Lately, I have been considering purchasing a Leica Rangefinder. I’m a bit of a purist so I was looking at the earlier 35mm rangefinders, such as the Leitz IIIf’s and M4’s and 5’s. The IIIf because I am a sucker for nostalgia and the 4’s and 5’s because they were probably the ones that had the feature set I wanted (hmph, why can’t Leica make a Leitz III lookalike with the features of an M7… I would buy that).
However, never mind the Leica, it got me thinking, and this is in reference to discussions I had been having with my housemates dilemma weighing up whether he should save for an M8 or declare it utterly futile and use the money more wisely, am I really purchasing the Leica as an excercise in practicing on-the-fly focus pulling or was it just, as he referred to, for the hypothetical “Leica experience”.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe photography is essentially an homage to the visual sense, however, does a well made film winder really define the experience of photography, or is it the way that the eye is forced to look at the world anew? My personal belief is of the latter, which makes the dilemma of the Leica a moot point. However, the quality of the equipment you use to capture the visual sense cannot be divorced from the experience (or in other words, would you eat soup with a fork?). And there in lies the fine line between being a camera gear fetishist and a too hip for my own good lomographer, and the dilemma of the photographer.
Most photographers, at least people who actively label themselves as photographers, fall into the two categories above. It is a polarization of ideology similar to evangelists and hippies. Just as a camera gear fetishist is more likely to take a picture of his camera than what the camera is looking at, so is a lomographer more likely to snap incoherently without looking through the viewfinder at all and declare it a piece of post-modernist art, “because that is the lomographic way”, at which point two things happen, 1. they become the exact anti-thesis of a photographer 2. the appreciation of a non-photograph taken without any thought pulls them further away from being a photographer.
In either case, neither of these two groups are capturing the visual sense, and hence, neither of these groups can possibly call themselves photographers. It is only when we transcend either the adoration of the physical tools we use to photograph, or the cultural misdirection surrounding a photographic fad, that we can truly unify the eye and the lens. As no two people have eyes that are alike, so too no two people have photographic styles that are exactly alike (although some may aspire to others).
And it is here that we discover the Leica experience is not an exclusive experience at all. It is in fact an experience possible with any camera, that of transcendence.
So, I suppose, getting back to the original question…
Do I need a Leica Rangefinder?
Below, my kitchen bench through the eyes of a Holga