Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sometimes people ask, "Why Leica"?


Somebody once said "Light oozes through a Leica lens like a reeeaaalll heavah sorghum syrup." but I can't remember who, just that the southern accent was the only thing around thicker than the syrup. That was back when "bokeh" as a description of a lens's out of focus rendering was an unknown term outside of Japan. It was the late 1960's and a guy named Jerry Powers had started what was then called an "underground" newspaper. Now we'd refer to it as "counterculture". He called it The Daily Planet after the newspaper that Clark Kent, Superman's alter ego, worked for as a meek, mild mannered reporter along with Lois Lane. Why he never got sued for using the name is one of the mysteries of the universe. I used to shoot an asignment or two for the paper every week (it should have been called The Weekly Planet).

It was also the era of The SLR Revolution. Photographers were dumping their rangefinder cameras and Rolleiflexes for Nikon F's with their noisy instant return mirrors and motor drives. Judges banned cameras in the courtrooms, but soon relented as long as the camera made "no more noise than an M Leica". Working for The Daily Planet meant covering lots of rock concerts and getting backstage passes. It meant covering lots of drug trials. It meant getting to cover lots of counter culture personalities who came through Miami.

In this photograph Abbie Hoffman was being interviewed live on radio at the station. I was the only news photographer allowed in during the on the air interview because I was the only one who hadn't sold out to the allure of a motorized Nikon F. I had my new M4 and an ancient double-stroke M3 (well, it wasn't ancient then)with me. He could get pretty fired up when speaking to a live audience, lots of gesturing and such, but here in the studio the only fired up thing was his voice at times. He managed to look very calm the entire time, even pensive, as in this shot. I shot some on stage stuff during a speech he gave during that same Miami trip, but nothing seemed to capture his intelligence and seriousness, his inner spiritual message, as well as this one did.

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