Category: Leica
Tokyo | Shibuya Crossing

One of the most photographed intersections in the world, I went there a few times, trying to capture something that was different.

Sometimes when I am shooting, I am aware of all those who have tread before me. I can sometimes sense that I am doing nothing new, just rehashing ideas that others did better before me. I put the camera up to the eye and in the viewfinder, I see the same image that others or myself have shot before.

The world is rife with cliches and if you are lazy, you will just add another version of an idea that has been done thousands of times.

The downside of this awareness is thinking too much. Shooting should be about reflexes and instinct, all technique subsumed down to the unconscious level.

I was lucky on this day as the clouds came in and a late afternoon shower descended on Tokyo. I played with the shapes of the crosswalk lines and the umbrellas but those were unsuccessful. Then I saw the lone pedestrian scurrying across the wide swath before the lights changed. The crossing suddenly became about light and movement and the negative is very dark.

Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo, Japan; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo, Japan; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim


Tokyo | Chiyoda

I was leaving Sensoji, walked to Ueno and was on the way back to Shinjuku and back to my hotel. If you know Tokyo, that is a long walk and it had taken most of the day.

This was one of those days where I had exposed only a handful of frames. It happens. Some days are full of magic and I bang out roll after roll of film. Other days, it is more of a hunt, searching for those elusive bits of life to focus on. It’s not a bad thing at all. These days are just a reminder that the process of wandering and exploring is the whole point, the journey over the results.

I was nearing the end of the day. The sun had already set, the city was dark and I found myself in a deserted part of Chiyoda. I roamed the streets, generally heading southwest back towards Shinjuku and where I was staying. I did not know where I was exactly nor where my hotel was, but I generally find my way. Southwest then.

Along a narrow side street, I passed windows with a warm light streaming out and I could just see the top of this guy’s hair. I knocked on the door and walked in tentatively. The guy was there, still working and crunching his numbers. Some small office for a small design firm perhaps? He did not speak English and I had no Japanese. I very much liked his style.

For a moment, I was in the warmth of his presence and the coziness of his well-designed place.

I took two photos and thanked him and left.

Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim


Bruce Davidson | East 100th Street

What’s great about looking at your work is the emotion comes back. The emotion comes back. The rhythm of what you were photographing comes back. It’s almost like a musical score. You can see where I may have quit too soon, or stayed too long. Or was bored and took a lot of pictures of nothing because I wanted to put film through the camera. All kinds of things are working when you’re looking at the contact sheet.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

Not everyone wants his picture taken. I began to photograph a man collecting junk in a yard. He saves the metal and sells it. He wouldn’t let me photograph him. I found out why. He was receiving welfare and he thought that if I took a picture of him collecting junk to sell, he might have his welfare taken from him.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

That often what makes a good picture is almost subliminal. It could be a look on a face or a detail on a piece of clothing. You just have to go with the flow sometimes. When I was a kid, I played baseball and you heard the sound the bat made when it really connected with the ball; you knew you had a great hit. It’s the same with photography: sometimes you hear that click of the shutter and you know you’ve caught something really special.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

An old man said to me one day, ‘Oh, I don’t want a picture like that. I want to get dressed up and I want to put a Bible in my hand. That’s how I want my picture taken. I’ll tell you when I want my picture taken, when I’m feeling good.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

I came to 100th Street with a large format camera on a tripod. I wanted depth and detail and I wanted to meet the people eye to eye. I wanted the photograph to happen without intruding. The children called me the “picture man.” They said take my picture. I took their picture. I took photographs of them, they took my photographs. Can I have another picture? I gave them another picture. Can you make a couple of more prints? I gave them a couple of more prints. They received their pictures and I received mine. I saw my pictures hanging all over the place. Sometimes when I photographed a family of a person again, I had to take down my own pictures.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

The problem is that, you’ve got to stay around for a while; you’ve got to earn your dues. Poverty is kind of sexy, poverty is photographic, it’s what photographers look for. In the case of East 100th street, I had an entrée, the picture librarian at magnum photos, Sam Holmes, had a cousin who was a white minister living and raising his children in Spanish Harlem, so I was introduced to him. But he said he couldn’t give me permission to take pictures here, you have to appear in front of the citizens committee and they will either say yes or no. So I did, I presented myself and they said, “we have photographers coming through here all the time because we’re poor, and that’s very photogenic to them but they come and they go and we never see the pictures and we never see anything change.” I said I work a little differently, I work eye-to-eye, I have a large-format camera where I need quiet and things to settle down and I need to be there because I have this heavy camera and a tripod and a strobe, and I will give prints to people. They said they would try me out and I said, if you can find a family of ten, I’ll photograph them as an example of my work, and I did. It took three weeks because I’d arrive on a Sunday but there would only be eight. I had to come a couple of times before they really got all their family together. So that was really the beginning where I was really in the picture myself, with the cable release on the camera and the eye to eye relationship, and I would bring back prints and give the prints to the people. That took two years; it sustained me for two years. And that’s basically how I work; I just keep going back and back.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

Then there’s the man who runs the luncheonette. He let me take his picture once, but I made it too dark and he never let me take his picture again. I know you’re prejudiced, he said, because you made it too dark. You make all the people here look too dark. When you make pictures look light, then I’ll put your pictures on the walls. But I know he likes me. He lets me use the bathroom in his luncheonette. He doesn’t let anyone do that.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

Despite my fantasies of being a hunter stalking a wild animal, I was still afraid. It was hard for me to approach even a little old lady. There’s a barrier between people riding the subway – eyes are averted, a wall is set up. To break through this painful tension I had to act quickly on impulse, for if I hesitated, my subject might get off at the next station and be lost forever.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

Quite a few kids on the block are interested in photography. I lent a boy who had been helping me a camera and my developing tank. I gave him some film and I’m teaching him things. The kids and the people who take photographs don’t photograph the slums. They photograph their friends. You know, this boy kissing that girl.. All sorts of things all sorts of possibilities, without sentimality. They photograph the life they know, not its horrors.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

I’m not trying to glorify the ghetto. In many ways, it’s a horrible place, full of scars and pain. It taught me how much I ‘d taken for granted. I’m not wealthy by any means, but by contrast I am. I have hot water. I don’t have ten children to support. My life, my work is full of possibilities. I can in some ways affect my destiny.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

Arnold Newman once told me that to photograph someone, they have to feel equal to you. And that’s true. Sometimes, a magazine you’re on assignment for is so prestigious that it allows you to be at a level where you’re not just someone coming over to take pictures.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

In ’52, when I was in college at R.I.T. photography school, that’s when I first saw a Cartier-Bresson photograph. It was with one of the two girls in our class, Joan. I was courting her a little bit and we were sitting in a girl’s dorm and she had brought out “The Decisive Moment.” I laughed. She was pointing out the pictures that really moved her and said that Cartier-Bresson was her true love. So I went out and I bought a little Leica, a used Leica, and started to imitate his images in some way. What I did was photograph the Lighthouse Mission, which was all drunks. They gave them a sermon and a bologna sandwich and a cup of coffee. And when they left, they’d pull out the bottle again. But those pictures, were a little Cartier-Bressonish.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

Each day I would appear on the block with my 4×5 view camera and a bag containing film holders, accessories, and a powerful strobe. The presence of a large format camera on a tripod, with its bellows and back focusing cloth, gave sense of dignity to the act of taking pictures. I didn’t want to be the unobserved observer. I wanted to be with my subjects face to face and for them to collaborate in making the picture. I wanted the images to have a depth, tonality, and level of detail that could convey the mood of lives poised in a moment of time. During the two years I photographed East 100th Street, NASA was sending probes into pouter space, to the moon and to Mars. Instead, I wanted to see into the inner space of the city and to focus sharply on people here on earth.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

There was a boy who helped me a lot. He carried my camera bag around. He knew who might want to attack me and steal my camera. He knew many of the people who let me into their homes to photograph them. I relied on him. He made me feel safe.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

We were living in Hartsdale and we took that train. At one point, it skims the South Bronx and you can see into — you get glimpses of life inside those rooms. That drew me to 100th Street.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

What if trying to do, what I would like to do is to keep my life in balance. I walk the streets with my handheld camera, interact with people, discover, question, know, understand- and then I come back into my darkroom and make impressions of what i experienced during the day.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

I didn’t play the art world at all. I didn’t even play the fashion world. I could have easily become an incredible fashion photographer. I threw it aside because I felt a calling. It seemed real to me. And I think I learned that from Cartier-Bresson. He didn’t do any perfume ads. There was also the Magnum climate. There were serious photographers there: Ernst Haas, Elliott Erwitt.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

My true love is silver gelatin. My history in photography, which spans over fifty years, it is all basically silver gelatin. In my imagination there’s nothing more beautiful than a beautifully printed 11×14 print on good paper. Now the paper quality is diminished but we find a way of making it almost as good as it could have been with a lot of silver.

– Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson

East 100th Street, c. 1966-68 © Bruce Davidson


Tokyo | Harajuku
Harajuku, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Harajuku, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Tokyo is a special place. It is so wildly exotic, yet as safe and entertaining as an amusement park.

The fruits at Harajuku have been well documented. These young ladies were spellbound by their own images on a jumbo screen hanging over the main entrance to Harajuku which displayed a live feed that was pointed at them.

They stayed there for several minutes unable to leave their doppelgangers, taking pictures of themselves taking pictures of themselves.


Chiang Mai | Hill Tribe Area
Hill Tribe Area, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hill Tribe Area, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hill Tribe Area, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hill Tribe Area, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hill Tribe Area, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hill Tribe Area, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hill Tribe Area, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hill Tribe Area, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

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Hill Tribe Area, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hill Tribe Area, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim


Romania | The Shepherd

We were driving north about an hour out of Bucharest when I saw the cluster of sheep on the horizon. The land at this point had flattened out into a billiard table plain and the only feature besides the road and the power lines running along side was this flock of sheep. We pulled over and trudged through the soft ground. The sheep dogs came out early and challenged us and the fixer I was with, froze in fear. Lots of issues with feral dogs in Bucharest. The shepherd appeared from his shack and admonished the dogs and the dogs were still barking at us and the fixer called out that we wanted to talk to him for a bit so soon the flat plain was full of shouting and barking.

Everyone settled down soon enough.

The shepherd was happy that we were there as he did not get a lot of visitors. He did not have any tea to offer but a bottle of palinka, the Romanian fruit brandy grain. The shack where he lived was just clapboard and blankets, a small stove and pots and mugs. This was not his flock of sheep, he said, but he acted as a caretaker for two villages who pooled their sheep and goats together. He milked the goats and delivered the milk daily.

I turned around slowly in a complete circle to take in the vast plain. Except for road gutting it down the middle, there was nothing but those two villages and some hills on the horizon. The through line to the past was strong and a straight line in that moment. I asked him if there had been a shepherd here, in his role for a long time. Maybe hundreds of years? Without hesitation he said that this had always been pastureland and the two villages had been there for at least a thousand years, so yes, there was always a shepherd here.

I was taken back to all the folktales I had read, stories from when I was a kid in the states of harsh winters, woodcutters, strange visitors from the forest.

And what about wolves, I asked.

Not much anymore. Too many people, he said. But that is why I have the dogs.

Romania; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Romania; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Romania; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Romania; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Romania; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Romania; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Romania; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Romania; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim


Chiang Mai | The Chinese Monk

I was north of Chiang Mai with my driver, traveling to a hill tribe village in a steady and thick rain when I saw the sliver of massive stone steps cut into the side of a mountain, just visible through the jungle foliage. I asked him to stop and since the way was wet and filled with shoe eating mud, the driver said he’d stay in the car.

I climbed the stairs and saw the monk there, standing by his buckets and bowls, out collecting the rain for drinking water. He was the sole caretaker of this meager temple, a small cave and statue and run down altar. He was actually Chinese and spoke French fluently, but very little English. His cigarettes were foul, hand-rolled affairs, terribly strong and stinky. I gave him my pack of American cigarettes and we smoked in the cave, sheltered from the rain while he told me stories and lessons that I could not understand.

There were only poor farmers nearby and I doubt any tourists would stop by this tiny cleft in the mountain. This was truly a life of solitude and he was far from where he had started from. As was I but I would return to my life of cities soon enough.

We passed the time and my feet were wet and there were enough cigarettes to last us for a good while.

Hill Tribe Area, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hill Tribe Area, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hill Tribe Area, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hill Tribe Area, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim


Thailand | Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim


Thailand | Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Rai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Rai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Rai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Rai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Chiang Rai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim


Chiang Mai | Hmong Hill Tribe
Hmong Hill Tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hmong Hill Tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hmong Hill Tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hmong Hill Tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hmong Hill Tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hmong Hill Tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hmong Hill Tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hmong Hill Tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hmong Hill Tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hmong Hill Tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hmong Hill Tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hmong Hill Tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hmong Hill Tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hmong Hill Tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hmong Hill Tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Hmong Hill Tribe, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Leica MP 0.58, 35mm Summicron, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim