiny bathroom into a darkroom, balancing the enlarger precariously on the toilet seat, and it looked like Doctor Who had visited when I started using a 6 foot by 4 foot enlarger tent in the new house. I'd say 95 percent of all my photographs up to the digital work was black and white. Colour just wasn't my thing for at least 10 years.

Nowadays I'm trying all these options in Photoshop (the modern enlarger). After all that messing about, it seemed odd not to. If it enhances, rather than destroys, go with it. Enjoy yourself. See what you are capable of, you might just surprise yourself.

The Leica M Monochrom is a "pure" camera, but we're working each other out, finding a language that suits us both. It's saying "I can offer you this or that" and I'm saying "Brilliant, let's see what this can do?" For at least a day I was terrified to carry the thing about. Not being used to the rangefinder style I'm ashamed to admit that I've taken at least three shots with the bloomin' lens cap on!

The results out of the camera are simply fantastic. The grain on ISO 320 is practically non existent and the tones are awesome. I don't know if sticking lots of paper and texture over the end result is gonna work with this one, but there are other ways to tinker. My mind's working along composites, slowing down the speed and double / multiple exposures. (My photographer of the moment is Francesca Woodman and I'm really relating to the essays by Chris Townsend in the Phaidon edition ISBN 9780714844305).

I'm sure we'll work something out. It's still early days.

A good friend sorted through his late father's belongings earlier this year and as I was into photography he kindly gave me a box of very old screw thread Leica lenses and filters. To be honest, I was going to wait a while and put them in the ebay pile as a Leica camera to go with the lenses was not a likely option. And now, after a little research on the internet and three Voigtlander adapters later I've got a four lens Leica system and I'm having so much fun with it all I think my wife feels like a camera widow.