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Sunday Paper - Minolta and Leica

My Sunday Reading list is back.

The Sunday paper is a compilation of interesting articles I have read during the previous week. Topics can be anything I found via my RSS feeds across various topics but mostly photography, technology, and philosophy. It used to be a regular feature of this blog, but I lost the habit in early 2020.

Josh Solomon gives a nuanced history of Minolta and Leica.

The legacy of Leitz Minolta is a complicated one to parse. On one hand, nearly every camera and lens made under the agreement still carries the undeserved stigma of being “not quite a Leica.” Mention the R-Series and the CL or CLE rangefinders in casual conversation with an older photo geek and you can expect the words “basically a Minolta” to be said with a hint of scorn. It doesn’t help that Leitz’s attempts at modernization, particularly the usage of more automation and plastic, were then and are still now looked down upon by the Leica faithful. It’s this catch-22 that seems to define Leica’s transitional past – modernize and risk upsetting the fan base (as happened with the Leica M5), or cling to tradition and be left in the dust (Leicaflex SL2, Leica R6). Leitz couldn’t win, and the only answer was to quit playing the SLR game entirely.

The Sweetest Taboo – The Unlikely Story of Leitz Minolta by Josh Solomon

My impression from reading blogs posts written by and for Leica owners is that many Leica owners are pretentious camera snobs. James Tocchio agrees that much of the Leica snobbery is hyperbole and now, even though I eschew rangefinder cameras, I am developing GAS for a Minolta CLE.

The party line is always the same. The best photographers and the legendary shooters who shaped the very foundation of photography, all use and used Leicas. The timeless Bauhaus aesthetic, the auditory discretion, the compact and perfect form factor, the brass, the hand-built precision; the M is an instrument of Zen, an extension of the eye, an artist’s brush. The mystique is so dense it’s palpable.

But what if I told you that a lot of what you’ve read about the M series is overwrought hyperbole? What if I said there’s a camera that takes everything that everyone loves about the M and improves on it? What if I told you that Leica doesn’t make the best 35mm rangefinder in the world?

Why I Choose the Minolta CLE Over Any Leica M by James Tocchio

James Tocchio finds a polite way to ask "is mastering the craft more important than owning the tool?"

But the fact that these photographers used these cameras is secondary to the sheer quality of their entire bodies of work. The incredible consistency across many decades of the medium is a testament to the talent behind the gear. These master artists accomplished exactly what they strived to accomplish; they made us focus on the message rather than the medium.

And really, that’s the moral of the story here. Of course it’s important to choose the right tool for the job, and indeed all of the photographers on our list did this beautifully. But even if you don’t have your dream camera, use whichever one you have to its absolute fullest and focus on your craft. Who knows, maybe someday you and your camera will carry each other to the dizzying artistic heights we’ve touched upon here. Hey, we can all dream, can’t we?

Five Famous Photographers and the Cameras They Used - Casual Photophile by James Tocchio

Sunday Paper - Manhattan’s Skyscrapers Are Empty, “Diary”, “Ok Boomer” is an ignorant meme

... the typical new American single-family home has become surprisingly luxurious, if not quite so swank as Manhattan’s glassy spires. Newly built houses in the U.S. are among the largest in the world, and their size-per-resident has nearly doubled in the past 50 years. And the bathrooms have multiplied. In the early ’70s, 40 percent of new single-family houses had 1.5 bathrooms or fewer; today, just 4 percent do. The mansions of the ’70s would be the typical new homes of the 2020s.

... Across the country, the supply of housing hasn’t kept up with population growth. Single-family-home sales are stuck at 1996 levels, even though the United States has added 60 million people—or two Texases—since the mid-’90s. The undersupply of housing has become one of the most important stories in economics in the past decade. It explains why Americans are less likely to move, why social mobility has declined, why regional inequality has increased, why entrepreneurship continues to fall, why wealth inequality has skyrocketed, and why certain neighborhoods have higher poverty and worse health.

What makes a hero?

Consider Robert O'Donnell, who rose to fame as the man who struggled down a narrow well to rescue Baby Jessica as a captivated nation watched, and who killed himself just days after seeing footage of rescue workers at the site of the Oklahoma City Bombing. He told his mother When those rescuers are through, they're going to need lots of help. I don't mean for a couple of days or weeks, but for years. Four days later he shot himself in the head, leaving a suicide note that read, I'm sorry to check out this way. But life sucks.
'Diary' is a highly personal and experimental film that expresses the subjective experience of [Tim Hetherington's] work, and was made as an attempt to locate [himself] after ten years of reporting. It's a kaleidoscope of images that link our western reality to the seemingly distant worlds we see in the media.

Diary (2010) from Tim Hetherington on Vimeo.

I'm not a boomer, I'm Gen X. But it seems not to matter. "Ok, boomer" is an ageist phrase that gets lobbed at anyone born before 1981. Just like the "snowflake" and avocado toast memes, this one needs to stop

Like much of online culture, “OK Boomer” tells us something about the cultural dominance of upper-middle-class youth. These young people are surrounded by baby boomers who’ve “hoarded all the wealth” and polluted the planet in the process. They haven’t had to witness – or deal with the ramifications of – old age and precarity for millions of working people in that generational cohort. Instead, they get to revel without self-reflection in oedipal angst about their elders – many of whom were kind enough to pass them their ill-gotten privileges.
Far from sitting atop riches, many [Boomers] never saw their household wealth recover after the Great Recession. They were victims of corporate raiders, neoliberal deregulation and predatory loans – and the situation is even more dire for those of them who are black and brown.

With this in mind, let’s retranslate the meme Lorenz is championing.

Boomer: “I can’t afford to live on social security. My promised pension disappeared. I might need to get out of retirement and start working part time again. I worry about the future.”

“OK Boomer.”?

Sunday Paper - Voting Machines, Smartphones and digital distraction

News summary by Rebecca Mercuri, PhD.

Ben Brooks on the nature of the advice on how to keep yourself from being distracted.

…There seems to be this idea that tech itself is addicting and that many are handcuffed to tech by way of their phone. And so often the advice, like that advice above, is along the lines of eschewing tech during some part of your life. It’s bad advice, it’s avoiding the hard questions and finding a scapegoat.

the truth is, if that is the route you are going to take, then why have a smartphone? Why not not have a smartphone? Because you can’t function in this world without one, right? Yeah, so then why do all that bullshit above? All of that above is like buying a Ferrari and then stripping away your use of it until it is no better than a golf cart. Like, just get a bicycle at that point.
The Smartphone Isn’t Evil, Chill By Ben Brooks

Writing in the Harvard Business Review,Janna Koretz, asks us to consinder What Happens When Your Career Becomes Your Whole Identity? Some might argue that although they spend a lot of time working, work and career are integrated, and they are not enmeshed. I can't answer for them, but I think the distinction lies in knowing whether your career is just another facet of your life or your life is organised around your career.