In My Bags – by Craig Semetko

Craig SemetkoCraig Semetko is a Los Angeles based photographer who’s currently driving throughout the United States for his project “America: E Pluribus Unum.” In 2008 he co-exhibited with Cartier-Bresson at the Open Shutter Gallery in Durango, CO, and has since been exhibited in numerous galleries worldwide, including an upcoming show at the Leica Store in Washington, DC for FotoDC. A graduate of Northwestern University, his book, “UNPOSED,” published by teNeues with a foreword by Elliott Erwitt, was published in 2010.

I’m on the last leg of a two-year project on the United States. I unofficially kicked-off “America: E Pluribus Unum” on the 4th of July in Independence, California, and am taking it through Inauguration Day (January 20th) in Washington, DC. In late 2010, like most Americans, I felt the country was going through a very troubling time. The economy, the government, the culture…everything seemed to be dysfunctional in a way I hadn’t seen in my lifetime. My book UNPOSED had just been released and I was thinking about what to do next. The images in UNPOSED are stand-alone shots that hang together mainly because they were shot spontaneously and have a sense of humor about them. I wanted to do a project that had a deeper narrative, to tell a story not just in a single frame, but in an entire book.

One day in the shower it struck me that our de facto national motto, “E Pluribus Unum,” which is latin for “Out of Many, One” was describing what I wanted to show–that no matter how different our economic, educational, or ethnic backgrounds might be, we are all still Americans. So I got in the car and started driving.


I travel pretty lightly. I shoot almost exclusively with the Leica M9 camera. Right now I have the Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH, Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH, Elmarit-M 90mm f/2.8 ASPH, and the Summicron-M 28 mm f/2 ASPH lenses with me, and I sometimes carry the Leica Elmarit-M 21mm f/2.8 ASPH as well. Most of my shots are taken with the 35 and 50.

I also pack a Canon 5DMKII and the 24-105mm L zoom mainly as a back-up camera and for video purposes, and carry a shotgun mic and Zoom audio recorder. I also carry extra batteries, battery chargers, lens cloths, and Tums. :)

Billingham bags

I don’t like big camera bags so I have a few smaller ones. I move my gear around in 4 small to medium Billingham bags–the Hadley Pro, Hadley Small (iPad fits in this perfectly) a Stowaway Pola and a Billingham for Leica bag. I like Billinghams because they are really tough and the canvas is water resistant, and they don’t have velcro, which can be inappropriately noisy in certain situations. I use each bag for different situations. The gear, the bags, and I rumble around the country in a used Ford Escape.



Gear List:

Billingham Hadley Pro
Billingham Hadley Small (iPad fits in this perfectly)
Billingham Stowaway Pola
Billingham for Leica bag

Leica M9
Canon 5DMKII

Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH
Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH
– Leica Elmarit-M 90mm f/2.8 ASPH
Leica Summicron-M 28 mm f/2 ASPH
– Leica Elmarit-M 21mm f/2.8 ASPH
Canon 24-105mm L
Canon 50mm 1.4

Leica SF 24D Flash
– Leica Polarizer
Shotgun mic
Zoom audio recorder
– Extra batteries
– Battery chargers
SD and CF cards
Iomega external HD
Lens cloths
– Tums

I’m very excited about this project and the recognition it’s starting to get. I’m hoping to raise money to finish the project. Please visit my kickstarter page and take a look at the rewards. Hopefully you’ll find something interesting and make whatever pledge you’re comfortable with. Thank you!

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