Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1999/03/14

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Our existential pleasures
From: "Bruce Feldman" <>
Date: Sun, 14 Mar 1999 21:21:20 +0100

Many years ago, I saw my old Hungarian music-history professor sitting in
his office listening to a Beethoven symphony on a small AM transistor radio.
So I said to him, "Why are you doing that?  How can you appreciate a great
piece of music like that while listening to it on such a cheap piece of

He said something very interesting:

"The mind compensates for deficiencies in the medium.  The mind must do
that.  It needs to do that.  It is not happy *unless* it is doing that."

Wow!  I thought about that for weeks.  It may be just tinny-sounding music
coming from a cheap transistor radio, but in the mind it is transformed into
a full-bodied, live performance in every way.  The sound quality -- or
optical quality -- of the medium doesn't matter beyond a certain point.
It's job is to stimulate our imagination to take over and complete the
performance.  Isn't that the same thing that occurs in reading, let's say, a
masterpiece of fiction?  Our mind has the ability to "be" wherever the novel
takes us.  It transcends the medium.  The job of the words is merely to
stimulate our imagination to take over.

A good photograph does the same thing.  It is a suggestion.  It is food for
the imagination.  It doesn't *have* to be complete in itself; it doesn't
*have* to be optically flawless.  These things are often quite irrelevant,
and can even be counterproductive.  We see the beaming French boy carrying
the loaves and the wine and our imagination runs wild filling in the blanks:
Urban, working-class France.  The family he's going home to -- Mama in the
kitchen, Papa fixing the bicycle.  The poverty.  The love, the naivete, the
optimism on his face, in the midst of war-torn Europe, etc.  We swoon.

Someone once said that the poverty of television is in the fact that it
simply doesn't leave enough to the imagination.  Trash images. What you see
is what you get.  There's nothing to be done.  The imagination shrivels into
a prune.  That is why I believe in still photography, in black-and-white
photography, in Leicas -- old and new.  (I'll accept Erwin's revelation
that he has never [yet???] seen an optical improvement in a Leica lens that
has hindered it's ability to render beauty.)

The genius of the Leica lens is in its ability to not do too much; to simply
and elegantly suggest; to feed the imagination.

Bruce Feldman
Warsaw, Poland

>Audio is much harder to reproduce than two
>dimensional pictures. It's not too demanding for modern photographic tools
>to make a very convincing two-dimensional picture. But to recreate an
>orchestra at full tilt in my living room, with a full dynamic range and the
>feeling of drama that comes with the acoustic of a hall being energised -
>now that is very, very difficult, and very expensive, very esoteric audio
>products leave a lot still to be desired.