It's Not the Gear With Which You Shoot

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Rekd, Aug 6, 2010.

  1. Rekd

    Rekd TPF Noob!

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  2. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Well, the title is a bit misleading...Russell Lee for example, was an early adopter of the Zeiss Contax 35mm rangefinder camera, which was in its day, more-advanced than the Leica rangefinder cameras of the era, with a longer-base, more-accurate rangefinder capable of accurately focusing longer lenses than a Leica of that era.

    http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-04062004-154900/unrestricted/Mitchell_thesis.pdf

    Lee was a rich man, quite well off. He was one of very few people who had access to color film in the depression era.99.99 percent of American photographers were exposing only black and white film during this period. The other FSA shooters besides Lee all had top-level, "professional" cameras and lenses. The 35mm slides shown were shot with either Leica or Contax cameras,which were dreadfully expensive at that time. I have a 1940 Bass Camera catalog...in it, a 1940 Leica III-c with 50mm lens was priced at around $419....higher than the price of a brand new Ford car...a monthly wage in the USA was around $50 for many people in the mid-1930's.

    The 35mm color slides and negatives the FSA photographers shot were made with the equivalent of today's Hasselblad rollfilm or Nikon D3x and Canon 1Ds-Mark III bodies, and L-glass lenses...a 4x5 Graphic or Bush Pressman, Graflex quarter-plate, or other large format camera loaded with color or B&W film was a formidable picture maker in its day. The 35mm FSA coverage allowed photographers to approach subjects more closely, with far less intimidating, physically small camera like the Leica,or Contax, and also allowed much deeper depth of field that 4x5 or quarter-plate cameras of that time...look at the deep depth of field in many of the 35mm slides; 35mm was widely,widely ridiculed at that time as being "ultra-miniature" format, worthless for serious photography. The 6x6 Rolleiflex TLR was considered "miniature" format in the mid-1930's, and was only about a seven year old design when this FSA program began.

    The photos shown here represent the leading, the absolute leading edge of photography equipment of the mid-1930's. The FSA shooters like Russell Lee were cutting-edge in terms of their equipment, and 35mm Contax and Leica candid reportage in color from the Depression-era towns across the USA represented the ne plus ultra of photojournalism for its time. So, yeah, it's not always what you shoot, but these FSA shooters were leading-edge in terms of equipment and skills.
     
  3. Hardrock

    Hardrock TPF Noob!

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    Very cool! Thanks for sharing.

    edit: Oh and thanks Derrel for the little history lesson!
     
  4. smokinphoto

    smokinphoto TPF Noob!

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    If you can shoot well, all you need is a disposable, toy camera or a camera phone to create great work. If you're not talented, it doesn't matter if you buy a Nikon D3X or Leica; your work will still be uninspired.
    It's always better to spend your time and money on learning art and photography, not by spending it on more cameras.

    Maybe because it's entirely an artist's eye, patience and skill that makes an image and not his tools. Even Ansel said "The single most important component
    of a camera is the twelve inches behind it."​
     
  5. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I hate polarized viewpoints like this - really I do.
    Consider that no artist can produce their art without the tools and medium to work with - a painter NEEDS paints and a surface to paint upon - many require tools to paint how they wish rather than just use their fingers; a scuplter NEEDS material to scuplt; a violinist NEEDS a violin.


    We need the tools to achieve our end result and to deny their importance and effect is just as blinkered a view as to deny composition and content of the photo itself.
     
  6. Rekd

    Rekd TPF Noob!

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    :lol: I was referring to the awesome composition. But that's interesting stuff.
     
  7. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Actually I find that there are quite a few photos in that set that are little more than snapshots - the composition of some certainly stands out, but others have little to no compositional interest. Historical photos (like the ones linked above) are infact a fantastic example of where techincal and compositional aspects are lesser to the content aspect of the photo

    consider this one: http://denverpost.slideshowpro.com/...43.sJPG_950_2000_0_75_0_50_50.sJPG?1281132444

    Its what many would call a snapshot - posted here on the forum it would get cut to bits for being just a snapshot. The interest however comes from the content - its a 1930's colour photo of life back then. It (along with the others) shows life, fashion, backgrounds and general living. In fact many general snapshots of the past prove to be far more interesting than well composed and exposed landscapes (at least artistically speaking for again content of a landscape can be very telling to changes in the world).
     
  8. OlyNikonLearner

    OlyNikonLearner TPF Noob!

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    I really like old photos and this collection I found very interesting. Thank you for posting the link. People back then "looked" different, didn't they?

    I once sat with an old timer who was a WWII combat photographer, who had saved thousands of prints of photos he shot as he crossed America between combat assignments... and then more from his days in the Pacific theater. He had still the Olympus camera he shot all these thousands of photos with saved in a wooden box.

    I cannot remember the exact technical details of the camera (back then in the early 80s I was VERY new to photography!) but the rig looked quite "amateur" by today's standards. Paul (that was the guy's name) did not have a collection of lenses. I guess he just shot with the one lens the old Oly still wore. His photos were amazing; whether heartland America or a bunch of US Marines unloading a landing craft in some distant amphibious battlefield, the figures "jumped out" of the picture at you! Most of these photos were in B&W, but there were quite a few in still vivid color.

    I still marvel at Paul (now resting in peace) and all the work he must have put into that amazing collection.

    "It's Not the Gear With Which You Shoot." How true!
     
  9. PerfectlyFlawed

    PerfectlyFlawed TPF Noob!

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    Wow! Thanks for the history lesson Derrel...:) pretty interesting.
     
  10. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Bye the bye...there are tons of these old photos available from the LOC or Library of Congress collection, and many are available as high-resolution TIFF files. We, the American Public, own the copyright to these historical photos, as I understand it, due to the terms of employment these photos were made under with the Farm Security Administration. If you like old pics, the Shorpy.com web site also has some totally AWESOME 4x5 inch color frames shot for WWII purposes, a few years after this....some really neat stuff over there at Shorpy.com.
     
  11. OlyNikonLearner

    OlyNikonLearner TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the pointer, Derrel. Fantastic site! A goldmine of old photos!
     

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