Cartier-Bresson: Point-and-shoot and Hank Carter

Good enough for HC-B

Any book comprised solely of snaps of one great photographer by another is bound to fall into the ‘Silly’ section of a library. Such is the case with ‘Faceless’, a slim book published in 2000 with 36 snaps of Henri Cartier-Bresson taken by David Douglas Duncan. It went out of print almost as fast as it hit the stores. I bought it solely as a memento of HC-B and found a little more to it than at first meets the eye.

Cartier-Bresson may not have taken a memorable snap in twenty years, but he still messed about with cameras. So, as a new generation of Leica film fetishists reluctantly migrates to Leica rangefinder digital in the underwhelming M8 ($5k, lens extra, largely useless viewfinder, fragile optical rangefinder, personalized engraving extra, gold plating on demand if you are a Saudi) these poor boobs (OK, not so poor) tell themselves that HC-B used an M rangefinder for most of his years, so it has to work for them. Snag is, as the above shows, ol’ Hank Carter (as his mates at Magnum knew him), was no longer an M Man. Rather, he had switched to a point-and-shoot Minilux which was emblazoned with the Leica logo but came from points farther east.

So while the M8 set keeps telling itself that its deeply flawed camera (IR problems, execrable quality control, largely useless viewfinder if you use wide angle lenses, manual focus, noisy shutter, no assurance that the poorly capitalized manufacturer will survive the next economic downturn, today’s technology in a geriatric body, ridiculous price for what you get) is just the sort of thing HC-B would use today, the old man had finally got what he always wanted – meaning auto-everything, fixed focal length lens and near silent shutter, allowing all the photographer’s skills to be directed at the subject, not the gear. Plus, you can stick it in your pocket; ever tried that with an M Leica?

No matter; before long someone will come out with a like version with a decent digital sensor; essentially a throwaway camera whose very disposability will make it a better tool. After all, who is going to take risks with a camera like the M8 which represents several months disposable income for most, with the occasional fitness for purpose afforded by a street snapper design? And maybe that digital maker can come out with two versions – one with a fixed wide and one with a modest long-focus lens. And no shutter lag. Put me down for two, and keep the change from not getting an M8 for the gas pump. We’re going to need it.

2 thoughts on “Cartier-Bresson: Point-and-shoot and Hank Carter

  1. Thomas
    I am one of those that are struggling to let go of their M6 and have found nowhere special to go.
    I almost love the LX1 but it’s not quite there (I hate the noise, the lack of viewfinder and the uncertain zoom-it should have presets at the 28-35-50-70-105 positions, who cares about anything in between!).
    I’m not sure the Sigma will be, either. Besides, 28mm is great but the goold ol’50 is not something I am ready to give up—that’s the second body you are talking about.
    I wish the M8 was not such a poor compromise. I’d be willing to pay the $5k IF I could use my lenses for what they were supposed to. And maybe even then, why fork $5k for something that will be obsolete in 2 years if it is not already? A Leica is supposed to be used for 30+ years indeed!
    Maybe I’ll stick to M6, Tri-X and home processing plus scanning…

    PS I am also happily using a Sony R1 as a quasi-Hasselblad (you know, waistlevel finder and all) but clearly it fails the ‘under a jacket’ test so it does not count…

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