Réquiem para un Malabarista

El malabarista se planta en el centro del escenario y anuncia con solemnidad, en tono levemente grave, el inicio del espectáculo.

Habla un saltimbanqui consumado que vive de sus recuerdos, de viejas glorias sin reconocimiento, de pasiones desapercibidas por sus contemporáneos.

Desde su decadente escenario comparte en una sola frase todo el desgaste de su dolor: “estos son los hechos memorables que presenció mi juventud primera”.

Con agilidad que sorprende hasta a los más apáticos, realiza prodigiosos actos de una destreza imposible para la pobreza que predica su cuerpo. El dominio de sus instrumentos contrasta con la misera del patrimonio que le acompaña: una vieja silla, la maleta roída por el mundo, los trapos viejos por ropas.

Fiel representante de esa estirpe perdida de los Juglares, esquiva estoicamente los aplausos temerosos del público ante los carretes que desafían la gravedad.

Al culmen del crescendo galopante se deja caer, sobre sí mismo, liberado brevemente del peso de su realidad, sonriendo a una época distante que nunca fue, extasiado por el clamor del público que se rinde a sus pies.

Es Viktorio Godoy, el último malabarista, y su réquiem por tiempos mejores. Una obra teatral de gran calidad que presencié el 16 de abril de 2011 en el Teatro Luis Poma de San Salvador. La venia fue también el réquiem para el lente Canon 50mm f1.8 LTM (que cambié unas semanas después por el Leica Summicron DR 50mm f2.0) y la obertura para la Leica M6 que llegó tan solo unos días antes.

The scenery and the players – a brief overview.

The Scenery

My entry to the rangefinder world was not in the best moment for the consumer side of the economic equation. For Leica it is time of fat cows: despite their astonishingly high prices there is wait list on almost every item that they sell, its major competitor (Zeiss) adopted Leica´s M bayonet as its standard mount for its rangefinder system (the Zeiss Ikon System) – dismissing into oblivion its unsuccessful joint venture with Kyocera for Contax G rangefinder system – , the success of the M9 digital full frame body is unquestioned, and the public is very enthusiastic about rangefinders again. On the other hand we have the consumer: the professional photographers, the collectors, the amateur photographers, etc.; all of them immersed in a niche market with limited offer (in availability) of products. Consequently, simple economy applies: when the demand is higher that the offer, prices increase. Time of famelic cows for the consumer,definitely not the most appealing scenario for a new photographer on a budget.

Looking at the bright side today there is a larger variety of options both in lenses and camera bodies that matches the different necessities of the avid consumer. This is in large thanks to Cosina’s entry into the rangefinder business. It provided a new line of  lenses and cameras to the rangefinder photographer that had years craving for a breeze of fresh air at an affordable price for their Leicas. Their success was recognized both by Zeiss and Leica. Zeiss awarded Cosina’s achievement by granting them the manufacture of a new  rangefinder system: the Zeiss Ikon camera and the ZM lenses line, which although made in Japan by Cosina (being the sole exception the Distagon T 2,8/15 made in Germany and the now discontinued 2/85)   enjoy the benefits from Zeiss’ standards of quality control. In response, almighty Leica introduced in 2007 the Summarit family, a brand new line of “budget” lenses to compete with the ninjas of Zeiss and Cosina that threatened to undermine its reign over the rangefinder realm.

The players

That is the triad of the major manufacturers of M bayonet mount lenses. Each of them is aimed to a specific consumer: the Voigtlander lenses made by Cosina are aimed to the photographer on a budget; the Zeiss M lenses are aimed to the photographer who seeks quality, the backup form a major company with an undisputed reputation in the field, and who still is relatively on a budget; and finally there is Leica with its mystic aura and unrivaled quality aimed to anyone that is willing to pay the price (quality is expensive).

My personal opinion of each manufacturer is strictly based from what I have read from them: Voigtlander lenses lead the way in the variety of super wide lenses they offer, some of them are on my wishlist. Additionally they are a good option in the most popular focal lengths  when the best option can only be acquired at a high premium price, i.e. Nokton 35 1.4 and Nokton 50 1.1; their other bet is uniqueness, by example as of this date they have the fastest 35mm (Nokton 35 1.2), the fastest 75mm (Heliar 75 1.8), the widest lens ( Ultra Wide Heliar 12mm). The list of achievements of being the “first and only providers of….” goes on. Nevertheless there are compromises in quality that some photographers are not willing to accept and they are ready to pay a premium for it.

Zeiss is the company when you don’t want to compromise quality for price. I think Zeiss provides great quality at an acceptable price. Many say the 35mm Biogons are the best. Additionally it gives you the opportunity to enjoy a classic construction in a modern lens such as the Sonnar 50 1.5 (although all the manufacturers do so: Voigtlander Heliar 50 2.0 is another example)

Leica is the holy grail of lenses. Almost everybody agrees that Leica lenses are the best that money can buy. There must be a reason behind the price of the lusted Noctilux. They are extremely reliable and produce exceptional results. A kit of a 35mm Summicron, a 50mm Noctilux and the 90mm Apo Summicron is a midsummer night´s dream.

And action!

Those are my thoughts as of this date. They will evolve from the cloud of the “world of the ideas” and materialize into the “world of the senses” when I get the chance to test some lenses.

Photo Advisory: Do not expect to find a many lens reviews since I cannot afford a lot of lenses. However what I will do is to provide an honest review based on my perspective and from real word situations, this  means that I will not be shooting walls to compare the extreme detail of the brick’s grains but true events.

I invite you to visit my wishlist section to see which lenses have caught my eye to be acquired and hopefully will nurture the review section.

The Castle

“Avant, nous avons effectivement de nombreux morts plus importants que la notre” Dalton

End of May, this year Roque Dalton would have turned 81 years old.

In 1960 he was apprehended and filed by the former National Police for his clandestine activities. It is possible that he was taken to the “The Castle”: the National Police Central Headquarters. Many entered through its gates in the 60’s-80’s to be questioned, tortured and disappeared. Ironically The Castle lies next to the “Church of Mercy” were the first independence outburst took place in 1811. Dalton came out and lived for another 15 years , perhaps the real irony is that death came at the hands of his partners in arms and not from the police.

20 years after the end of the war, 50 after Dalton´s filing and 200 after the bells of the neighbor church called for freedom,  I was able to visit The Castle as part of the Bicentenary Route. Now this beautiful victorian building constructed in the 1930’s by an Italian architect  is a national cultural patrimony accessible to the tourists who want to admire its architecture and gardens.

Around 6:00pm I saw across the central yard the back door of the Castle.  I could not help but to think about Roque crossing the gate, his hopes untouched,

and a suspicious gaze nailed in his back.