Why The Leica M11 Might Be the Best Career Move

I was thinking about this latest iteration of the Leica M, the M11 (not an affiliate link, just one to B&H) and that, despite how expensive it is at $9k, if you can afford it, it might be a wise move for your career. Or mine.

See, Leica needs to support their photographers and they have multiple stores in major cities around the world. They create gallery shows of their photographers’ work and they use that work to sell new cameras to shoppers visiting the store. It’s well done and I support what they do, it’s the essence of what a photography store should be–selling photography as well as cameras.

Too many camera stores sell products and no photography. Steak, but no sizzle. You walk in and you see a wall of camera bags, a display case full of cameras, and then frames, accessories, tripods and more hardware. Nothing sexy. No gallery space. No walls of photographs to get you excited about photography.

The New Leica M11

Leica sells the sizzle, oh, yes! And if we’re going to start a new photography project, having the latest Leica M11 doesn’t guarantee Leica will come on board and support us. No, not at all.

A Leica Gallery in Stuttgart Germany.

But they almost certainly won’t if we use a Leica M2, a (now vintage) M8 or M9, or that lovely M5 that we think feels great despite its bigger size. Leica needs photographers making current work with their current cameras. That’s why Ralph Gibson is using one–they gave him one to make sure he’s aligned with the best, the latest and greatest of the M series of rangefinder cameras.

$9000 is a lot of cash, but if we already have lenses, it’s not that much money in the grand scheme of things. It’s less than a used car, and it can be used to create the work that drives our career. It can be the tool that when Leica sees the work, just possibly they do get on board behind us, they do showcase our work.

They need work. They have a bunch of stores that need work to display. It’s not just the old masters, but current photographers, too.

My suggestions is don’t bother if you don’t have a hot project, something with a hook that will really get you attention. Like Richard Renaldi’s Touching Strangers (though he actually used an 8×10 large format camera for that project). If you have something like that, with a good marketing angle that will get you press, $9k is a reasonable investment to get the project seen. Something you can use to promote it to others and let Leica know about your project.

Heck, you could sell it once you’ve completed the project and only be out a few thousand dollars, probably. But don’t, as you’ll want to do new work to follow up this project.

I have an M9 and use it for some of my projects, but still I don’t think there’s much incentive for Leica to get behind it. It’s 12 years old. It’s not their latest. It’s not the M11.

So, consider how the right gear could work for you and your goals. What do you want to do, where do you want to take your photographs? And if you were seen at the Leica gallery in store in Washington D.C. or Los Angeles, would that get you where you want to be?

Would it push your recognition in the art world? Among your photographer peers?

Something to consider. It just arrived.

What are you working on?

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