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Tuesday, 22 October 2019


I think Mr. Puts has thrown such tantrums several times, especially since Leica introduced the newfangled discovery of electricity into their cameras.

I really do not know Mr. Puts' expertise credentials nor have I ever seen a photograph he's taken. So it's hard to account for his magnum opus, "The Leica Compendium", beyond sheer monomania. But it really was, and still is, a rather enjoyable and educational work that spans beyond the Leica brand. (The hard-cover is long out of print but you can get it in PDF on the LFI site. For a small, free, taste of the big book see his "Leica M Lenses".)

Mr. Puts must be well into his 70's now and his life's work is certainly behind him. Watching technological and sociological waves slowly wash your castle away would make anyone crabby. But I think he should be satisfied with his accomplishments, not shake his cane at the kids running on his grass, and enjoy his sunset years as an elder statesman, albeit a rather mysterious one, for the Leica brand's history.

I once again wonder why I bother with photography. It seems unfair that an anonymous police photographer can be as good as Avedon and Arbus...."

The difference is that the police photographer was that good once while Avedon and Arbus were both that good repeatedly and on demand.

The photograph reminds me of the 1964 painting, "The Son of Man."

And speaking of Avedon or Arbus, I don't think you'll ever find more powerful or moving portraits than those taken at The Killing Fields of Cambodia...


I second Alex Soth on Sydney police photography -- happened to pick up a book called City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs 1921-1948 by Peter Doyle (available at Amazon and others) there a few years ago. Very striking, especially the mugshots/portraits, but be aware there are pictures of dead bodies as well.

He's probably now using a Fuji X-Pro or X100F....like William Eggleston.

As for his comment, ""the soul of Leica products has been eradicated.", he's alsolutley right.

What with Hello Kitty pink Leicas, Lenny Kravitz punked-out versions, Andy Summers editions, Safari editions, Moncier editions, Zagato editions, whatever that thing was that cost 15 large and was covered in ping pong paddle rubber....give me a frickin' break.

Say it isn’t so! Erwin Puts leaving the Leica fold? I never thought I would live to see the day. I thought we would have to pry his M3 from his cold, dead hands.

When I was a Leica shooter, I followed Erwin and read everything he wrote. I couldn’t get enough. I learned an enormous amount about Leica from him. He is a marvel of Leica information and insight. At one time, after moving to digital photography, and finding myself with a brick of 35mm Kodak Ektar 25 color negative film, I offered it to Erwin (and he accepted) to further his lens resolution tests. I was happy to contribute to his efforts in a very tiny way.

Although I still have a 1958 Leica M3 SS with a 50mm DR Summicron attached, I moved to digital years ago and gave up the mystique of the brand. I really don’t miss using my Leica cameras (at one time I owned several, both rangefinder and SLR, and a bevy of lenses) as I have found satisfaction with digital photography.

Thank you Erwin for all you have done for the Leica world!

Three things pop into my mind.
1. Huawei phones using Leica lens designs.
2. L-mount Alliance—includes Sigma, another lens manufacturer.
3. Leica FOTOS app 1.3 for phones, will soon be joined by an iPad version.

This ain't his fathers Leica anymore.

My guess is that what really happened is that Leica, now relying on vapid influencers and instagram personalities who know nothing about photography or optics, decided to stop paying Erwin, and as such he is now done with them.


I have a great deal of respect for Erwin Puts. He is obviously infinitely knowledgeable on all things Leica, but more importantly he has made a very serious effort at conceptualising "classical rangefinder photography", and he has been willing to ask how this approach changes in the transition from film to digital.

Myself, I never was an active M-user, though in my late film days there was a period where I gained a great deal of photographic joy from using a set of IIf and IIIg screw-mount Leicas. But strangely enough, if I had to express the reasons for the creative thrill that I get today from using a Fuji XPro2, it probably would be in terms that are very close to Erwin Puts's thoughtful reflections on his Leica-M experience.

We can be certain and must be prepared for change.

Change can be seen in:
1. Relationships
2. Power and Politics
3. Our physical bodies
4. Climate
5. Photography as a medium and the styles in what is left of it.

Naturalistic Photography is also available on gutenberg.org in MOBI and EPUB formats. Death of doesn't appear to be, however.

Project Gutenberg has a free copy of Naturalistic Photography available online. It’s a great source of old books, including quite a few photography books.

I find it a bit strange. In my opinion, Leica has been quite successful in adapting to the new digital reality and has even made some very bold moves that the bigger companies have been clearly afraid to do and even follow.
If only they would make a real digital ‘M’. (=Q with M mount, or at least full frame CM). That is the only thing they have been so far afraid to do, probably not to threaten M sales.

The Leica Forum has been vocal about Mr. Puts. https://www.l-camera-forum.com/topic/302616-erwin-puts-gives-up-on-leica/

He'll be back. Besides, most Leica aficionados are more concerned these days with the new 25% tariffs the G slapped on imported German lenses.

Puts writes "(...) Nowadays its [leica] products are as mainstream as every other camera manufacture.(...)"
Uh. No. They are niche products. They are also status items, at least amongst the photo-savvy people.
In all honesty though, Leica lost its soul pretty much at the time it started to churn countless limited editions for the rich Chinese.

The photograph of the man in the top hat is stupidly good. The composition is impecable, the echoing forms of the standing man and the telephone poles is visually arresting, and the deep depth of field captures all of it. This is a fine example of how, sometimes, more is more in photography. The current infatuation with shallow depth of field can’t imagine such an image

That’s a pretty wonderful photo alright. Sort of a combination of Thomas Hart Benton perspective and René Magritte.
What’s the deal anyway with police photographers? Arnold Odermatt comes to mind of course. Amazing stuff where formal conceits run amok in a wonderful way.

I can't raise much enthusiasm for this news.

I thought Puts was prone to over-praising Leica. Now, he's damning them for making what he regards as more pedestrian product.

I'm not sure "the soul of Leica products" has been eradicated so much as relocated.


"It seems unfair that an anonymous police photographer can be as good as Avedon and Arbus...."

Why is that unfair? Are only people who call themselves artists allowed to make art? That guy could have been Avedon or Arbus and Avedon and Arbus could have wound up as police photographers given another roll of the dice.

Thank you for pointing to the Caroline Simpson Library and Research Collection at Sydney Living Museums, and to Alec Soth's blog comments on those images from 2007.

It's a thrill to see new images of my home city from the 1920s and 1930s. And the comments by Alec Soth on the value of "vernacular photography" leap out to me as even more relevant today.

From that same blog post, Soth wrote: I took my SFAI class to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to see a show by Joachim Schmid. All of Schmid’s work is made with found photography. One of the questions raised by this work is how professional photographers – plagued by self-consciousness – can ever match the visceral power of vernacular photography.

I consider photography to be an under-appreciated gift to modern mankind, as it, uniquely, is able to transcend distance and time to show us worlds we cannot imagine otherwise. The remarkable collection of photographs you've posted here is yet another fine example. In recent years, exhibited photography has become overwhelmingly dominated by contrived images, often ridiculous; this collection of vernacular photography, refreshingly, contains many gems far more worthy of exhibition.

Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art. by P. H. Emerson (second edition)

is in the public domain and there is a free public domain copy at Gutenburg (that's what the Kindle book is derived from I suspect).


or you can find a PDF of a scan (of a copy from the University of California) at archive.org


I note with some amusement this book has lots of ads at the start and does have a lot about equipment and darkroom techniques.

I do like how we are so similar to the Victorians.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

I bought, read, and enjoyed Mr Puts' "Leica Lens Compendium". Not sure if I ever understood some of his evaluations, although in 32 years of using Leica M cameras I owned a few of the optics he reviewed. Hard to see how his retirement will affect those who photograph with Leicas,
Though. Indeed, a purist might suggest that Leica lost its 'soul' when they introduced the Minolta-made CL in what, 1974?
Mike, if you want my copy of the "Lens Compendium" I'll happily send it along.

Only a Sith deals in absolutes

Mike Johnston "His work looks Pictorialist to us today, but Encyclopaedia Britannica is right that his thinking matched very closely what came to be valued across much of 20th century photography."

Yes, it will do. If I recall correctly, the terms pictorialist and recordist have alternated or switched meanings two or three times during the history of photography. A prime example would be the reaction of the founders of The f64 Group to the earlier twentieth century photographic endeavours of American 'pictorialists' with their addiction to antiquity & symbolism, soft focus and multiple printing from more than one negative. Plus ca change.

PH Emerson was not alone. I have just acquired a copy of Beaumont Newhall's book about Frederick Evans. Evans eschewed what he called 'retouching'; cropping when printing or printing from multiple negatives and adding in image components afterward, and wanted to make straight contact Platinotype prints from his plates. He did spot his prints but he set his own 'purity parameters' for the route from before the camera was positioned through to the final print.

He was a contemporary of PH Emerson.

Here in the UK in photographic society and camera club circles forty and more years ago, it was commonplace to have a distinction between 'pictorial photography' and 'record photography' for competition purposes. There were regular difficulties (and disagreements!) over defining the two. That may be what led to the gradual abandonment of the competition categories a decade or so later and it is rarely found in club circles today.

Responding to Mr. Puts’ “announcement”, I must say, despite his contribution to highlighting Leica photography, he sounds dismissive and snotty as well as backwards. No one can deny that today’s image sensors largely replaced films. It doesn’t require a genius to see that this change requires research in order to stay meaningful. This is also the same as any camera manufacturer being interested in the chemical formulas behind a particular type of film. So when Leica announces its interest in the computational photography (similar to the emulsion chemistry), suddenly it has lost its “soul”? The soul Puts speaks of is that of the people who designed and made Leica. The machine is the reflection of that soul. (Whether or not those people sold their soul is yet to be seen...) After all, a sensor is simply the substrate that captures light values, nothing more, just like the film plastic holds the emulsion. It’s the algorithm, or the emulsion chemistry in case of films, that determines the quality of the resulting image. It’s a well known anecdote (even though I can’t prove it) that Leica’s CCD sensor for M9 was modeled after Kodachrome. I see absolutely no problem if the SLs, CLs or what have you become the bread and butter of Leica in order to further perfect and preserve the Ms for the digital age. Mr. Pus has been a great commentator and archivist of Leica. It seems his service has come to an end. So be it.

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