Wednesday, 9 September 2009
The man who left Magnum
Charles-f. Ouellet after I put superglue on the viewfinder of his Leica, Perpignan, 2009. © Magnus Andersson
Charles and I used to work together in a camera shop here in London before he went back to his native Quebec. He taught me everything I know about medium and large format photography, but deep down he always preferred creeping around with an inconspicuous Leica rangefinder.
After belatedly going digital he opted for a Canon 5D and L-series lenses, but didn't like the bulk of the kit and decided again to switch back to Leica (now an M8.2) , and this is how I found him in Perpignan, nearly three years after we last saw each other in London.
In the meantime he has started up an image collective called N+3 and in Perpignan I met his friend Christian Lamontagne, fellow collective photographer and also a film maker. A thoroughly nice chap who kept apologising for his English not being good enough...very humble considering that my French is near non-existent and certainly not something that should be published here...again Charles is to blame/thank for this.
Earlier this year Charles started out an internship at Magnum's Paris office where he was working as 2nd to one of the main people there. A dispute (which I wont go into here) arose and Charles, being the honourable man that he is, felt that the person in question was forced to leave and that he couldn't stand by their decision, so he left to work for another agency in Paris and had an excellent time.
However, he is one of very few people who has seen a well kept Magnum secret; the thousands upon thousands of colour slides which Henri Cartier-Bresson took during his lifetime, and there are not many that has made it out of their archive, but Charles made full use of his time at Magnum and went through them all. Verdict? Not very good. The man was thinking in B&W, he just didn't see in colour.
But I digress; what Charles doesn't know about cameras isn't worth knowing, so it was quite interesting to hear how he dealt with [insert famous photographer's name] in Perpignan.
Lets just call him the 'old man in the photo vest'. He overheard our conversation of the new Leica M9, coincidentally launched today (09-09-09, geddit?) and decided to invite himself onto the topic by pointing to the taped over Leica slung on his shoulder, and yes, it was a Leica M9, not yet released.
In his eagerness to convince us of the marvel of a full frame Leica, he managed to stay over 20 minutes, leaving Charles utterly unimpressed by the his knowledge. It was quite amusing watching the old man in the photo vest growing ever more desperate in his attempt of convincing Charles, finally leaving us with the grace of a car salesman desperate for a sale.
Charles-f. Ouellet. © Magnus Andersson