My First, and Last Leica

A long time ago, when giants walked the earth, giants like Cartier-Bresson, Bill Brandt, David Douglas Duncan (he is still here) Picasso and many others who influenced me, I bought my first Leica Camera. It was a M2, I also bought a M3 soon after and they became my “working” cameras for miniature format – the “feel” and the “silence” was beautiful.

Time trickled away – stuff got lost, broken and sold – I drifted into digital quicksand and my darkroom lights went out.

Now I am starting over again, but prices and values (not the same thing) have gone weird. I always worked with “large format”, which, in the past, for me was 4″x5″ and occasionally 10″x8″ – but now 5″X7″ is small for me and I am working mostly with 10″x12″ (inches) – but small cameras have a fascination, I don’t use them now to make a living, so can load a few frames and choose exposure and development more selectively.

But I could not justify the cost of a Leica M series – until last week.

I saw a MDa on ebay (two actually) at a very low price – made a crazy very low bid – and was lucky – it has a broken rewind button (so if anyone has parts please let me know, but this is no problem, it works fine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The MDa is a lab camera – no rangefinder or viewfinder, basically it is the iconic M4 (one of the best cameras ever made). But as I only want a workhorse which is accurate and reliable, and as I only ever take four or five exposures which are usually thought through for a long time, I can use any viewfinder – then I thought about the Leica Visoflex and, low and behold, one appeared on ebay for under 50 euro – so I can (with a 5 euro adapter) put my selection of screw mounted lenses (Nikkor, Leica, Contax, Canon etc) – on my Leica Md body and have a SLR – I can also adapt this for a lot of the old 19th century lenses I have including some Peztvals.

So now I am back in the Leica fold (a little) – but I still love my Nikon SP.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have expanded our home and business, VillaRoquette, to offer a wide range of photographic services and workshops – my laboratories and darkroom is used by teachers and experts to give courses and workshops to students who can stay in our accommodation.

The next two day courses are in January and February for Collodion wet-plate photography and run by John Brewer – students can stay with us for as long as they like and make full use of the darkroom and facilities – I also teach traditional black and white photography and darkroom practice.

Students or guests can use my equipment and work with a large selection of classic cameras and lenses covering over 150 years of photography (I have one 1861 lens in daily use)

Wet Plate Photography Workshop Preparation

We are now taking reservations for the first Collodion, WetPlate workshop in VillaRoquette.

Photography at Villa Roquette

Some of the Equipment for the Collodion Ambrotype WetPlate workshops at VillaRoquette

The dates are set for October 11th and 12th 2014.

Here is a pdf file with more information

John Brewer and Dr Kate Horsley are holding a weekend workshop on collodion, wet-plate, photography at VillaRoquette.

A prominent artist and lecturer, John Brewer is an expert in wet plate collodion and alternative photographic processes. In the last few years he has mentored hundreds of artists, photographers and hobbyists in wet plate collodion and a great range of students, including many well-known professional photographers, come from all over the world to attend his workshops. John has exhibited internationally and his work is held in private collections worldwide.

Educated at Oxford and Harvard, Dr Kate Horsley is a writer and university lecturer who specialises in gothic fiction and has just published her first novel. Kate’s wet plate collodion work has been exhibited nationally, collected privately and included in an international series. For the last two years she has taught wet plate photography with John in venues across the UK.

This two day residential course is designed for a group of six students, all of whom will be provided with John’s comprehensive thirty page wet plate collodion manual. To ensure close personal attention, John and Kate will have the support of Tony Tidswell, a professional photographer who is fluent in French.

Accommodation will be included and students are welcome to bring friends or partners not attending the course. They have the option of staying in the Villa Roquette for additional days, with full use of the equipment and services provided. A film darkroom area is available to guests for use after the workshop has finished and there is a range of photographic equipment available; students are welcome to bring their own large format camera if they wish.

The total price for the course, including two days’ tuition and accommodation, materials, use of equipment, meals and all services of Villa Roquette is £475. Students staying longer or bringing friends or family pay only the (very reasonable) standard supplementary charges.

Delivered in English, this course will cover John’s complete wet plate collodion syllabus, enriched by informal discussions over breakfast, lunch and the Saturday evening meal. Wonderful local food and wines are in unlimited supply for all. To add to this, the beautiful countryside, the Mediterranean, French farming villages and sunshine provide fantastic atmosphere as well as spectacular photographic subject-matter.

The course will be given in English and students are given a comprehensive 30 page manual of the chemistry and processes written by John Brewer. There are French speaking assistants working in the course and translations of data sheets and processes can be provided and printed at any time in most languages (thanks to Google Translation).

Students can bring their own large format camera and there is a range of adapters on loan so 19th century lenses can be fitted to some digital cameras (put a Petzval on your 4/3).

Full Plate Camera with 385mm Rodenstock Petzval portrait lens for Collodion workshop

Full Plate Camera with 385mm Rodenstock Petzval portrait lens for Collodion workshop

The scope of the course is similar to those offered by John in the UK, the the added bonus of breakfast and lunch discussions and the Saturday evening meal, where local food and the wonderful local wines are in unlimited supply for all (as well as stimulating conversation). Plus the beautiful countryside, the Mediterranean, French farming villages and sunshine

 

 

Ghosts and Shadows

It is so long since I have written, anything, that I now have many thoughts and things I wish to say. A lot has occupied me during the last couple of years, perhaps working backwards from the strongest impressions may help slowly focus on a purpose.

Today is a good starting point – I wanted a pocket-sized book to read in a waiting room and picked up Ezra Pounds “ABC of Reading” – although I bought it over 50 years ago when I was an aspiring beatnik in the 1950s, I had never read it as it seemed heavy and was not his poetry – I remember buying the book (which was a large percentage of my Saturday jobs 25 shillings) because Kerouac mentioned it in the Dharma Bums (or was it On the Road) and I yearned to find their freedom.

Now, I find every page scintillating and concise, it seems an important book.

Already, the hope if some chronological voyage of my thoughts is lost – I jump to shadows – here I am immersed in the short book In Praise of Shadows, it is beautiful and helps me see images in my head I overlooked, I hope to find them through cameras – this led me to another book, Kusamakura –  so much to read – wonderful.

I have always (certainly since I was 7 years old at least) been influenced by Japanese expression and images – I am discovering fresh passions for many forms again – Butoh, Boro and some films.  the repeating interweaving of ghosts in life is a strong effect – look at Ugetsu monogatari (1953) – it is beautiful – I am tweeting about butoh so look there for links.

My love of photography strengthens and my understanding of ghosts and shadows grows, soon to be flowing onto a glass plate, I hope