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The Leica Path - Erwin Puts [8686HW100714]

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The unexpectedly swift transition of digitization of the photographic process and the subsequent digitalization of the photographic culture has created a difficult and at the same time exciting situation for the average Leica user. More choices of digital camera models promise an easier workflow and expanded opportunities for picture taking. On the other hand the Leica camera has lost part of its traditional magic. With billions of pictures uploaded every day, four questions need to be answered: (1) why photograph at all, (2) why photograph with a Leica camera, (3) which Leica camera to use and (4) what style of pictures is appropriate for the 21st century. To answer the first question (a) we have to look at the differences between the way the brain processes the visual reality and how the lens does depict this same reality; (b) we have to appreciate how photography has been developed since its announcement in 1839 and the role of the Leica as the ultimate snapshot camera since 1925; (c) the development of modernism that emphasizes the important role of the moment and the gaze in everyday life, starting with the Impressionists and ending with Winogrand. To answer the second question we have to look at (a) the Leica as a technical artefact that was the first precision engineered camera, including its design and engineering; (b) the evolution of the manufacturing process to produce the Leica and (c) the current level of engineering, material choice and design principles of the Leica product range. To answer the third question we have to look at (a) the emotional and practical differences between the analog and digital technical processes and (b) the style and technique of the great masters of Leica photography. To answer the fourth question we have to look at (a) the differences between low (amateur) art and high (intentional) art and the middle-bow art in between; (b) the deadpan-snapshot style as an alternative to the ubiquoutous street photography that has been defined as the quintessential Leica photography style, starting with the decisive moment. The conclusion is rather unexpected: the emotional personal record of everyday life in deadpan format is best suited for Leica photographers in this 21st century.