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Sunday, 26 October 2014


Mike, I remember reading that. I have a small stack of David Vestal's articles clipped from PHOTO Techniques. Editors Page MAR/APR 1996 The Classic View :
...Bear in mind, David "wears" his cameras-puts one on in the morning and takes it off again at night, just like a shirt or a pair of shoes.
-Mike Johnston
I am sorry that I never subscribed to his newsletter, GRUMP. The articles I have are timeless. Wonderful Stuff !

"After his demise" -- I didn't realize he had passed away. I found his writing on the B&W darkroom process very helpful.

My 90mm Summicron R and 180mm Elmar R were owned/used by "Mel Frank" to illustrate his several seminal books on how to grow marijuana and hash production. The glass was immaculate, but the bodies showed the effects of travels to all the pot/hash regions of the world - Afghanistan, Lebanon, Hawaii, remote locations in California, Southeast Asia. I used to joke that they were the best lenses ever for delicate shades of green.

The purchasing method was circuitous - via his brother in law on ebay, as Mel was a bit of a recluse. They did come with a letter of authentication and signed copies of a couple of the books.

I think that I'm seeing TOP returning to it's former, wonderful, relaxed style, after a time of sometimes feeling a bit forced or rushed (though always interesting and well written).

Maybe your stress level is normalizing after your move? Anyway, keep up the good work!

I don't have time today, or probably for the next few weeks, to do any real research, but a quick flip through David Vestal's "Craft of Photography" unearthed the following (on page 312 of the hardcover edition):

"Mostly, I work with no plans or ideas. I just wear a little camera so I can conveniently let the good things I see into it — whatever their nature. When I see something I love or hate the look of, I tend to pause long enough to shoot it.

"Categories have nothing to do with this approach, which depends on pure luck. I have to be lucky enough to see some of the fascinating stuff around me, which is roughly comparable to the luck needed to find air to breathe. It's free and it's there. All you do is use it."

I found this quote opposite a picture Vestal used in that book, a wonderful image of Gene Smith standing in the dark on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, near his legendary loft in the Flower District. Mike surely knows the photograph, since he used it on the cover of Darkroom & Creative Camera Techniques (Nov/Dec 1995), the issue for which I wrote an article, "The Real Darkroom Secrets of W. Eugene Smith."

Speaking of "categories," Gene once hand-wrote the following on a 3x5 notecard (I came upon it while researching in his 44-ton archive at the Center for Creative Photography in Arizona): "Hardening of the Categories causes Art Disease."

I feel privileged to have been touched by the lives of both of these visionary photographers. — Jim Hughes

re: Vestal eBay offerings, there was also a Canon L2 rangefinder camera offered on eBay a while back http://www.ebay.com/itm/Canon-L2-35mm-Focal-Plane-Shutter-Rangefinder-Camera-w-Lens-amp-Diax-Viewfinder-/301096832141?ssPageName=ADME:X:RTQ:US:1123

no funds to bid higher alas

You wrote "I was sorely tempted to acquire one as a photohistorical relic".

If one has to get a "relic" it should come directly from the owner. At least the owner should have a direct involvement in the transfer. Or else it is just a purchase, purchase of second hand camera. The situation is a bit like getting a book signed by the author at the book shop.

I immediately remembered David's shot of Ansel Adams driving to the mountains which you published some years back.

Leica M2, 35mm lens, Tri-X, and be there.
We've gained a lot with technology, but we've lost something as well.

You're right about Vestal finishing getting dressed by putting on his camera as the last item of appearel. I think I have a quote to that affect somewhere in my collection of 'Grump' non-news letters or perhaps in my letters from David. I'll dive in an try to find it.
I can tell you that from my own experience with David in October 2012 when the two of us drove from my house in Houston to Al Weber's final rendezous in King City California and back, his camera was a constant companion. We always had seperate rooms at our nightly stops so I didn't see David dressing in the mornings, but as I did all the driving he spent his time looking out the window through his camera. It was a digital Fuji, I don't rmrmber which one.
Len Kowitz

Here's a link to some of my work.https://www.flickr.com/photos/lenkowitz/

To follow up on the thread David Vestal's Sartorial habits.
I can't find a quote in the first 50 issues of Grump and as I think about it, it might be that the idea that the last thing David put on when he got dressed was actually in a description of David that was published in Photo Techniques magazine. I never heard David make that comment about himself.

Well I have a Canon 1Ds previously owned by Matthieu Ricard , philosopher ,photographer , molecular geneticist , brain imaging researcher and French interpreter for the Dalai Lama.

According to Wikipedia Cartier-Bresson said "Matthieu’s spiritual life and his camera are one, from which springs these images,

Oh just google the guy if you are interested

One of the fun things about getting a used digital pro camera is that looking up what photos on the web share the same exit data.

Really need to sell it though

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