By: Walter Leica (aka Walter Pretorius). October 25, 2016
Photo Credit: Jose Galhoz
Jose Galhoz has been using the Leica IIIc film rangefinder since the beginning of civilization, but now he moved to a digital camera. Walter Leica tries to capture the thoughts and styles of Jose Galhoz in this interview.
In this interview, Jose Galhoz points out that “I think the trick is to have enough theoretical knowledge and then apply it to the practical situation”. Admitting to old school and the old ways, he enlightens us on his personal change from Leica IIIc (introduced by Leica in 1933) to the Leica M 246 Monochrom digital rangefinder.
Old World Charm
The term “old school” comes to mind. Your pictures speak of “old world charm”. Did any of the old masters have any influence in your work?
Absolutely! It is wise to dig into the roots: those old timers might not have had our technology, but they had time, skills, knowledge, dedication to the art, and they reached levels of perfection we do not see nowadays…!
After all, both you and I call them “Masters”, right? The name of Robert Demachy comes to mind … but they were many, and they were great artists!!!
Would you dare compare one portrait taken in that by-gone era of a father, or a couple, or their children, with the modern selfies and similar junk?
Would anybody with a little decency and good taste hang one of those modern “portraits” on a wall with the old family ones..?
I think you point the finger in the right direction when you say “old world charm”! Most things nowadays are tasteless, have no soul, break easily, feel plasticky, are disposable, you name it…! Do you think you can you use your Sony or Canon camera in 20 years…?
Now, just think of the smell of that Russian leather bellows … the softness of the touch of cherry wood or ebony, the fiddling of those brass knobs and gears, the cocking of the shutter … Now, that’s pure photographic pleasure!
So, am I being nostalgic or just plain right? I don’t mind being called “old-fashioned” or “square”.
We are all nostalgic
The Old Masters (starting with the Pictorialists – the name given to an international style and aesthetic movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th century) studied composition, perspective, golden proportions, psychology of movement and of static, tones, textures, and contrast. They studied quantity and quality of light and its direction, the focal of the lens and its relation to the subject and the background.
Nowadays we pay fortunes for lenses with awesome resolution… and then spend hours at the computer trying to get rid of those wrinkles in a woman’s face … and then some more time adding that glow in the skin and a halo around the hair in a backlit situation…
Those old-tech cameras and film would solve the problem the same moment the shutter was fired, right?
I think, deep inside, we are all nostalgic, some more assumed than others… And even the camera-makers acknowledge that: If not why have black and white, and sepia options, or, in the most extreme case a sensor working just with luminance (like the Leica M Type 246 for example)?
I’m not against some modern trends and options … my problem is that most of those “artists” (photographers, singers, whatever…) choose to be “different” because they cannot achieve a minimum of quality with “normal” things…!
What in your view constitutes a quality picture?
“Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder” as they say. Is it technical perfection…? The more pixels the better…? The more expensive camera…? Is it compositional perfection…? Tonality…? Hues? And is it only black and white…?
Or is it what suits the mood and the person…? And then you must account for the emotional factor attached to a picture…!
And you must account for the purpose intended for the picture…!
I think I could call a quality picture one when the whole is more than the sum of the parts…!
Transforming to digital
You have been taking pictures since the early days with a Leica IIIc Now, crossing the Rubicon from film into the digital world. Was this an easy bridge to cross?
I used to say yes, but now I’m not so sure… In the film era, a good camera would have a life-span of 12 years or more.
Steam boat by Jose Galhoz. Leica IIIc. © Jose Galhoz
Now it’s the sensors, the formats, and it’s the software that is changing all the time… It is hard to think you would invest a lot of money in a good camera and 1 year later it is “obsolete”
Will the next generation be able to see our photos in 20 year’s time…?
Of course I like the possibility of correcting perspectives in software (as I don’t own a PC or T&S lens) or erasing poles or TV antennas from a picture…
Or to adjust the color temperature to better suit the mood in the picture… Or to eliminate a few wrinkles and make the lady happier…
Digital photography and computers allow just that, and more easily.
I remember the first (and only time) I asked the owner of the shop I used to visit, to make me a sepia toning… He was a kind person, with an easy laugh, soft voice and lots of health problems.
On Monday he handed me a couple of sepia toned photos, I paid him. As I left the store, he said in a quiet but troubled tone, “Never again ask me to do a sepia toning… My wife threatened me to throw me out of the window and then come and beat you if ever she gets that rotten eggs smell around the house again”.
That was my first and last sepia toning from the “chemical era”…!
The cameras of Jose Galhoz
Please tell us about your cameras, from the first up to the camera you use at the moment – and your favorite lens.
I can’t remember all of them anymore, but my father lent me a box camera to begin with.
The first camera I bought myself (after having saved money from my Birthday and Christmas for two years) was a Leica IIIc.
It was not just second-hand, more likely 20th hand, so it worked for a while and then the shutter got problems. But by then I was hooked forever with the Leica brand!
Then came a Zenith, a Praktica, Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Pentax… I can’t remember the sequence anymore, but there were some cameras that left a great impression and I’ll never forget:
– Calypso-Phot (underwater camera) had a quirky but interesting design.
– The Nikon F3 I still have.
– Exakta 6×6 I still have, and I still love it!
– Konica Hexar (fabulous little gem).
– Minolta TC-1 (a diamond from outer space).
– Contax GI and then II.
– Leica 6 perhaps the “nec plus ultra” (“nothing further beyond”).
I never had a Hasselblad 6×6 (sob, sob). Now I have Fuji, a Canon EOS D Mark II and the Leica’s, both in color and the Leica M 246 Monochrom.
Some cameras and lenses are better suited for some purposes than others. I think the trick is to have enough theoretical knowledge and then apply it to the practical situation.
My favorite lenses
Of course I do prefer the 90mm as a portrait lens. If I only have a 21mm I’ll have to be very careful with the angle and the distance to the subject – or I’ll have to label it as “caricatural portrait”, or simply admit a full failure…!
It is hard to say what is my favorite camera and lens, but if I could only keep one I would choose not the most versatile or accurate, but the one which would give me more pleasure in my hobby and produce the results I like best: That would be the Leica M Type 246 Monochrom with the Leica 50mm Noctilux- ASPH f/0.95.
And then the goodies. That would be if I could perhaps drop the 90 and the 35 in the bag also!
I also like leather-ware like bags, straps and holsters from Fast&Prime (thanks, Mr. Neil).
– Leather straps FG Edition (thanks, Fernando).
– Wotan leather bags (thanks, Wotan Crafters).
– Walter yellow contrast lens for the B&W cameras, very addicting (thanks, Walter).
– JB wood grips. I suggested them to make grips for Leica and one year later they did! (thanks, JB).
Would you say that staying in Portugal, surrounded by the most beautiful scenery has had any influence on your photography?
All places are beautiful, sometimes you just have to look harder; and beauty is not the same everywhere.
But, yes, I’ve knowledge of comments from foreign people praising our “light” especially in southern Portugal. The good weather is inviting to go out and take pictures.
The trick is being flexible and not trying to do all things all the time. You have overcast weather: try some flowers, that brings subtle tones and textures. You want high contrast, harsh shadows: Choose a sunny day, and you can play with the polarizer.
Besides, it is not “what you see” but “how you see”.
I am very grateful to some Native friends who are kind enough to let me sit with them and listen to the silence and see beyond.
That tunes my spirit and allows things to be seen in a much more truthful and intimate way. It’s beautiful to see not only the light reflected but the “inner light ,” the one that comes from within. (Thanks Jeffery, Charles & Barbara, Yolanda, Sandy, Joni, Sam, John, Deb, Anne, Sue, Awi, Jens and many others, and the Elders for their Wisdom). Respect! We are all connected.
Accept what is available
Please share with us your favorite subject to photograph and why?
I usually accept what is available. There are areas I’m not very interested in (like sports), but I might photograph a friend’s son’s bike trial or a theater performance.
I like doing landscape and street photography, I like being outside and people can be really very interesting. Portraits are fine if I feel good vibes with the subject.
All filters are circular
Would you kindly share a tip or two for our young photographers out there?
I would recommend getting to know themselves. What they really like, what they feel comfortable with: What and how they would like to work, and then apply this knowledge to photography.
If you do not like what and how you are doing things, it’s very stressful, and quickly can turn a hobby or a career into nightmare or depression!
But when you manage to get it right, just don’t give up.
One last tip: Some years ago I went to a shop and asked for a circular polarizer. She answered me that all filters were circular. Never try to explain to such a smart person what you want … just go to another shop!
Photos are all © Copyright by Jose Galhoz. All Rights Reserved.
Article © 2016 Walter Pretorius. Webpage © 2016 by Thorsten Overgaard.
To be continued …
More is coming on the Leica M 246 Monochrom camera. Stay tuned. Sign up for the free newsmail to stay in the know.