My best friend Joe Crumley is an interesting character. He grew up on a farm in west Texas, served his country in Southeast Asia during a shooting war, studied at the University of Chicago with Aaron Siskind, founded the photography program at Florida’s Daytona State College, where he also taught, rode motorcycles from an early age, turned a job making screen-printed faces for oilfield gauges into a vocation as one of the USA’s premier sign craftsmen, and helped to found the Letterheads along the way. [Sidenote: The Letterheads are a group of signmakers devoted to sharing information about the craft of hand-lettering. They’ve grown in the thirty years since Joe joined, and host meetings ranging from local to international.]
He’s also a horrible, wicked enabler of my worst compulsions: my love of old things, my tendency to collect stuff, my technology fetish. A few years ago he gave me a rusting pile of parts that’s turned into a multi-year, $8000+ scooter restoration. he gave me his Hasselblad 500C with two film backs and a Distagon ƒ/4 50mm lens, along with a few rolls of 120mm film. he gave me his 1957 Leica M3.
It was an early model with the double-stroke film advance lever, in good mechanical and cosmetic condition, except for a tiny bit of vulcanite missing near the lens mount. Along with the camera came the only sub-par lens Leica ever made, a Hektor ƒ/4.5 135mm, and some 35mm film. And, like the ’blad, the Leica sat unused on a bookshelf until , frustrating me due to my [Sidenote: Since this article posted, I’ve been shooting with both cameras as well as a variety of other film cameras, including a Rolleiflex 2.8c, a Leica IIIf, a Zorki 4, a Hasselblad 500C/M, a Hasselblad 503CX, and a Wista 45DX.]
- ignorance & fear of screwing something up
- difficulty focusing the Hektor lens, even with the M3’s high viewfinder magnification
- lack of a light meter (& not knowing how to use a meter even if I had one)
Beyond that, I hadn’t used a manual film camera since a one-semester class in art school didn’t know where to start. Then Joe took a trip to Roswell …