Esquire published a puzzling article describing what they believe to be the “Cult Of Leica Camera”. Simon Garfield uses questionable anectdotes and passive aggressive arguments to make the case that hype has created the perception of Leica as a superior product. Hit the jump to find out more.
Esquire – The Cult Of Leica Camera
“The Cult Of Leica” by Simon Garfield appears in the Autumn/Winter 2014 edition of Esquire’s Big Black Book. The title of the article is likely a reference to the 2004 book “Cult Of Mac,” which discusses fanaticism about the Apple product line. But where “Cult of Mac” was a tongue-in-cheek look at the consumers of Apple products, Garfield’s passive agressive argument seems to take a genuinely negative approach to make a razor thin point.
Garfield first recounts a preposterous and implausible anectdote about “a man online” who glued a red dot to an otherwise crappy camera and was astounded at his ability to suddenly take better photos. Suggesting that image alone drives people to “believe” they take better photos with Leica cameras – a claim that seems to be drawn from thin air.
He goes on to ponder whether the fact that famous people use Leicas has created a false desire for the cameras as luxury items. Making Leica the Cristal of the camera world?
The negative conjecture continues when he visits the Leica 100 auction in Wetzlar and is amazed when an image by Turkish photographer Ara Güler, showing him drinking tea while holding his Leica M3, sells for nearly £1500 more than Bresson’s famed puddle jumper. A fact that Garfield believs “tells us something about the power of Leica iconography.” Again, he uses conjecture and half finished ideas to suggest that Leica fans put more value on a camera than the images they create.
He concludes his article with a quote from Max Berek, who, according to Garfield, was responsible for the very first Leica lenses, and who proclaimed that the product “almost unavoidably leads to astounding results in the hands of laymen unfamiliar with the principles of photography.” Suggesting a founding principle of Leica was to instill a false belief in the superiority of the product as a necessary and sufficient component of better photography.
The article is riddled with flimsy examples and stops short of making any type of concrete editorial statement. Relying instead on conjecture and passive-aggressive leading arguments to create a consensus of opinion that favors the author’s point of view. This kind of verbal side-stepping is the life blood of middle management in large corporate offices and stands at odds with the directness of the phtographic medium as a whole.
Look, everyone is entitled to their point of view and nobody is “required” to like anything made by Leica. But Garfield’s argument is one sided to a fault. Instead of looking at why photographers may or may not choose to shoot with Leica cameras he provides a closed set of flimsy examples that lead readers to the conclusion that hype alone has created the illusion of Leica quality.
What’s your take on Esquire’s Cult Of Leica Camera article? Do you agree with Garfield’s points or do you think he missed the point with Leica? Post your ideas in the comments below and keep the converation going!