Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1996/10/03

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Subject: Re: M6 emotive quality
From: "Charles E. Love, Jr." <>
Date: Thu, 3 Oct 1996 11:27:11 -0400 (EDT)

I think what you suggest is true (and so, I think, do a lot of great
photojournalists, Mary Ellen Mark being one example).  The interesting
question is why this should be so.  Lots of authors seem to say that it has
something to do with what and how you see with a rangefinder (e.g., one said
"you look into an SLR and through a Leica").  Another explanation, which
seems to me sensible: amateur photographers often think that people pictures
are taken by sneaking up on them with a long lens, as SLR's permit, but in
fact this is unpleasant for the subjects.  You have to work right in the
heart of things and interact with your subjects with an M, and they accept
your presence.   I have another, simpler explanation to suggest, based on my
own experience:  I think people these days react to a Leica M, especially in
black, as if it were a point and shoot.  SLR's, especially pro ones like the
Canon EOS-1 and the Nikon F4 and 5, have become huge and intimidating
machines--think of an EOS-1 equipped with their excellent f2.8 28-70, for
instance.  The contrast with the M is tremendous.  

At 08:14 PM 10/2/96 -0600, you wrote:
>I had the opportunity to test an M6 recently. The pictures seemed
>to display a certain emotive quality. I am wondering if this is
>typical of what others experience with this camera.
>   I was photographing my children at play. They are 6 and 7 years
>   old. I have been photographing them from birth with 35mm SLRs.
>The pictures appear as if the kids were almost unaware that they
>were being photographed, even though most of the pictures were
>taken at close proximity with a 35 mm f/1.4 lens.
>   The Leica photos showed the kids displaying emotions of joy,
>   anger, and frustration. They have a penetrating quality.
>The reason why I found this peculiar is because whenever I photographed
>them in the past with an SLR, they seemed to react differently.
>Once they were old enough to know what a camera was and what it
>did, they became all too aware of the camera's presence, and began
>posing or making faces when the pictures were about to be taken.
>   With the Leica, they seemed to go about their play, and the
>   camera was able to capture some very powerful expressive qualities.
>Is this a common part of the Leica owner's experience with an
>M6? I have heard people describing similar phenomena when describing
>the camera and the images it is capable of capturing. I would
>appreciate some feedback on this matter, because I am considering
>whether or not to purchase this camera.
Charles E. Love, Jr.
517 Warren Place
Ithaca, New York