A camera is much like a musical instrument; each one is simply a tool, but when matched with the right artist, something more happens. Leica has been kind enough to loan us one of their M Monochrom cameras from time to time, so we can have the privilege of putting it in the hands of that “right artist.”
Charles A. Meyer is a critically acclaimed fine art photographer and filmmaker. A look at his portfolio places him in the respected circle of fine art black & white documentary photographers. Many know Charles from his years of teaching photography at Boston College. The students that came out of his classes were excellent technicians, but also creative and inspired with a love of photography. I can say this with some authority, as I have known a good number of his students.
Charles took the Leica M Monochrom out on a cold, clear day to Revere Beach, Massachusetts. I caught up with Charles a few months later to get his impressions.
AZ: What camera are you using primarily today? Let me make that a little more interrogatory. Are you now or have you ever been a Leica shooter?
CM: I have owned Leica film cameras in the past, but I don’t anymore. I shoot mostly digitally now. Primarily I use a Fuji X-E1 series rangefinder camera. And, for analog work, I use a twin-lens Rolleiflex.
AZ: So what was your first impression of the M Monochrom?
CM: I like the rangefinder’s ability to see outside the frame, so I immediately felt comfortable with the M Monochrom. It is a very straightforward camera. The controls are where you’d expect to find them, and the camera feels very solid. The camera came with a 75mm lens, and I found that manual focusing was easy and smooth.
AZ: Some people think that the M Monochrom is a bit “minimal,” as far as information in the viewfinder goes.
CM: I want less information. With less clutter in the viewfinder, you can concentrate more easily on the image. I used the camera primarily in full manual mode. For me, that’s the best way to work out an image.
AZ: So what did you shoot?
CM: Mostly the architecture along Revere Beach, but I tried using the camera in a variety of situations. I also took it with me to Government Center (in Boston), but the security people stopped me after a while, since I didn’t have a “permit” to photograph there.
AZ: What did you take away from an afternoon with the Leica M Monochrom?
CM: What impressed me most was the quality of the image files. The files produced by the M Monochrom have an amazing dimensionality. It also does a terrific job with the highlight detail. The low-light capability is very impressive…I was getting good stuff at ISO 1600. You can get a great file out of this camera with minimal processing. I would recommend this camera to anyone who wants to explore the expressive and creative possibilities of the black & white photograph. I’d love to have one of these cameras myself.
AZ: Thank you for taking some time with us and the M Monochrom.
You can find out more about Charles and see his work at charlesameyer.com