Home Cameras/Lenses Leica In praise of the older reader… But seeking younger blood

In praise of the older reader… But seeking younger blood

Doomed to a diet of screw-thread Leicas and a roll of FP4

Mike Johnston, over at The Online Photographer, has some interesting words on the perceived age of his readers. He has been criticised, he says, for appealing mainly to older readers and ignoring younger photographers.

This resonances with me, as I am sure it will with many Macfilos readers. Like Mike, here at Macfilos we don’t set out deliberately to attract older readers; they just seem to gather, in the words of Marlene Dietrich, like Motten um das Licht¹. I’d love Macfilos to have more younger readers and I’ve often wondered how to go about attracting them.

On the other hand, I think it’s a good thing to have a few sites which are attractive to the more mature reader. Most blogs and articles tend to be written by younger hands. But I’m old and I suppose this is reflected in my interests and, perhaps, in my phraseology.

Have a look at Mike’s comments and let me know what you think? Should Macfilos pull out all the stops to attract a younger market? Is it indeed possible? Or are we beyond redemption?

Answers on a wax tablet to the comments section below…

  1. Marlene Dietrich, Falling in Love Again: [Older persons] “gather round me like moths around the flame”.


  1. In my view, photography and writing about it isn’t really an “age thing”, and I can’t see how anyone could jazz it up, either in content or writing style. Then again, I’m the person who fumes at people doing things “on a daily basis” when they could do them “daily” or “every day” i.e. I like things written in plain English; and I’ve almost never managed to take a satisfactory photograph with my admittedly low-spec telephone. Don’t change.

  2. It’s a good question, and the longer I thought about it, the more complex it seemed.

    My fantasy is what some have described pre-war Viennese cafe society to be: a meeting place for all walks of life, including that nut-case Lev Bronstein muttering about removing the Tsar.

    As a newbie, I’d say that macfios is far from stuffy; I notice photos taken on a smart phone, and even a compact camera (You can’t be serious! It uses software to correct lens distortions. You should use a properly designed lens).

    As Peter points out, photography is photography; if you do it well, no more need be said. Yappari (as expected) I will say more.

    It might not be amiss to publish articles along the lines of ‘Using your cell-phone like a professional,’ perhaps even ‘Using social media as a pro.’ I’m trying to not be silly here: these are the tools younger people use. Why not discuss how to use those tools well?

    Like entropy, though, one can’t evade the Law of Unintended Consequences. Certain train stations in Japan are said to play annoying sounds, at frequencies only young people can hear. It prevents youth from gathering inside stations, allowing swift passage to and from trains.

    The youth gather on the sidewalks immediately outside the station; now it’s difficult to get or out.

    On the other end, an upscale store here recently began playing very loud youth-oriented music. We know the salesman from a high-end brand; he was complaining ‘My ladies no longer shop here; they just come to talk with me.”

    I very much doubt macfilos would err in either direction.

    Please feel free to disagree.


  3. Please do not adjust your set. This one of a handful of blogs I read and yours is the best and actually is quite wide ranging in content and very professional. Most blogs have useless clickbait articles or even more stupid articles such as the seven best portrait lens for Sony (Nikon,….). They have no intelligence or competence and have pressure to have at least one article a day to keep traffic up and advertising revenue. I cried when I used to read many of these articles and realized people are making buying decisions on misinformation. At least in the paper magazine days, there was generally an editor maintaining some higher level of standards including grammar and spelling.
    Keep up the amazing work you do – it is greatly appreciated.

  4. My very sympathetic weather vane younger reader (27 yr old almost lawyer) doesn’t read blogs or sites and keeps up with the world with his personal apps and feeds; thinks my cameras are awesome and understands (tolerantly) is aged dad’s obsession but wouldn’t swap his phone for anything and sends his pics around the world with a flick of his thumb. Also he is always sending me specs for smarter, faster, lighter and cheaper cameras that are even more awesome than Leicas hoping that one day I’ll get with the tech. rev. He is though invaluable when it comes advice on to music streaming devices and robot vacuum cleaners…

  5. If you know any Millennials ask them whether they like travel and where they like to go and what do they like to see.

    Ask them whether they post their stories on any social media platforms and to show you those stories.

    Ask them to read a selection of stories from MacFilos and to give their opinion.

    Ask them if they would like to write about their trip and illustrate it with photographs for MacFilos.

    It’s a start to see if there’s an overlap. Maybe this is a way to build the bridge to Millennials.

    • Good advice! In fairness, I wrote that article a bit tongue in cheek. We have some younger contributors and in the past have had some very young writers. As ever, we are open to all comers as long as they have a good story.

  6. You know I am hooked on Mac, I send the articles to my daughter, like John S Rolling Road, she has my grand daughters read them to expose them to wonderful countries, great photos, and terrific writers. When I go w grand daughters, each one plays hockey in different leagues, I bring 2 x’s or 2 gr, one for me one for them. During down time I try get them go for a walk and they use the cameras, but being pre teens they have watches that they text or call on their phones and photos for social media. Being young they take to that gear like fish to water. I think if we can get them writing pics even as a journal, there might be hope for next gen. The other thing that I think hurts, just a general observation, you play hell even trying to find courses to take with an instructor, like community colleges. What I can pass on is what I can extract from other photogs, and I know it’s probably not enough, but if they have fun and learn I’m happy.

  7. Perhaps Mike you intentionally grouped both ‘what’s ahead’ articles today as there is a relationship between them as between the tools on the market and the people who want to use them.

    Regarding the blog I think it’s a matter of content as a person in their 20’s or 30’s, if they are seriously interested in photography – be it digital or film – will produce similar technical and travel content to what the blog offers. I think of the multitude of ‘younger’ YouTube content producers as evidence of this. What they miss is the historical perspective, stories from experience, that only an older contributor can provide.

    I recently watched Peter Karbe give talks on the Australian Leica YouTube channel including how the SL lenses are suitable for 100Mp sensors but wonder if I will ever need to use such a sensor. The cameras seem to improve the current technology only in small steps such as improved EVF, ISO and AF performance – presumably driven by marketing and sales strategies. There’s only so much interest for me that can be generated by a consideration of the tools, and YouTube is awash with that sort of content.

    So what will be new and of interest to us including a younger audience? I assume AI as it migrates from smartphones to mirrorless cameras.

    I think the blog has, and will continue to have, a good balance between technical (the tools) and travel articles (their usage). Those articles about events in decades past have great value and historical interest (just how did they do that with film and no AF?). Following on from what John wrote above the blog could include articles such as on the use of film (with historical examples), the differences between mirrored and mirrorless cameras (is the former faster for capturing movement?), using a smartphone for making rather than taking photographs and the use of AI functions in both smartphones and cameras. We could start with what functions AI helps with.

    On a less serious note perhaps one day I’ll tell Alexa to start up the drone, load the maps and Photographers Ephemeris, go and take a landscape photograph, send it to the printers by e-mail and pick up a pint of milk on the way back whilst I sleep a bit longer. There’s a thought, articles on drone photography.

    Anyway, enough. 60 is the new 40; and age is just a number. Correct?

    • Some additional thoughts. What does a photo editor look for? How is a magazine page laid out? Which paper to use for printing? How was it done and it is still the same? Questions which could be the basis of articles, particularly from our more experienced contributors. If that’s the demographic let’s take advantage of it.

    • The grouping was entirely unintentional, Kevin, and I have to admit that it was a mistake. The two filler articles were intended for Thursday, Narain’s industry article for today, Friday. But somehow I got the scheduling wrong. So nothing to be gleaned from this happenstance.

      The suggestions you make for articles are all valid. I agree that the historical perspective is something that only older writers can bring. I often read articles which get everything wrong about the 50s, 60s or 70s (or, even, the 80s). I have a young friend who insists that there were no cars on the roads 50 years ago and that an old gent (me) is incapable of dealing with modern traffic. In reality, as we all know, congestion was always the same. They just built more road capacity. It’s a bit like computer storage; today’s terabyte is yesterday’s megabyte.

      Any one willing to create some of these articles?

  8. Maybe your avatar should be wearing its cap backwards! In all seriousness, I’ve read Mike Johnston’s blog and I think this is a problem for a lot of photography websites. However I think it’s always been the same. I recall the last time I belonged to a camera club, back in the noughties, they were constantly worrying about how to attract younger members as the majority of the membership was retired. When they stopped attending due to age, ill health etc. they weren’t being replaced. Out of a membership of around 50, only a handful were actually under 50!

    Mike also makes the point that younger people tend to watch rather than read. There doesn’t seem to be any shortage of YouTube photography channels and they aren’t lacking views or “likes”.

    I may be over 60 now but I use my smartphone camera a lot as it’s perfect for Instagram. Shoot, process in Snapseed, upload. Camera manufacturers might want to get on board with this and build in wi-fi.

    • Richard,

      Yes, wearing the cap backwards is better when speeding. Before safety helmets, that’s exactly how motorcyclists wore their caps. Your point about clubs and membership is true in all areas, not just in photography. Many, many years ago I founded a motorcycle club — which is still going strong despite my long absence — and I read in the magazine that they have become a club of older people and find it difficult to attract young motorcyclists. I suppose that modern social networking and communications in general mean that it’s possible to have your group of friends without all the rigmarole of club meetings, AGMs and all that stuff. Anyway, I did write the piece rather tongue in cheek and I’ll carry on as normal since Macfilos seems to be an acceptable formula (for some). Mike

  9. I’ll start with a word of advice, Mike. If that was a 1935 IIId which you used to take that photo of the Brough Superior Mike you need to take care of it. The guy who owns the actual first IIId from 1939, acting on my advice, sold it for €40,000 at auction last Saturday. He did not not know how valuable it was until he brought to the Leica Forum and I realised what he had and put him in touch with the right people. He had, in fact, bought the camera recently in the US for the price of 2 or 3 cups of coffee as the US seller did not know how valuable it was either.

    Enough about filthy lucre. Youth outreach is a difficult issue in photography. At the Gallery of Photography, Ireland we have various programmes going with schools and colleges and graduate awards. While many young people are very happy with their phone photos, there is equally a group of them that want to try what they call ‘analogue’ and what I call film photography. For them digital imaging is no big deal and they want what Narain calls ‘intentionality ‘and love looking at that dish in the darkroom as the image comes through. I have even come across young people trying 19th Century wet plate collodion photography and they were much at it than I was with my shaky old hands spilling the collodion all over the place.

    Yes, it would be nice to have some younger voices here and we might be surprised at what they might come up with. Today’s younger generation is less inclined to perceive boundaries than we did when we were young and I find that they are always up for challenge.


    • I hadn’t thought the IIId might be particularly valuable, although it is a rather nice black model. While I wouldn’t call myself a collector, I have a representative selection of major milestones in the development of Leica (with the major exception of an M5). Maybe when I retire (oops… already done that) they might add to my pension…

      • I was being tongue in cheek, Mike. I suspect your ‘IIId’ is a III. Black IIIas are very rare and somebody I know is doing research on a possible one at the moment. Black IIIbs are rumoured, but have never been found. There never was a black IIId, but only 427 were made (production years 1939 to 1947) and they are extremely valuable. Send me a photo of the top plate of your camera with the serial number visible when you get a chance and we will work out what it is that you have. The Collectiblend price range for a IIId with lens in good condition is $ 9,000 – $9,500. The first one, the existence of which was only fully confirmed by the recent find according to Jim Lager, was always going to fetch a lot more. As somebody said recently what mainly interests a lot of collectors are ‘ the first, the last and the rare’.


  10. What can I say… in a word, keep things as they are Mike. I read a number of blogs and enjoy the viewpoints of people of different ages, interests and levels of ability.

    One thing I value here is the number of highly experienced photographers who write and comment, including in this thread; I don’t find that elsewhere.

    Quality always stands out and the audience will find you — you don’t go looking for it.

    • I agree entirely. If you start to target a different mindset, you can confidently expect some different perspectives and risk losing loyal members of your community.

  11. I am working with very young people (15 to 19 years old) and apart from the students specialized in art and English with me for their grades, there’s very little interet in photography (camera gear included). Even my children who have seen me take images for the entirity of their lives hardly use anything else except their smart device. I recently worked on two images one of of Dorothea Lange and the other of Margaret Bourke-White. They were quite good at “analysing” their images but rely on their smartphones for photography. Art students are more into creating something unusual and conceptual images but rely on their smart device when on a schooltrip. I’ve never managed to use a smartphone for images, just one for a screen image from time to time. I guess it’s linked to what people want to recorrd. Young ones often photograph themeselves and their friends and then load the image on the media. Older photographers may be more interested at testifying fo what happens to the world around them. It’s a weak thought but thinking it over it often proves true.

    • Interesting, and I don’t disagree. At my workplace though (we are in the same profession I think) I’ve noticed a growing interest in analogue photography among the younger staff members (not yet the students).

      Two of my colleagues, she’s 24 and he is 27, have recently bought into 35mm film photography. In fact, thinking about it, 7 of the 12 of us (ages spread evenly from early 20s to mid 70s) are active photographers.

      Our location is sufficiently remote that mail comes weekly on a small Cessna and some weeks enough film and other photographic equipment arrives to service a small suburb (our other major purchase in common is single estate organic coffee beans — perhaps there is a connection!).

      • That’s good to hear. A friend who works at the city beaux arts and design art school also told me that quite a few students were shooting analog films and there seems to be quite an interest among slightly older students in film photography.

        • Leica film cameras continue to be in demand from photography students and younger people in their twenties and thirties. I have anecdotal evidence that the M6, in particular, is much sought after and this is one of the reasons prices continue to rise.


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