Nothing New Except to Me – Another Leica Story

Working as a pro for the last 50 years I never had the extra cash for a Leica. Any time I had ‘extra’ cash it went towards my work gear, lighting or Nikon film cameras and then Canon Digital gear. I rarely ever saw a Leica out in the wild. But they were always there hovering and intriguing in the back of my mind. Could they really be THAT special? Of course then in recent years they became de rigueur for the hipster or media star. Prices were always up there but they only get higher.

A year or so before Covid raged across our planet a fellow photographer decided to sell his old M4-p. I made an impulse decision and bought it along with the Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 he had. He gave me a good deal. I was excited to finally own and hold a Leica. He’d had it CLA’d and thought it was a bit rough looking but it seemed so solid, so real.  Somehow not being digital made it more a gift to myself than a work item.  I bought a couple rolls of TMX-100 and Tri-X 400. A week or so after that I drove down to the small town of Eutaw in what’s known as the Black Belt in Alabama. Eutaw was once one of the richest cities in the USA. Money from cotton and labor from slavery enriched the plantation owners. Today Eutaw is a struggling town. I shot a few frames of TMX-100 with the Leica but then put it aside and got busy with my freelance work and forgot about it.

Early this spring I decided to pull it out and shoot a roll of Tri-X. I hung it on my shoulder when I was out and about and shot with it over a few weeks with the idea of just photographing people as I came across them. I had a plan to make this a “5 Frames” but instead I’ll just share a selection from each roll. The camera is a delight to use and I’m sure everyone here has either experienced it or read enough about how it handles. I hope you’ll forgive this newbee’s enthusiasm. But I get the Leica thing now. It’s so balanced, so solid and the shutter click so lovely.  I plan to go ahead and put new vulcanite on the body. It’s flaking off in large chunks pretty fast.

Here’s a selection of the Eutaw Alabama shoot on TMX-100 All images scanned on my old Nikon CoolScan 5000 and Vuescan software.

Long closed theater
The local grocery. It’s a Southern Thing.
A life affirming mural by artist Tres Taylor
The closed theater once housed a church.

And here’s a selection of the faces all shot on Tri-X at 400 asa.

My brother was in town.
Local haberdasher
The woman who cuts my hair, at least what’s left of it.
Friend to everyone this man works for the city of Birmingham where I live and goes to extraordinary lengths to support the homeless.
An employee of the Forestry Commission who helped me on a shoot.
A manager at the Honda manufacturing plant in Lincoln Alabama I met on a shoot.

All photos edited in Lightroom Classic. 




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8 thoughts on “Nothing New Except to Me – Another Leica Story”

  1. Great pictures. Fellow journalism degree here, but ended up in advertising mostly. Started with film Nikon, then digital Nikon, then digital Canon, then back to digital and film Nikon—and then onto 100+ vintage film cameras. Yet I still haven’t shot a Leica (or Hasselblad)!

    1. Everyone has their own journey and I’m always fascinated by the stories. No doubt you have quite a few great ones. Still it seems we both ended up in a somewhat similar place, vintage film cameras. I still feel the pull of a Hasselblad too. Thanks for your note.

  2. Super shots. The thing about film Leica Ms is they are much more than the sum of their parts, because on paper the specs are extremely underwhelming. But the magic is in the design, feel and operation. They make you want to pick them up and go take pictures, and that is the best compliment to a camera.
    Thanks for posting!

  3. Commercial efficiency or “quality” (as interpreted by most amateurs) are the driving forces of digital photography. Yes, I use digital too, primarily for scientific work. But for real photography, its film. There are many great film cameras out there. As you discovered the attraction of the Leica is ergonomics and it just works. Perfect weight and balance, compact compared to SLR bricks, just three controls to think about, the shutter sound alone is reward enough, And it just works, again and again. I was luckily introduced to Leica about 35 years ago, and used consistently since than. Thanks for the article and great images.

    1. Thanks Geoff. I used Nikon’s professionally for years and came to appreciate the FM2 the most. It seemed the most ergonomic for me. I appreciated its weight and balance and of course the sound of the shutter. Never had one fail. That sounds like the Leica description. But the Leica has another level of solidity that speaks to me. I still have my old F3hp and my FM2 and both work great. But I think it’ll be the Leica I pick up when I want to wander and see what eye-candy I find.

  4. Glad you finally got on board and are enjoying your M4-P!

    I find it odd when I hear that people don’t consider using Leica M’s for paid work. I understand that there is a collectible element but many Leica M’s are far from the interest of collectors and are best suited for professional work – which is why I bought mine. I get that news shooters may not want to shoot fully manual film bodies of any kind but there are so many opportunities, such as editorial, weddings, concerts, family portraiture and fine art for which they are perfect for 35mm shooters in my opinion/experience. For one thing, how else are we to pay for the cameras, lenses and expensive accessories?!

    I hope that you’ll apply your M4-P to some of your work-work too! Thanks for sharing your story and wonderful images.

    1. Great thoughts Johnny. And you’re right about using it for pro work. I think I will start taking it to a few shoots and seeing how I can integrate that into the workflow. The issue for me is that often I need to turn images around quickly for clients and without a darkroom I can’t do that. But it might be a great bonus for the clients who are more creative to shoot with it anyway and deliver some extra value after the initial shoot has been seen.
      Thanks again. Might take it tonight where I’m shooting happy hour in a remodeled old theater for the architects.
      They might just be that client.

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