Monday, November 13, 2023

One Leica

What the hell. . . we might as well just jump into the deep water right off.  Where's the sense in waiting?  I had one Leica left but no Leica lenses.  I still had the old Monochrom, the M9 which was the first one that had the sensors that went bad and had to be replaced.  They quit making those and switched to a different kind of sensor, a CMOS, but many preferred the old CDC sensor.  It has only 18 megapixels rather than the 45 mp of the new cameras.  But that is what I had.  

Bored out of your mind yet?  The point is, I had a lesser Leica and no Leica lens, but I had a fifty year old Nikon screw mount lens that I had an adapter for, so I threw it on the Monochrom and went out to see.  The first picture I took was this.  

That's my neighbor's house.  The setup seemed to work.  Now for the last three years or so, I would have simply and safely gone around taking pictures like this.  Yesterday, though, I took a drive.  It was mid-afternoon when I got to the Farmer's Market in Gotham.  I drove around for half an hour trying to find free on street parking, and when I did, I had a fairly long walk to get lakeside.  I grabbed my camera bag and limped off.  I got about a block away when I changed my mind.  I felt too visible.  I headed back to the car and decided to put my camera bag away.  I wrapped the strap of the Monochrom around my wrist and turned back toward the lake.  

As I got closer and started feeling the crowd, I told myself I didn't have to take any photos.  This could be simple practice.  I could just walk around the lake and the market and "get the feel."  Then. . . I saw this.  

What?  I took my first street pic in years.  Manual focus.  I just had to guess quickly.  But the Nikon lens was a 50mm.  It was all I had to put on the camera.  You don't do street photography with a 50mm lens, though.  Not usually.  The depth of focus is just too shallow and the field of view is too narrow.  There isn't a lot of room for framing when you shoot from the hip.  

I wasn't just walking through the crowd any longer.  My heart was racing with excitement but mostly with fear,  It takes a lot of chutzpah to go photographing in public.  I mean. . . it is a fearful thing.  It is, by all accounts, much harder to do than it used to be.  But damn. . . somebody has to record the circus we live in don't you know?  This is how people used to walk around in public in the 2020s.  This one is for posterity.  

That's almost a pun.  But seriously, I felt this was a cultural moment.  

I kept strolling and remembered how to do what I was doing again.  I was amazed that shooting from the hip with a 50mm manual focus lens was working out at all.  

When I got to the far end of the market, I was near a bar that has burlesque shows some nights.  I had gone once before to ask if I could photograph it some night, but it was closed.  It would surely be open now, I thought, with so many people milling about.  

It was.  The Tiki Bar upstairs was a movie set.  I heard the theme of "Adventures in Paradise" playing in my head (link).  When I walked in, the pretty female bartender looked me up and down and smiled.  

"Hi," she said.  Even though it was dark inside, I am sure she could see me blush.  I grinned stupidly and gave a silent wave.  The place was small and there was nowhere to go but to the bar or out, so I turned and headed for the door.  

Downstairs was the bigger bar.  It was fairly empty.  The motif was "burlesque."  Old posters lined the walls.  In the backroom were two pool tables.  The place smelled like the bathrooms.  I noticed a fellow setting up at the dj booth, so I walked over.  He was a surly sort.  

"Do you need something?" he sneered.  

"Where do they do the burlesque shows?" I asked.  

He looked at me, the idiot.  "Here," he snarled.

"Do you know who I'd ask about taking photos some night?"

"You'd have to talk to the burlesque people," he barked.  

I nodded.  I would.  I was feeling pretty good about talking to someone about it, of saying all of that out loud.  Yes, I thought, I am getting brave again.  


Outside, I tried to breathe the stench out of my nose.  The place was really rank.  

As I wandered back toward the market, I saw two fellows in weird matching outfits.  Oh my, oh my.  I held up my camera and pointed at them.  They shook their heads yes and struck a pose.  

"Let me take two," I said.  Then I fist bumped them and walked on.  It wasn't going to be a great picture, but I was "out there."  I was interacting.  It would take awhile, but maybe I'd get my groove back.  

Walking back, the crowd was thinning.  The market would be closing soon.  

Almost back to my car, I saw a couple looking at me.  

"What kind of camera is that?" the fellow asked.  

As I told you, Leicas always turn heads.  I told him about the camera.  He said he had just switched from digital to film.  He had just bought an old Canon AE-1, he said, for $70.  

"That's a steal," I said.  We talked cameras for a bit longer.  Then I asked to take their picture.  I said I would send them to him and gave him my phone number.  "Just text me," I said.  

I'm not putting my posed pics up today.  I need to have something to post this week.  They are not great or good pictures, but they are of people, not flags and trash cans and street signs.  I feel good about that fact alone.  But they are not really "people" so much as "historical figures."  There are no "people" in pictures.  They are signs, symbols. . . just something that stands for something else.  They are markers of time and circumstance, mere suggestions of "the thing."  You can never really photograph a person no matter how hard you try.  

I haven't any more time today, though.  I have therapy in a few minutes.  Physical, not the other.  And so. . . until then. . . . 

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