Lovely piece in the New York Times on the latest fad in Hollywood: Click if You Can Afford It. You won’t read it in the Technology, but Fashion & Style section, as the article is about Leica cameras favored by celebrities:
The latest status symbol in Hollywood, it seems, is not the 8 p.m. reservation at the Tower Bar, but the Leica M system rangefinder, a retro-chic camera that has become the accessory of choice for the celebrity class on red carpets, film sets or vacation.
Nah, no one’s pulling anyone’s leg. And we learn a little bit of history:
For stars seeking to prove that they are more than just a pretty face, the allure is obvious. Perhaps no camera says “I’m serious” like a Leica rangefinder. With its mid-century contours and minimalist chic, the M system has changed little in appearance since Henri Cartier-Bresson, a Leica patron saint, was photographing Gandhi.
We learn that the camera is not only a luxury item:
The rugged camera, hand-built in Solms, Germany, is still a pro’s tool. With a minimum of automatic features, it demands expertise to master.
Wrote John Mayer, American singer and songwriter, on his Tumblr page about his vintage M4 and the 35mm Summicron:
Everything in this camera is manual. No light meter, no automatic focus, shutter, ISO or aperture. It was daunting at first but I’ve been practicing guessing shutter speed/aperture on a digital M9 and seeing how close I get. I consider myself experienced enough to bring only this camera with me now. Most indoor settings require an aperture setting of 2, 4 or 5.6 and a shutter speed of 60, 125 or 250. I’ve learned that the guessing — maybe the intuition — of the settings is what makes a photograph special.
So… who of the beautiful and famous is actually shooting Leica? We learn that the swelling ranks of M system devotees reach beyond those with a well-chronicled affection for the camera, like Brad Pitt. In recent years, Daniel Craig, Jude Law, Louis C. K., Miley Cyrus and many other celebrities have popped up in paparazzi shots toting Leicas.
Leica even seems to be Brad Pitt’s favored camera on the set. In “Spy Game” (2001) he shoots an M6 or M7 — and didn’t also Leonardo DiCaprio shoot an M in “Body of Lies” (2008)?
The New York Times article has more photos of celebs with their Leicas, and yes they’re serious shooters, also women, such as Dakota Fanning and Ali Larter.
The article goes on:
It is easy for cynics to sniff, but many Leica-toting celebrities take their photography seriously. Brendan Fraser, an aficionado, has had his work featured in the prestigious Leica Gallery in New York. And Mr. Pitt, who has appeared on the cover of Interview magazine holding a Leica M7, earns praise from photographers in Leica forums for his work, including a cover shoot of Angelina Jolie for W a few years ago.
While some purists scoff, others do their best not to generalize about their famous Leica brethren. Michael Holve, a professional photographer on Long Island who runs a Leica enthusiasts’ blog called La Vida Leica!, divides the celebrity Leica class into two camps: “shooters,” like Mr. Pitt, and “carriers,” like, well, they know who they are. Holve:
It seems a Canon or Nikon is somehow bourgeois, or even pedestrian, by comparison. Carrying a Leica around can be a little like driving a Bentley. Just because you can afford it doesn’t mean you’re a good driver.
To conclude, a Leica M shot by Brad Pitt of Angelina Jolie and two of her kids:
For more, read the New York Times’ Click if You Can Afford It, published on September 19, 2012.