I want to tell you the story why I bought a Leica camera.
I. I want to be like HENRI
When I first started to shoot street photography — sooner or later (of course) you discover Henri Cartier-Bresson, the master.
I then wondered– if I want to make photos like Cartier-Bresson, what camera should I use? Of course, looking at him — he shot with a Leica. So I had the impression: If I bought a Leica, I can (finally) unlock my inner-potential to make photos like Henri Cartier-Bresson.
II. I just need to eat ramen for a year
When I first saw how much a Leica cost, I shit my pants. I wondered to myself:
How can I ever afford that? And how can normal human beings afford that?
I did some back of the envelope calculations.
It was simple: if I just ate ramen for a year, I could afford one.
Or I could play the stock market, make a shitload of money, and finally buy a Leica and solve all of my life’s problems.
III. I wanted to conquer my fears in street photography
I was a timid street photographer at age 18. I was an extrovert and social — yet the fear of photographing a stranger was like death to me. I started to shoot with my Canon Rebel XT 350D with a Sigma 18-200mm lens. I shot all my street photos at 200mm — because I was afraid to interact with people.
I thought if I just bought a Leica, I would no longer have fear in the streets.
IV. How I afforded my first Leica
Fast-forward, I get laid off my job (age 22, in 2011) and get about 5000 USD from my company (Demand Media) as a part of my ‘severance’ package. + stock options. I borrow 3000 USD from my Mom (who took out a 0% APR loan) to buy a used Leica M9 (5000 USD) + 35mm f/1.4 Summilux non-ASPH (3000 USD). I achieved my dream.
The first week was pure bliss. I felt fucking cool. I finally had a Leica. I was no longer a ‘wanna-be’ with a DSLR. I had the heritage and legacy of Henri Cartier-Bresson in my DNA. I was finally able to achieve my fullest potential (or at least I thought).
But what happened next? Eventually, I lost inspiration. I started to realize that my photos weren’t that different from my photos on my Canon 5D. I also realized that the Leica was heavier than I imagined, and I was still scared shitless shooting street photography.
V. I’ve changed
Now, my ambitions are a bit more modest. All I want in life is a blacked-out matted-out (murdered out) Lamborghini Huracan. Then I know everyone will think I am a badass, and I will be cool, and everyone will love me.
Even now, I care too much about what others think of me. I want to be ‘cool’ — but still I outsource or crowd-source my self-esteem.
VI. Why street photography has made me a better human being
I appreciate street photography because it has taught me some of the best ethics, virtues, and world-views.
To me, street photography is all about democracy. Openness. Everyone can shoot street photography — and everyone does. Anyone with an iPhone or a smartphone (is already) a street photographer.
Street photography helped me step outside of my comfort zone, to build my personal confidence, to not care about ‘haters’, and to become the fullest-version of myself. Street photography has helped me follow my curiosity, to interact with strangers, and to make photos with personal meaning — connected with the rest of society and the public.
VII. Leica is a luxury good
Buying a Leica didn’t make me a more confident person. It didn’t make my dick bigger. It didn’t make everyone love me.
I know it did make me ‘feel’ cooler– and certainly getting more stares at photo exhibitions (wearing a Leica necklace is like wearing a Rolex Watch).
BTW, I own both.
VIII. How to become a better photographer
So what is the moral of the story?
Buying a Leica will not make you a better photographer.
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