Trigger warning: article includes sarcasm and some naughty words.
Edit: some of the naughty words has now been replaced with nicer words.
Because Henri Cartier-Bresson did it
Henri Cartier-Bresson supposedly used black tape to camouflage his Leica in order to make it less conspicuous, as seen on the artist’s rendition above. The root of this habit might very well originate from Bresson, but why the rest of us are still doing it, now that black cameras are already invented, might seem quite confusing and pointless.
It is your own shooting style, appearance and behaviour that’ll attract attention.Old photography quote
The red dot attracts geezers
I occasionally tape my Leica. I have a black M6 that has the red dot, camera name and the model printed to the front panel. Most people don’t know what a Leica is and usually there’s no need to avoid the unwanted attention, that Leica owners must have to through every day.
The only time when I tape the camera up, is when I’m actually going for a serious photo walk and genuinely want to be bothered as little as possible. Spending several hours in the city increases the chance of an old geezer emerging and recognising the camera. It is usually pointless trying to escape. Covering the logo and the red dot will render the camera invisible to men in their 50’s and older. If anything, I’m trying to make the camera less conspicuous to other photographers, not to the subjects (assuming they’re people).
Normally I don’t mind having a friendly chatter about cameras with a stranger, but when I really want to mind my own business and concentrate on my work, I’ll consider taping the front panel just in case. You’d imagine the unique shape of the body is the clearest giveaway, but no… it’s all about the red dot and the apparent Leica brand. You could even stick a red dot to a Fuji X100 and totally convince someone it’s a Leica.
Red dot means expensive
There are several reasons trying to hide your wealth. First of all, anyone who knows anything, knows that Leica is one of the most expensive camera brands in the world, and stealing such a camera makes an easy buck. Making the camera to look less expensive is an easy insurance agains thieves.
Not all Leica shooters are snobs of course. I can only dream about buying expensive things just for fun… or at all, but I still might tape up the logo, just in order NOT to appear like a show-off. Even I get pissed whenever I see someone with a Leica. I acquired my Leica at a time in my life when I was more broke than ever… and let’s just say I had to do unspeakable things in order to make the transaction. If I’d need anything, it would be a small sticker for the camera, that says “I’m not rich by the way.” (Or at least a Minolta badge.)
Camera is a camera no matter how much tape
No matter what colour the camera is, it’ll attract exactly the same amount of attention. Unless it’s yellow of course. But if trying to figure out whether black or chrome body will attract less attention, the answer it that they both will just as much. Even less matters, whether the small logo has been taped over or not. It is your own shooting style, appearance and behaviour that’ll attract attention, and in the list of things to be concerned about, camera colour or taping a tiny red dot are at the very bottom.
Accessorising the hell out of the camera
Taping up Leicas is a thing just as any other silly fad that you see on Instagram all the time. Gear junkies get kicks out of soft release buttons, hot shoe covers, paracord straps, duct tape and any other means of accessorising their camera, that have nothing to do with actual photography. It is just fun thing to do… as a sort of a trend. Any kind of silly thing can become a trend and I suppose many of us tape up our cameras just because they’ve seen other people doing so on social media and hearing some kind of mansplanation of why that might somehow be advantageous or increase your credibility.
(Ps. Don’t take this article too seriously or get offended if you’re a soft release button owner or a man in your 50’s or older. I still have my hair, but I’ll be one of you in just twelve years.)