Leica photographers are a passionate lot, but the folks who form part of The Leica Meet group are perhaps the most passionate of them all. Not only are the vast majority seriously devoted to travel and street photography, but these Leica devotees manifest a level of loyalty to their camera gear that may require an experience clinical psychologist to explain. From this passion (and the hard work of its founders) came The Leica Meet, which for most of us Leica photographers was like when you suffer from a rare affliction and suddenly come in contact with a group of wonderful folks “enjoying” the same affliction. So here it is finally, a Leica collective of folks who love spending time with their rangefinder cameras and can’t wait to get out on the streets to search for that elusive great shot. This sort of community was long overdue, and we could not be more grateful to the great photographers who who made it possible.
Leica photographers are somewhat of a different lot, though, and if there’s something they are not known for, it is for their speed. No hurry here, for this group is indeed a deliberate one. Patience, observation, and timing are the stuff they are best known for. Need to wait 20 minutes for someone to walk in front of a sign? No problem. Leica photographers can hang. And contrary to the famous “see and be seen” quote, these photographer would rather no one notices them when they are out and about, camera (excuse me, I meant Leica) always at the ready. What’s great about The Leica Meet is that it not only brings these photographers together for a day (see events here), but that these gatherings are also virtual walks down Leica’s memory lane. Photographers show up with film and digital cameras, new and old, vintage lenses, stuff that is no longer in production, and hard-to-find gear that inevitably leads to a Pavlovian reaction from some of the participants.
Last year the NY Meet took place around Soho, but this year it was Chelsea and the Meat Packing District that did the honors. I had never been to this part of the city, but now I know that I’ve been missing something great when traveling to NY. The food hangouts alone make these areas must-visit destination, but for street photographers the place is simply heaven. People are so used to cameras that unless you come up to a celebrity (or a photoshoot like I did and was told to get lost), no one seems to really care about your picture taking. This being NY, though, if they do care at least you can rest assured that the feedback will be immediate and unambiguous. What a great city.
Ever feel that you got to a place a few decades too late? Well, I do, and that place is indeed the SoHo neighborhood in New York City. Not that I could hang out with the local fashionistas that strut the local streets looking “mahvelous,” but rather that upon setting foot on the place I had that all-too-common feeling of having arrived late to a party. I’ve been hearing about SoHo for far too long now, but for some reason or another (OK, like most tourists) I have primarily limited myself to mid-Manhattan and other “have been” attractions like Little Italy and Chinatown during previous visits. This was a serious mistake that I do not intend to repeat, though. In fact, several years ago I made the decision to leave most tourist places to time-starved tourist and just head out to the neighborhoods where no tourist buses are to be found. But this I applied mostly to cities abroad like Paris, Rome, and Berlin. One day in SoHo has made me realize that I need to do the same at home.
But I just didn’t just wake up one day and decided to go to SoHo. I was there to spend the day with the great folks of The Leica Meet group, who were being graciously hosted by the Leica store at 460 West Broadway. The people at the Leica store simply hit it out of the park with their great support for this event. Not only did they allowed the group to use their store facilities for the day, but they also coordinated a wonderful group lunch at the Hundred Acres Restaurant & Bar, followed by a visit with various great Leica photographers like Ralph Gibson and Adam Marelli. This sense of community is something that other camera manufacturers can only dream of, and SoHo was just the perfect setting for the event. It’s definitely great to discover a few more good reasons to visit the city that never sleeps more often – like taking a creativity vitamin, which I dare say, we all could use from time to time. I know I do.
I was fascinated by this scene when I bumped into it at the Javits Center in New York City. An oasis of quiet in a city that is not known for being quiet. The woman simply owned the spot, and from what I could tell, no one dared to occupy any of the empty chairs next to her. A perfect display of momentary solitude and territoriality. An unintended, silent commentary that no one dared to disrupt. I wonder if she knew she was saying so much with her silence.