Books I Love: “Voyages” by Raymond Depardon


Hey folks,

My first installment of a new series titled “Books I Love.” The concept is very simple. Find a book in my collection, photograph it, then share it with you. The idea being to share what I love about the book or why I have it. The books will range from traditionally published, POD and handmade. The only stipulation is that I love the book. Most of them have a backstory, which I will also share. Books and photography are forever linked, so why not explore the relationship through my bookshelf. Hope you enjoy. This first installment features photographer Raymond Depardon and his brilliant book “Voyages.”

Something So Small

It’s amazing that something so small could be so pricey, important,etc.

If you saw the physical size of the things I traded to get this little item you would laugh. In physical mass, I came out way behind.

I was packing up today, for an upcoming shoot, and had a full bag of stuff, film, bodies, lenses, etc, and I grabbed this last. I thought, “Geez, how nice would it be to go out with two of these and nothing else.

I wouldn’t need to pack. There would be no more large bags. There would be no more back pain.

It got me to thinkin………..and when I end up thinkin…….I end up making some changes.

What I also like with this baby is that it requires no computer, no software, no firmware, no upgrades, no power converters, no portable hard drives, nothing.

You just need a bag of film and something to aim the camera at.

What is interesting is I am now seeing a fairly sizable push-back in regards to digital imaging. Not that there will be a large return to film, but I think we have been at the digital game long enough that A LOT of photographer are realizing that digital may or may not be what they were bargaining for, and yet another day spent in post production, FOR FREE, isn’t the dream life they envisioned when digital came along with the whispers of “the best thing ever.”

I’m pleased by the number of young photographers who are shooting film. They are versed in digital, but use what is best suited for a job. My generation were told digital was the only solution, and now we are seeing the chinks in that armor.

I think the idea of speed being the most important aspect of our work is quickly wearing off. Speed got us where we are today, instant gratification and an overwhelming need to meddle and control every pixel haven’t really done us any favors. We now see hundreds of thousands of images, seconds after they are taken, but most are not anything to remember. And hey, I’m guilty of doing the same thing.

So now I have my Leica again. Biggest gear mistake I ever made was selling this stuff. In reality a limiting style of camera, but for what it is good for, there is nothing better.

And for those of you who don’t know. This little camera comes with it an entire cargo load of historical baggage. The Leica signifies many, many things. History? An age gone by? Perhaps, but it also represents some of the most famous images in history, including the 2008 Picture of the Year. There is something about these little things that have always sparked debate. These cameras are also collected items, so you have an entire set of buyers who never actually use the camera, but instead buy and sell them like other commodities. These are referred to as “The doctor/lawyer crowd.”

And to further complicate matters, other photographers, working photographers, buy them and don’t really ever get to know this camera, a camera that takes a while to get to know, and thus end up wearing them more as jewelry than a working tool.

I read somewhere recently, about a photographer in Iraq, being somewhat perturbed by the “artist with a Leica” passing through Baghdad, making jealous those who are saddled with massive amounts of digital imaging equipment.

What I like goes beyond the size. I like how quiet this camera is. And, not this particular model, but many of their others don’t even require a battery. No electronics needed. And, you can carry this thing all the time and not bother about it. How many times have I heard from pros and amateurs alike, “Well, I was leaving the house and I looked down at my big slr and realized I don’t want to carry it around.”

I knew someone who was robbed on a bus in Bolivia. He had a digital point and shoot and a Leica, and the gunman took one look at his Leica, tossed it aside, then stole his digital point and shoot.

You get where I’m going? It’s just an old piece of metal. Nothing flashy.

This will be my fourth Leica. The first came around 1990, an M4P, probably the best one I ever had. No meter. Dropped onto a concrete floor, never missed a beat. Around the corner from where I sit right now, a framed piece hanging in my hallway. 1995 Guatemala, Nebaj, inside the house of a 80-year-old who had died the night before, a funeral. The lone foreigner in the house, one shot taken. Click. That was all that was needed. That same shot hangs 30×40 in a house in Phoenix, and another here in California.

My realization came when I began to look back on the work I have produced over the past ten years or so. Much of the best work was done with this camera. As I think about this, images tick by in my head, Salton Sea, Sicily, El Mirage, etc, etc.

And, even a portrait or two, and many weddings. Believe it or not, I used to shoot weddings with one camera, M6, and one lens, 35mm. No flash, and all black and white.

I think those weddings are some of the best work I ever did, back when the industry was more humane, more subdued, long before the 10,000 frame wedding day capture explosion that seems to be creeping more towards the norm of today.

I would shoot the film, process it myself, scan the negs, make 20 prints and that was it.

I’m thinking this could become a reality for me again.

Of course being a photographer, I’m never satisfied with my gear. So now that I have one Leica, I want two. And another lens. That’s just the way it is.

Buy Small, Be Ready, Always take it With You

A lot of people ask me about which camera to buy. I always say the same thing. Buy small, be ready and always take it with you, otherwise, why buy it?

I have a variety of cameras, but in end, I think the most valuable of all of them are the smallest ones.

First, I always have it with me, always. Cameras are great, but when left at home, they are just metal, or plastic boxes. That’s it. They just sit, waiting for you to come home and take them out again.

Also, small cameras are more subtle. For some photographers announcing the fact they are a photographer is important, and I’m sure can be strategic at times, but for most people being quiet and low key is the best mode.

When you have a small camera, one you always have with, you can make a variety of snaps you might now otherwise get. They won’t all be good, but some will be, and others are just funny.

This dog wanted nothing more than to sink his fangs into my fleshy thigh. Walking down the road, this evil canine let out a vicious snarl, bark, growl just as he passed by. I nearly stroked out, but was able to get one shot off. Why? Because my tiny camera was in my hand.
It was more of a defense mechanism than a photograph, but I got it none the less.

Go bite someone else Cujo.