This Monday, the time had come for us to take our annual 'works outing' to London. The objective: to catch up with all our dealer friends, take in a photo exhibition and go have a nice lunch at our favourite spot - the Bafta Club on Piccadilly... We also couldn't resist taking a camera or two and capturing a few images of the day. We didn't reach the heady heights of the old-school LIFE magazine photo essays that we love (although I couldn't resist asking Josh to mock up a cover for us) but it was certainly nice to get out of the office for a day.
An early morning start found us on the station platform and the first train into London...
Josh and I had our Monochrom Leicas (mine with a type 2 35mm Summicron, Josh, with a 35mm Voigtlander 1.4 and Will and Sophie joined with their film Leicas.
Sophie is working to get the best out of her Leica II and William had his trusty M6 - with yet another of his specially adapted camera lenses: a 2.8" (71mm) T2.5 (f2.3) Cook Panchrotal Anastigmat.
I also brought one of my trusty Nikon rangefinder cameras (see last week's blog 'A Road Less Travelled' for my thoughts on these great cameras)
Sophie hit the ground running as we walked into town from London's Euston station. She had her Leica to her eye from the moment we left the train. Sophie's camera may be a collector's item but it is still a great camera to use. And the photographic joy of a big city never dims; Josh reflected that' 'some days it seems that there are images everywhere you look'.
We paused at The Camera Museum on Coptic Street (just by The British Museum.)
The museum is a pretty eccentric collection of cameras but we can't think of anywhere else where you will find such exotica as a Hasselblad 500c openly displayed on the coffee table with the legend 'Try Me' written on it with a black marker pen!
The cafe is full of cameras to try - and plenty of people doing just that. But I think Sophie was not wildly impressed by the shop display dummy.
Our odyssey continued with visits to the cluster of camera shops within a stone's throw of the British Museum.
Will spotted a fascinating vintage Photax 28mm finder - which immediately found a home on his Leica M6. Finding such 'treasures' is always a treat - and we are all looking forward to hunting for some real gems at the next Camera Fair in Wolverhampton on October 1st... See: https://www.ukcamerafair.com/
The 28 finder makes a good companion to the Soviet 28mm Orion 15 we have in stock (see my TLI blog 'A Soviet Journey')
Proudly displayed in one dealer window was the vast amount of film they process. But, in talking to many of our photo dealer friends in town, the picture was not altogether a good one.
Our London trip was proof of what we have seen happening for a long time: the film photography landscape has gone through a fundamental and, we believe, permanent change: Film photography is thriving but more than ever, the business is migrating online. Keeping a retail premises is ever more of a challenge when most transactions are on a computer and not across the counter.
Let me just take you back a step for a moment.
When digital photography took hold, everybody said 'film is dead; digital rules' - much as, at the dawn of photography in the mid-nineteenth century, the chant was- 'From today, painting is dead'.
More than 150 years later, Winsor and Newton are still manufacturing and selling oil paints, canvasses and all the other associated products for successful oil painting.
People still paint. People still shoot on film. And they always will.
But for so very long, what has been lacking with so many dealers is that sense of community that a good retailer should generate - and which should help bind all of us photographers together. If visiting a shop is fundamentally no different to buying online, you might just as well stay at home, buy from home, and take your adventures elsewhere.
We know at The Latent Image just how important real dialogue is about photography. The last thing we are is 'just' a shop. We love what we sell and love spending time with our customers; helping them on the journey to discovering just the right gear for them - both as friends and as fellow photographers. And our way of teaching photography on our courses at TLI is very much based on a kind of 'collegiate style'; we learn together as we work together.
For the serious - dare I say it, discerning photographer, film is not dead. And digital does not rule. If you have been reading our blogs, you will know by now that we embrace the worlds of both film and digital. When the four of us went on our 'works outing' to London, two were leading with film, the other two with digital... And I think that's pretty much how we see the world; both mediums have their strengths and weaknesses. And a good, well informed photographer will take an even-handed approach to both.
On a purely technical level, mixing up old technology with new is something that we find irresistible. William is on a constant journey to test all kinds of vintage lenses on his Leicas - both film and digital. We all relish trying every camera and lens that comes our way.
...And there's nothing we enjoy more than sharing our journey with all of you, our fellow photographers.
Lunch at Bafta was a nice, chilled out affair. Gio, our waiter, made us laugh when he took one look at our cameras and said, 'Hello Camera People!'
The day was rounded off with a visit to The Photographers Gallery and an exhibition of work by the relatively unknown American photographer, Evelyn Hofer. See: https://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/whats-on/evelyn-hofer
Evelyn's work was a mixed bag of sometimes brilliant work. But what shone throughout was her lifelong dedication to exploring the medium of photography. It's an ambition we all share.
One thing is for sure: you never stop learning and the best picture you will ever take is the one you have yet to take. Good luck and make every picture count!
You are welcome to join us at TLI and share the passion we have for photography whenever you can.
See you soon!
Blog copyright Matthew Whiteman 2023
Camera images copyright The Latent Image 2023
Photographic images copyright Matthew Whiteman/Josh George 2023