Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/12/03

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Subject: [Leica] Working styles
From: Oddmund Garvik <>
Date: Thu, 3 Dec 1998 15:55:30 +0100 (MET)

Carl Socolow wrote:

>I'm curious, because it's seldom discussed on the LUG, about different
>individuals' working styles. You obviously direct your work towards the
>humanistic and the socially relevant and so you must primarily
>photograph people, I assume. When you do this do you work candidly, with
>their approval, interactively? What sort of physical space do you
>maintain? What lighting approaches? How intrusive or unobtrusive are
>you? I'll also make an assumption that your ongoing use of Leicas works
>with your technique and approach even though I know that you have used
>other machines and you are not a dogmatic leicaphile. These questions,
>by the way, are equally open to response by other LUG members relative
>to their own working styles.

I primarily photograph people, portraits, or in situation. I rarely work 
candidly. Only when I have no choice in situations of obvious oppression, or 
aggression (like in the Paris demonstration I mentioned). In third world 
countries such situations are difficult to cover openly, so you really have to 
be inventive, and take some risks.

For the rest I prefer the interaction. It takes time and patience to obtain 
a status as a friendly foreigner, it is not enough to declare one's 
solidarity. I always keep a low profile. Humility is a natural part in any 
such interaction, and respect, of course. I am not a shooter. I am discreet, 
I have a modest equipment, and make few images. Some places I do nothing, 
without knowing exactly why. It's just an intuition. A believe in irrational 

I am using the 50mm mostly, sometimes a 35mm (3-4 years old Summicrons now). 
I am working quite close, 1-3 meters, always in available light, often 
"contre-jour", or classic 45 degree natural light to bring out the third 
dimension. My photography is very classic, actually, but I like 
experimenting in the lab, using different papers, emulsions, and toners.

I don't like flash, but use it occasionally with the Contaxes, in-doors. 

I hope that one day I'll end up with one camera and one sole lens. That was 
how I started thirty years ago, when I got my first M4 and 50mm Summicron.

That's all.


PS, you also wrote:

>I should add that I used a quote of yours last year when speaking to a
>group of high school students for a career day. I was there as the token
>photographer. Your quote referenced the preparations necessary to become
>a photographer and it was pretty much autobiographical in dealing with
>your range of life experiences. I thought it insightful to a bunch of
>kids who get caught up in form and lose sight of content.

This makes me very happy...thank you! But remember, I am not better than any 
of you, I am a very humble and modest photographer.