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Leica Portrait

November 11, 2009

I don’t put a lot of my “work” on this site.

I like to keep it that way because there is really nothing I dislike more than when I see a blog that is little more than a sales tool for the photographer.

I know why people do that. It can be a successful way of creating new business, etc, but I think, for the most part, doing this comes off as fake, silly, phoney, etc.

When I find a blog like that I never return to it, regardless if I like the work of the photographer. I don’t have time for sales tool style presentations. I want reality.

When every shoot is wonderful and every picture is perfect and the world is in harmony, frankly, I find it a turnoff because it just ain’t real. And, everyone knows this.

But from time to time I post something from my “work.” I’m not posting these images because they are the best images ever, and the client was thrilled and a rainbow formed over us during the viewing.

No, not even close.

I’m posting these for two reasons. One, I shot them with my Leica, which I find amusing. You see, I’ve used these cameras for a long while, and I thought I knew how to best utilize them. When people ask me about Leica M cameras I tell them what I think they are good for, and portraiture was never in that conversation.
But I realize after all this time I was missing something. They are great for portraits, but perhaps not in the way we all think of when we think of the classic portrait. It’s easy to get wrapped up, or concerned with gear, and the most important thing about images is how the photographers sees, but your equipment does have a say in the matter.


You see, for me, this series of images is very, very telling of a certain time, moment, age, etc, and in fact tell me everything I need to know about these girls without having to see their face. If I want the classic face portrait, I’ll use the Hasselblad. But for the “perimeter” images, the Leica is really nice.
And for me, these are “perimeter” images.


The little one can’t stand still. Ever. She fights it, just like we all did and some of us still do. When I’m around the little one, I try not to make her stop and freeze because I know her DNA is not accustomed to that. The older one is more patient. The older one says, “Mr. Milnor.”
Leaps and bounds is is the difference in ages, and I think just by seeing these three images, shot within seconds of one another, you see everything you need to know about THIS particular moment in their lives.

When you shoot these images you will have clients who say, “I can’t see their face,” which I expect because that is what we have all been taught is what a portrait MUST look like. Okay, sure. I have those too. Those are easy. Expected. Those typically come with the clunk, clunk, clunk of the Blad.

But I realize now, I’m basically doing the same exact thing with these kids that I do when I’m in the field working on a documentary project, the exact application I have used the Leica for nearly my entire “career.” And telling a story is really what it is about. It’s funny how all this time passes, all these kids through my lens, and yet it doesn’t really dawn on me until I’m sitting here editing this shoot.

These perimeter images are like whispers. Sometimes they are audible, and other times not. Subtle, quiet, telling.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. David Wissinger permalink
    November 12, 2009 7:46 am

    Well said, Mr. Milnor. Maybe someday I’ll add a Blad to the rest of my cameras that I don’t use often enough!

    • November 12, 2009 5:32 pm

      Use the Leica for a while, get used to it. Use it all the time, and see what you can come up with. THEN find something else. Otherwise, not sure you’ll get the full use out of the Leica.

  2. November 12, 2009 4:16 pm

    To ride shoot straight and speak the truth, is the ancient law of youth,
    old times are past, old times are done but, the law runs true oh little son.
    Pictures are like poems, what is most important is not visable on the white page. Like maybe what we don’t say.

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