Interview with Bernd (silverbullet)


Mu-43 Top Veteran
Bernd (silverbullet) has accepted the request for an interview. I want to thank him for this! Knowing his great pictures on Flickr I am looking forward to discussing some of Bernd's pictures. I am convinced, that Bernd has a lot to say about photography.

As usual we want to encourage members to ask questions of their own as well. However, to keep the interview a little organized we want to keep additional questions related to my questions at first and ensure that you can ask any questions afterwards.

Bernd, would you please introduce yourself a little bt more to us?


Mu-43 Veteran
Hi pictor, thank you so much for this invitation and interview!

In a different forum I'll never would accept this but here is a friendly neighborhood where I can easily explain a bit deeper my thinking about photography and my own point of view....(c) Leica...;-)

Born in Dec. 1947 near Düsseldorf/Rhine my first contact into photography was done by a gift from my parents, a 6x6 AGFA Isola I, a cheap rangefinder camera with extractable lens tubus.
This was at the age of around 13 and my shooting was more or less this and that. But no memories about pictures from that time, but the magic of the little red window in the backflap and the printed hands on the paper back of the films until the number (1) was visible.......this I remember very well.

At the age of 20 I got my first 'serious' camera from my cousin. It was a Minolta SR-T101 with an impressive 50mm F1.4.

But nothing happened in terms of my interests into special genres of photography. Shooting this and that but no real 'Whooww!'


Mu-43 Top Veteran
Hello Bernd!

There are no thanks needed for me, all thanks have to go to you for giving us insight into your photographic experience. It is a pleasure to have you here in this wonderful forum!

I suppose that there are many people who don't know your first camera, the AGFA Isola I. Since I had to consult myself, I want to post the link to the article about this camera. The first cameras of most of us might be completely different to that camera, which had only two apertures, two shutter times and no automatic modes at all. How did you deal with these restrictions? I suppose that many of the younger generation among us don't know how to shoot with cameras like this from personal experience.

Having read about your first photographic experiences, it seems to me, that it took some experimenting until you found your special genres. Was there some moment or a special experience which shaped your photography in a special way? Or is it better to describe your photographic development as a continuous process of learning?

Best wishes,


Mu-43 Veteran

it was easy to work with this camera. In good weather you take the choice with higher numbers (shutter speed and aperture) and in dull light your choice must be the smaller numbers for speed and aperture. Plus the distance.
Easy to remember. The 17 DIN Agfa could handle the contrasts and buffered the slightly over/unterexposing.


As I mentioned, several years later the Minolta SRt was the start to a more controlled and ‚serious’ photography. But what to photograph? The world was full of objects to be photographed.
Parallel to these thoughts a small b/w darkroom was established.

But the most important influence for me was that TIME-LIFE introduced their silver books about photography.
The offer was easy: In a given time frame individual books about cameras, light, darkroom, photographs, history of photography had been sent by post to my home month by month.

18 Time Life Library of Photography VTG Lot 1970's HC - eBay (item 150496200363 end time Oct-20-10 09:41:38 PDT)

There was time enough to study each individual book and theme until the next arrived.
The book about photographers thrilled me the most. Photographs from H.C. Bresson, Dorothea Lange, Robert Capa and others like Imogen Cunningham really burnt into my visual memory.

From all of them Henry Cartier Bresson influenced me the most.
His nailing THE moment, the story telling content – he became my hero in terms of photography.
At that time the world wasn’t easy. The war in Vietnam was going on and we could see the atrocities of war photographed by so many reporters, a lot of them killed in their job.

When I remember those times it’s clear that four photographs influenced me very strong:
Bresson: The boy with two vine bottles around the corner
Robert Capa Spain The moment of death in the civil war
D. Lange Mother with children on the road
E. Adams Execution of a vietcong on the street and
Nick Ut Vietnam The crying girl Kim Phuc after a Napalm attack.

On the other hand it was clear that photography for me was only a hobby beside my job as a junior-product manager of a french tire manufacturer.

Around 1970, the Minolta with the wobbling lens was replaced by the famous NikonF. A camera heavily shown in the TIME-LIFE books.
It costs a fortune and for some weeks I had no lens for it. But it was love at first sight. My third eye. The 'Ritsch-Ratsch' of the lightmeter coupling from the Photomic...ahhh, music in my ears......

I was loaded like a spring to make photographs like my heroes and than shortly after the arrival of the F on my way to the job it happened:

locked away | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

This man I could see every warm day in his chair sitting and watching the traffic. It was clear that this photograph had to be done by me without any hesitation. It took only 10 seconds to hold the car, frame and photograph. He didn’t like it but after I gave him a print we had nice conversations with coffee and cake. I realized that unknown persons are more familiar than expected and no fear existed from my side to come closer as usual.

From this moment it was clear for me what to photograph.
People, faces and situations on the streets. The name ‚streetphotography didn’t exist in Germany.
At that time I was very shy but with my Nikon pressed to my face and a special smile before the release no one could really resist........;.-)

. | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

ok – one exception in more than 40 years......;-)

Visits in Amsterdam had been done frequently, the NikonF was loaded mostly with Ilford HP4 and FP4.
Walking for hours and scanning the near surrounding was easy and Amsterdam at that time, full of hippies and kraakers (young people occupying old abandoned houses), was a paradise for me.

klick | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

The ‚decisive moments’ just came without any efforts or waiting. Until today it’s a mystery for me what happened at that time:

Sleepy Hollow | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Don’t get me wrong – leaving the door with the pressure to shoot, this didn’t exist. It was more of having a nice walk, let’s SEE what may happen – the Nikon was waiting and not pushing.....but than.....something was special – bang!
Coming back to your question about the special experience it’s clear that this old gentleman was the trigger.
Contacting strange people somewhere was easy and it helped to be young and without any serious thoughts about money, health, etc. To be ‚soft’ in terms of sensitivity for visual impressions plus the picture database stored inside, it helped a lot to SEE things. Mastering the camera was important too but not so challenging having worked with the Time-Life books........

On the other hand I was guided by a deep respect for these peoples. They shared sometimes only seconds with me, often we had a nice conversation and during a trip to Ireland I bought a Polaroid Swinger to be able to provide pics to the people.

It's clear that it helped to photograph in the beginning more static objects like old doors, bicycles, stones, rusty cables etc.. The cam became my third eye, every adjustment I could do with close eyes, even loading the film was fast despite the fully removable backplate from the Nikon.

Another important point was the absence of a huge selection of lenses. Only a 50mm Nikkor and a cheap 28mm Soligor came into my special pouch of leather hanging from the belt.

My F & me | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

The Soligor became my favourite lens. It was the Swiss knife for portraits, sceneries etc.

But all this ended more or less at the end of 1973 when I tried to stand up on a Windsurfer in a harbour in Vinkeveen, Netherlands.

The hobby photography ended 1974 when I started the hobby windsurfing and Hobie sailing in the Netherlands.......


Mu-43 Top Veteran
Hi Bernd!

Many thanks for your concise reply. I love all pictures you have shown here, but I am particularly fascinated by your picture locked away and sleepy hollow, which made me speechless with admiration. Looking at your pictures I can perceive your deep respect for the people you are photographing. Since you often have nice conversations with these people or even give prints to them, they may be happy being photographed by you, a real win-win situation.

The next questions:

I am fascinated by street photography, but since I am a rather shy person, there is one major obstacle (among others): fear. You wrote, that you were shy at the beginning. On the other hand you wrote, that no fear existed after realizing, that strangers are more familiar than expected. What helped you most to break down your shyness and finally to come so close to strangers without any fear and what's your advice to others (like me)?

Following your descriptions of your creative process, you seem to be a very intuitive shooter. It is hard to define intuition, but often intuition is preceded by intense studies. Can you describe more precisely how the study of the works of your heros helped you with the art of seeing? How did you develop your own distinguished style?

Best wishes,


Mu-43 Veteran
Hi Christian,

thank you so much for your description how the pics induced some impressions just by looking at it.

Making pictures at that time was not the main target, really....
Interesting cities had been visited together with friends during weekends or short holidays. The camera around the neck, with two or three persons beside me - there was no fear for me as a photographer any more......;-)
Later on I walk on my own without any hesitation.

This I lost after my restart several years ago. My wife couldn’t help me, I had to learn it again by the hard way.

Answering your second question I have to say honestly, Christian, I don’t know it exactly.
Watching photographs was not like studies it was more like watching a movie.
Regarding the mentioned own style I’m not sure about it. Beeing very close to my work it’s difficult to judge this. Of course.
In the past there was no internet and I had no communication with other photographers as I didn’t join photoclubs or lessons in photography.
Since 2006 I’m in flickr, the feedback helps a lot and it’s important to follow the work of others.

Here a place of inspiration and fun:

iN-PUBLiC | David Gibson

And fun is the keyword for the non-profs here: have fun during shooting, dance with the camera in your hands wherever you may be, good photographs will come automatically......


Mu-43 Top Veteran
And fun is the keyword for the non-profs here: have fun during shooting, dance with the camera in your hands wherever you may be, good photographs will come automatically......
Excelent advice, if you have fun then the people you want to capture with your camera smile in a natural way.
- Did you ever / do you dance on wooden shoes?

PS: So far another great interview, curious what else is coming!!!


Mu-43 Top Veteran
Hi Bernd!

For photographers taking pictures as hobby fun is the crux of the matter. So I think you have given an excellent advice. However, having had so much fun with photography, you surprised me by telling that you stopped photography as a hobby in 1974. Your explanation that you started new hobbies like windsurfing and sailing does not help much, because that does not exclude photography. Didn't you miss that creative part of your life? Did you do some different art instead?

When (and why) have you started with photography again? Has your photographic style or preferences changed in a way compared to the time before 1974?

Best wishes,


Mu-43 Veteran

the switch was easy. When windsurfing hit Europe in 1973, it was a thrilling new sport. For us very small group of users it was a white sheet of paper. No hints, no technical advises etc......and heavy and slow hardware.

Keeping in mind that these hobbies had been done during weekends and holiday, time was tough for me due to more and more challenging jobs over the years and the growing family.
With surfing many travels to competitions in Germany and Europe had been done, a VW Bulli camper was the home in those days.

To be creative - yes - but only to survive on a wobbling board with a flapping sail. When the do-it-your-self boom started in terms of board shaping and laminating it was like working in Hawaii....;-)

During this 'wet' time photography was ok, but not 'serious' as before. Only colour negative film and prints of family shots, nothing special.

Many years later, around 2003 a new Minolta Dimage 3 with 3 mpx was the start into digital photography for snaps. This camera had an optical viewfinder, was very slow but made nice pics.

Here a link to my old page on the Apple server. Nothing special but some few pics show that there was something in the air......:rolleyes:


In the old days, messing around with a camera was pure joy like playing an instrument. It was more a feeling or mood. But it wasn't my target to produce prints for the wall. Only 5% of my frames had been enlarged. There was no internet, no communication with other photographers, all negatives ended in a cabinet on the attic.
The rest I discovered later.....35 years later....

Beginning 2006 a small competition in the MacUP magazine took place, theme 'Coffee'. I remembered the guy from Ireland with the Guinness, took it to a shop and got the scans of the 6 frames of this stripe. Whoww!
In short: The winner was the pic with the chap and the Guinness became Caffé Tinto :rofl:

The stone kept rolling and after the long time 'serious' photography became my new old hobby. What a hard and frustrating relaunch.....
Times had changed so did I over the decades. It's normal but when I compared the old stuff (a Nikon Coolscan IV in usage) I collected new crap....

To get as close as possible to 1973 I restarted with film too.
Today my style is different as I am but collecting portraits and people is again my main target. Not with telelenses but with wide angles as before....

The fun is back but the feet are not so swift as in the past. But photography is more brain than bones..:thumbup:


Mu-43 Top Veteran
Hi Bernd!

You seem not to do things by halves, at least within the free time you have. I can understand that it is impossible to engage in two or more hobbies as intensely as you do and did without neglecting your family and your job.

Although you won a competition after your comeback to photography, you describe your relaunch as hard and frustrating. The break was long and times have changed. Problems we overcome often help us to gain insight. What were the main hurdles and pitfalls during and after your relaunch? And can you tell us about the successes which made you most happy?

Best wishes,


Mu-43 Veteran
Hi Christian,

sorry for the late reply due to some probs with my DSL-connection.....

Yes, the relaunch was not so easy. Testing different cameras from an Oly 5050, Nikon D70, Digilux2 and finally the D300/PEN is the evidence that I had no real clue what to photograph and with what kind of camera. Of course Nikon was THE brand for me as in the past. But honestly, the cam was the most easy thing to check.
Another threshold was the fact that I felt uncomfortable outside my home with a cam in my hands - really. An old chap with a cam in town, not a tourist, hey I felt that everybody looked at me.....and I had to overcome the hesitation to put the cam in front of my head....
I tried so much to get the 'feeling' from the past but it was nearly impossible.
Looking at things didn't brought the 'hook' and the pics got boring.....

Being a very spontaneous shooter I tried to test another genre during my vacation in France: landscape. When other photographers speek about their imagination of photographs in advance, I hardly couldn't follow but now I tried it by myself.
Very often I passed a salt water basin on my way over Noirmoutier island and this was the start.
Waiting more than one hour for the sunset my Leica Digilux2 adjusted to 28mm wide angle zoom got this shot:

Fleur De Sel | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Visiting the marketplace two times a week I thought that it would be easy to get nice photographs of people. In the beginning it didn't work due to too much things around the main object. Too much background, heads, hats and only the usage of a tele lens 85mm plus crop 1.5 got the shot.

Santé | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

It's the only teleshot I made in streetphotography......

The more I had the cam in my hands the more it was comfortable and the funny feeling of being an bloke with a cam disappeared and additional 'luck' became the partner for me.

The 'security-distance between me and people shrinked a lot because I gained more self-confidence. In the past the 28mm had been stucked into the faces of people but today I hesitate to get closer than 2 or three meters. Therefore the subjects have different expressions and look more neutral but it's ok.

Here a very close shot as an exception in an old Leyland bus in Malta:

commuting | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Photography today is my main hobby as in the past but on a wider base of genres. It's like opening doors to look behind and to check whether it's fine for me or not. Next weekend I'm visiting my son in Krakow, the Pen with the 20mm will be my choice. It's a very small footprint and it comes close to my main target which is shrinking my hardware and to improve my visual software.



Mu-43 Top Veteran

Your pictures are wonderful! It wasn't easy, but obviously you have found back again to former greatness. You talk a lot about self-confidence and your visual software, as you call it. Although you mention your gear, it does not appear to be as important to you as it seems to be to many other photographers. As far as I can see, you like to keep your gear simple and prefer to make wonderful photographs with it.

Have you never fallen into the trap called gear acquisition syndrome? What are your criteria for buying new gear? Do you feel that the complexity of modern gear hinders ones creativity or do you think it is a blessing compared to the simplicity of older gear?

Best wishes,


Mu-43 Veteran

thank you so much for your kind words.
It moves me a lot as your work and experiences in terms of photography is impressive and your statements really counts for me.

Keeping the gear simple isn’t easyin these days as there is a lot of good hardware around and the internet is a dangerous place too.

Once I stepped into the trap with a Hasselblad 501 CM around 1972. It was a big mistake because I didn’t analize my shooting-style (thks Don) which didn’t match the viewfinder and the position of the camera while shooting. From this time it is clear that my cam should be in front of my face. ......:biggrin:

The D300 normally can do everything I need, but it feels more and more bulky in my hands and the camerabag is too heavy now, so a capable alternative had to be found.
The introduction of m4/3 from two different makers was the solution I felt and for me – it was right.
Despite the bad experiences with the Oly bridge the Pen with it’s EVF and the stabilizer was the first choice.

Buying a new camera makes fun but only after the first pic which has the ‚hook’ the camera is some kind of ‚partner’ for me. Crazy.......
And now after 4 years it’s clear what kind of photography is my challenge. The same genre as in the past, thanks heaven.

Too much menues drive me nuts and in comparison with my Bessa or Ikon the Pen is the maximum I can handle in terms of menue deepness and multi-level setting points. Shooting mainly in mode P the upper thumbwheel is easy for shifting the values and the center focuspoint is used in 85% of my frames.
Shooting with my analogue rangefinders is pure fun but I know that due to my age focusing could become difficult for me. Therefore I see a Leica M8/9 with mixed feelings and this not only in terms of reliability also in terms of handling and focus preciseness with my eyes and reflexes.
The question is simple: Forgetting the menue points of a ‚complicate cam’ against bad eyesight and trembling hands on a manual digicam as a M.....
Generally speaking I prefer now more automated cams with override against a fully manual cam due to more free capacity for composing and response to the scene. Ok. It depends due to the mood I’m in and whether the developer is fresh in the bottle.....;-) for one or two rolls of b&w films.

My goal will be that only one cam with one lens like the new Fuji X100 sits in my bag and I can concentrate to just one view, forgetting the rest and filtering the right scenes without any effort. This I did in the past with the 28mm and this is possible for everybody, like learning an instrument. It's a bit hard to achieve and feels a bit like the zen of photography.....

Fact is that the sympathy for a certain cam will influence the results. It’s simple that the better one feels with his cam the more it will be taken and the more practice will be done.
A word from a photographer, the name I don’t know is true:

„The more I practice the more luck I get“ :2thumbs:

All the best

PS: Tomorrow I’m heading to Krakow. The Pen, the 20mm Pana and the 14-42 is in the bag. Same as in Sicily. It’s enough – I hope.


Mu-43 Top Veteran
Hello Bernd!

Welcome back from Krakow, I hope you had a great weekend!

Your story about the trap of buying gear, which does not fit ones shooting style, sounds very familiarly, because this is what happened to me with my Nikon D90 and, as I assume, to many others among us. I share your dislike of too many menues and the need to go through menues to set the important parameters. This is one of the reasons why I love my new Canon PowerShot G12 so much.

In your latest post you addressed some of today's trends, which makes it difficult to find the right camera. What are the current trends you dislike most? On the other hand, which current trends do you like best? Do today's trends make it easier or harder to make good pictures in an artistic sense and to develop ones own style than some decades ago?

Best wishes,


Mu-43 Veteran
Hi Christian,

thanks a lot, it was a nice long weekend with very impressive moments in which I had tears in my eyes due to the history some decades ago.....:frown:

Leaving my b&w cameras at home I fully concentrated to colour. Colour for me is a new experience. Based on the experiences in Sicily the Pen E-P2 delivers colour in the way I like it, much more as my D300.....strange.....

Todays trends in terms of camera features or philosophy is at a threshold. It seems that the pixel race is over for the most models in the consumer and prosumer class. The features and modes are still overwhelming and it's difficult for beginners to concentrate on the real necessary features like controls of distance, shutterspeed and aperture.....

Therefore the announced Fuji X100 is hopefully the beginning change in manufacturers thinking. The buzz after the introduction shows that there are a lot of people who are really tired in programming the cams.

Your question Christian about easier or harder way of developing ones style I would say that it's very difficult to answer.
In the first glance I must say that modern cams with lots of features are able to provide right from the start good pics in terms of technical quality. But quality will be boring when the 'hook' is missing in the photograph.

Traditionally minded I would say that less features are better. Mistakes are clearly visible and the response is more direct. Thinking too much about the menues might disturb the more important looks for subjects, light and colours.
What I like very much is the trend for bigger sensors in small cams.
The Fuji X100 f.e. could be the beginning of a new segment in semi-automatical controlled cameras which I prefer.

But most important are the pictures and visions we should have in our mind. The joy or frustration when results are not as we thought they would be. As somebody said: 'No Pain - No Gain'

The moment when we recognize that there is something in the photograph which moves us and others. This is possible with a 5 € camera or a model for 5.000€. It's fair that young and motivated photographers might be better with cheaper cameras........:thumbup: or is it unfair?.....:rolleyes:


Mu-43 Top Veteran
Hello Bernd!

There is very much truth in your answer, especially in the last two paragraphs, when it comes to the right priorities. Of course, there are different photographic genres with specific technical demands and some need complicated cameras. In general I think, that a camera should be as simple as possible and as complex as necessary.

Before coming to the end of the interview (and before the interview is open for others), I would like to ask you some more questions:

What are your favorite books? Which books about photography do you recommend?

What do you like to do if you are not photographing? What are your other hobbies?

Do you like to travel? Which part of the world have you liked best until now and are there places left which you will absolutely have to visit?

Best wishes,


Mu-43 Veteran
Hello Christian,

books should be like photographs: drawing pictures in our heads......
In northern Europe a few interesting writers of crime stories provide good books. And Goethes’s ‚Italian Journey’ on my Iphone is at any time ready to read.

The book ‚The Shadows Of The Wind’ from Carlos Ruiz Zafón is one of the best examples how words can stimulate the imagination of the reader. This book was like an iron chain fixed to my legs.....

Or „Istanbul“ from Orhan Pamuk together with photographs from Ara Güler is the reason that we visit Istanbul top of december again with the Pen.....i

In terms of books about photography there are a few to mention. Books from Doisneau, (which is very close to my way of seeing) and Willi Ronis to name a few influenced me a lot.
But there is a french magazine called „Réponses Photo“ with it’s special issues for B&W. These magazines are my source for hints and visual impressions from unknown photographers and of course the well known names.
German magazines about photography are boring for me – too much technic orientated.

A long lasting hobby was my love to old cars. For more than twelve years I had a Austin-Healey Sprite MKI, called Frogeye or Kikkeroog in the Netherlands or Bugeye in the US.
What a lovley little car – my dream since 1960 when I was a schoolboy..... Another memory from the past is the tiny black VeloSolex. Here in France I have the type 3300 and in Germany another five in different colours....

Since ten years my wife Loretta and I spend our holidays in France near Nantes. The little island Noirmoutier has it’s special light, a mild climate and a lot of folks with personality.

Therefore far distance travelling is not neccessary. Destinations like Cambodia, Vietnam or other far-away places don’t interest us, sitting in a plane for many many hours is not my cup of tea.

More and more my wife and I plan to visit cities in Europe like Paris, Prague or Palermo in my case and Barcelona, Bilbao and Lissabon are our target for the next years when everything works well and our fitness is still on top.

France is THE country in which we could live for a longer period, but to move completely like Bill, mmhhhh, this would be a hard decision......


Mu-43 Top Veteran
Hello Bernd!

It was a pleasure to interview you, many thanks for your answers! If you have a statement of any kind or any further comments on something, please feel free to put it in your next post.

If any member would like to ask Bernd a question, please post it in this thread.

Best wishes,


Mu-43 Veteran
Hi Christian,

it's up to me to thank you very much for your questions. It was a great honour and pleasure to be interviewed. Thinking about the answers helps me a lot to reflect my photography. Thanks to all spending their time to read this thread. I hope that my rusty English makes enough sense....:rolleyes:
One thing I learnt in the last months:

Avoid to buy the No. x lens and put this money into a short journey together with your partner and your cam..... this will create a big impact for your photography....:thumbup:

A nice weekend to @ll!