LOOK3 Guest Series: Developing a Symbiotic Relationship

Now that I’ve been using the M9 for several months, I’m growing accustomed to it in ways I didn’t expect. And since I’ve been using it exclusively for the past two months, I’ve developed a relationship with the camera that I’m excited about. The first six months of having the camera I was shooting assignments with my usual camera system and using the M9 for personal and street work. I think this going back and forth was preventing me from developing a symbiotic relationship with the Leica. These past two months I made the conscious decision of only allowing myself to use the M9 and I’m glad I did because it suddenly feels like a completely different camera. I think the difference I’m feeling is much like the difference between taking night classes on a foreign language and then moving to another country and immersing yourself in the language.

Even though I feel liberated by using an M9, I still very challenged by it, which I’m excited about. Everyday I shoot with it I feel like a kid learning to drive a stick shift, grinding up the gears on his Uncle’s car, but this grinding is like a pushing and shoving between me and the camera. It’s caused me to break up a lot of ingrained habits in the way I photograph. And this breaking of routine I find priceless. These habits, I’m realizing, have been keeping me in a huge comfort zone, keeping me from experimenting and making interesting mistakes. In the short time I’ve been shooting exclusively on the M9 I’m alarmed that I didn’t realize how big of a safe bubble I had been living in photographically.

The Leica has allowed me to find a new looseness in the way I photograph that I’m really happy about. I find myself holding the camera and pointing the lens in ways I never would before. The camera is so small that I use it more like an extension of my fingers than I do a camera. I’ve been using a Wii strap on the M9 so that when I’m walking around the camera is always in my hand and ready. By eliminating the movements that come with using a shoulder strap, I feel as though I’m one step closer to taking a photo, making the camera feel even less present.

A lot of the time my spontaneous wrist shooting results in missed shots, but as I get more muscle memory I’m actually taking more interesting photos than before. The manual focus, in a way that I don’t yet understand, makes me feel closer to what I’m photographing. I physically put the subject in focus and that has now become psychologically relevant for me. Originally the manual focus was my biggest problem with shooting a Leica, and it is still my biggest challenge in mastering the M9, but I feel like it has uncovered something interesting for me recently. It’s creating an experience with photography that I have never had before. In return, it is changing the way I see and capture images for the better, and that is something I’m excited about.

-Peter Earl McCollough

Peter Earl McCollough was born in Billings, Montana, in 1982 and grew up in Davis, California. Shortly after turning 18, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps where he served from 2000-2004. After being honorably discharged he began studying photography in Sacramento. In 2008, after transferring to Ohio University, he received a Bachelor of Science in Visual Communication with an emphasis in Photojournalism.

He is currently a freelance photographer and aspiring cinematographer based in San Francisco. In his off time he likes to paint, especially watercolors, and work on his street photography. More photos can be seen on his website:http://www.petermccollough.com/.