The Cult of the LEICA:
WARNING: If your sense of conviction is stronger than your sense of humor, leave now. You may not read this page. If anyone thinks I'm poking fun of any particular religion, I'm not. I'm pointing these things out because they are part of many major religions, including my own.
Researching the LEICA these past several months, it's become apparent that extremist LEICA fanatics fall into exactly the same patterns as cult members.
LEICA fundamentalists are evolving their fascination with the LEICA into a fanatical cult in exactly the same way every other cult forms.
Good and Bad Guys
Every organization has its annoying few who stand out.
These bad apples make the entire group look bad.
Every photo club has at least one guy who thinks he's God's gift to photography (even though his pictures are awful), and won't shut up about how great he is and how you should use the same camera and do everything he same way he does.
Every popular sport has fans and players that can't seem to stay out of jail.
Every religion has its few who make that religion look foolish to everyone else.
The media loves to show the worst side of things because it gets more viewers. The media always parades around the sports stars who got arrested for doing something embarrassing, or the most extreme members of any religion who get carried away. It's just like in college: if a party makes it to the paper, its because someone burned down the dorm, not because everyone had a great time and went home safely.
Did you ever notice how almost everyone you or I know of any group different from our own are perfectly cool people, yet the media portrays them as dangerous weirdoes? Our friends and neighbors who belong to any of these groups are all great, but for some reason the media tells us to hate them. Sad, but true.
While investigating the Cult of the LEICA, know that these are the few guys who give all LEICA users a bad name. They are bad, and not at all definitive of the man who chooses the LEICA.
Cult: a cult is any religion different from our own, especially small groups, and especially as that group's practices and beliefs differ more strongly from our own.
Another characteristic of religions derided as "cults" are that people join these religions as adults, rather than being born into them as children with older religions.
Every major world religion was derided as a cult for at least its first few hundred years. As it got bigger, there were fewer non-members to call it a cult, and it became accepted as an established religion with its own check-box on the census.
I use the words cult and religion interchangeably; the only difference is on which side you stand, and in the world of the Internet, we have people on every side.
I'm not poking fun at anyone; I'm laying an analytical foundation critical to the analysis of the Cult of the LEICA.
Heck, the USA was founded by cult members! The Puritans who sailed the Mayflower to Plymouth Rock were a band of weirdoes so weird that they got kicked out of England (persecuted) for their bizarre habits. The word "Puritan" is synonymous with fundamentalist: one who does things only one purist way. In our case, the Puritans were a strict cult that had real problems with sex, and to this day in the USA our laws come down from the Puritans and prohibit sex and nudity on TV, but allow all the violence and crime you can handle. The Puritans prohibited sex so much that they died out, whoops!
Makings of a Cult
Most popular religions and cults embody many of the same characteristics.
These features lay a strong basis for a cult, and hundreds of years later, established religions.
Most of them center around a dead male prophet. If he was martyred, all the merrier.
The key to having a dead prophet is that he is no longer available for comment. As we say here in the West, dead men tell no tales, which helps the fundamentalists because they all claim that their interpretation of The Prophet is the only interpretation.
Martyrdom only strengthens their convictions.
Ironically, most people revered as prophets by cult members never considered themselves as prophets, or anyone special. It is the cultists who promote these men after death to prophethood, not the dead men themselves. A key is that often the prophet chronicled his own life or beliefs while he was alive, as Ansel Adams wrote his books on photo technique. After death, cultists start worshipping these words as The Word, and things go downhill from there.
Worshipping these prophets, or the ideals for which they stand, provides a framework for day-to-day life for members of these religions or cults, as well as explaining why we are put here on earth.
Extremists, the ones who make all the bad press and sour the world to that religion, always insist that their interpretation of the Words of the Prophet are the only one true way. If you differ, you are wrong.
The Cult of the LEICA
In the case of the LEICA, the LEICA becomes a fetish without which the LEICA cultist cannot enjoy pleasure.
So here we have it: let's see how some bad eggs who use LEICA have set themselves up to become a full-on cult:
* Oskar Barnack died of complications of asthma. Asthma was why he was unable to carry the heavier photo gear of his era on hike hikes, and why he developed the LEICA for its tiny size and light weight.
* * Still alive, but supposedly upgraded to Pentax 645 and Canon Mark III.
Prophets usually lived so long ago that things they experienced have little to do with life today.
In the case of the prophet Barnack, he died in 1936, twenty years before today's LEICA M system was introduced in the 1950s.
Barnack died just a few years after the first interchangeable-lens screw-mount LEICA came out, and has been dead through all subsequent development, yet LEICA cultists still parade around holding posters of Barnack hoisted up on poles as if everything done today is in His honor.
Look at LEICA's own sales literature: Barnack is everywhere, just as fringe organizations parade with huge posters of their martyrs as they march through town.
This is why Contax went out of business after the 1950s as its products became obsolete, and LEICA is still around. Even though Contax was the better camera (Ansel Adams shot Contax in 35mm, not LEICA), Contax had no prophet to pimp it to cult status. Ditto for Canon and Nikon: no martyr, no cult. They've had to survive on their abilities at making useful photo tools, not religious and devotional artifacts.
I wrote this when I realized that Barnack died right after the LEICA went public, and decades before any modern LEICA was envisioned, yet the cultists hail Barnack as The Prophet. I then noticed the similarities to other cults, and the fact that every fringe group of any organization usually makes the larger operation look embarrassingly bad.
We should love everyone. The LEICA cultists are a separatist extremist element not representative of our friends and neighbors who shoot the LEICA.
Owning the LEICA does not make a man a cultist. Like most fringe elements, I've never actually met any cultists any more than I've met any uncool members of any of the groups that are constantly portrayed negatively by media.
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