I had somehow lost my primeval passion for photography. Communicating through this medium is my safe place. It’s the place where as the head line borrowed from Guns N roses “Sweet Child Of Mine” suggests, I can hide – literally and metaphorically speaking behind the camera.
But I found that passion again. And you know where it was. It was in two places at the same time: A camera store on Silom and then of course in Gear Wheel Alley, both in Bangkok. So, how did I find my passion again and why am I so sure that I found it again?
I got on my bike today – nothing like riding through Bangkok on a bicycle, pretending the cars and slow-moving traffic is just one endlessly winding single track. On my way to Gear Wheel Alley, I stopped by a local camera store and tried out a Leica M Monochrom. I will spare you the details but you’ll have to endure the nutshell version. The camera is off the charts, it is insane:
- Black and white only, no color, not even a little
- Sharpness out the whazoo. Most medium format cameras can only dream of, let alone 35mm FF or point and shoots.
- Price: if $7995 for just a body without any lens give you wobbly knees, you should have sat down before you read this.
So anyway, after these ultra-informative 30 minutes in the store, I rode on to Gear Wheel Alley. I showed some of the pictures I had taken previously at JSV to the guys there and they loved them. They showed me around their shop and I took a few more images. And because I am in a transition in my life again, I challenged myself – by photographing people! Here we go:
This image is grainy, because I shot it at a high ISO. It was essentially pitch dark deep in the bowles of the shop. There is a small area – a former bathroom or shower – which is used to degrease shafts and all sorts of other oily parts that used to make a car go.
Then there is more cleaning of larger parts – here a clutch bell. These guys sit there and work by cleaning automotive power train parts all day long. What may look to Western eyes like menial is actually a career. As I said last year, I think every engineering student should work at this shop for 4 weeks and learn hands on about engineering. What it means to design for manufacturing and assembly. Because every engine and transmission that comes in here get rough cleaned, disassembled, fine cleaned and components sorted and then re-assembled in to re-sellable properly working engines and transmissions.
The lady on the right is in charge of the transmission sub-assembly on the left. Think of the stuff on the left as the heart of the transmission and this lady makes sure they all work properly. She is very careful and skilled. She works like a physician when she checks that the gear wheel pairs are all meshing properly and the that the sychronous bodies engage correctly – quality work.
More secondary drive shaft assembly. Him and his co-worker were shooting the shit while I clicked away. The working climate among the probably 10 employees or so was also very friendly and collaborative – that was almost palpable.
When I got home I went to processing my images and found confirmation that I had found my passion again. See, for me black and white is about stark contrast – strong blacks with strong white contrasts and the occasional gray. Some people say, I print too dark. I disagree. My friend Joe once told me when I just started printing in the dark room:”It’s called black and white photography, not shades of gray photography.” I like punch in a black and white picture. And that’s how I know I have found my passion again. I see punch in these images again.
And with that, stay sharp and keep searching for your passion, it’s probably somewhere close by.
P.S.: If there is someone with a good line into Leica, can you hook a brother up with a M Monochrom, so that even I can afford it. $7800 for a body only will not be tolerated even by my usually very liberal and supportive wife. Her comment:”NO!”