Joe Crumley with his trusty Leica M4-P.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Circle of Confusion (Pt. 1)

Dedicated to the mem­ory of Joseph W. Crumley, Jr., b. d. .

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.

Leica M3, manufactured ca. 1957
Leica M3, man­u­fac­tured ca. 1957; pre­vi­ous owner: Joe Crumley.

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.]

  1. igno­rance & fear of screw­ing some­thing up
  2. dif­fi­culty focus­ing the Hektor lens, even with the M3’s high viewfinder magnification
  3. 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 …

About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

↑ Go back to the beginning of this page.
Mercury Photo Bureau underlying-calculable