Leica might very well be the grandfather of 35mm photography, which they invented, but photography existed before and also besides Leica cameras and Leica photographers. So let's spend some time looking also at the history of photograhy, and other photographers. We might learn something.
Jan Grarup, Denmark: "Eampaty, time, closeness and respect"
Jam Grarup: "Editors are not necessairly the most bright peope in the world," is one of the interesting statements from Danish photographer Jan Grarup in this Februrary 2011 video interview from SwedishFotosidan.se on how to survive as a photographer who wants to tell stories. He used to shoot Leica M6 till he needed to go digital, and now shoots Nikon dLSR cameras with manual focus and fixed focal lenghts (from 24-85mm). He doesn't own a zoom lens.
Jan Grarup is a multi-World Press Photo award winner throughout the last years, winner of the Oskar Barnack Award 2011, along with a lot of other awards, and is a freelancher with NOOR and Das Bureau these days.
Herman Leonard: "Always tell the truth, but in terms of beauty"
Herman Leonard self portrait (AP Photo/Herman Leonard Photography, LLC., CTSIMAGES)
Herman Leonard (1923-2010) was the man behind iconic images of Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra. He won great priase, and well deserved, in the years before his death, in that he was the first photographer to be granted a Grammy Foundation Grant for Preserving and Archiving in 2008, enabling him to digitize, catalogue and preserve his collection of 60,000 jazz negatives. He also received the Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Portraiture in 2008, and Bill Clinton said of him that he "is an extraordinary talent, the greatest jazz photographer in history." Lenny Kravitz, who photographed with Herman Leonard in the Bahamas in January 2010, said of him "I was blessed to have shared beatiful moments with Herman that will be among the highlights of my life."
For a look into his work, Herman Leonard tells "My favorite camera was the old speed graphic, that 4 x 5, handheld, large monstrous thing that you see in a lot of black-and-white films from the '40s and '50s. It was that newspaper man's camera - great big thing you held with two hands and it had a big flash on the side. You had to take your time. You could only take a certain amount of pictures in one night, physically I mean. The camera didn't have roll film. It had 4 x 5 slides. You could only carry so many film packs physically unless you were a horse. So if I went out to shoot something at the Roost or Birdland, I knew that I could not snap more than twenty or thirty pictures for the whole night. You had to be really careful and take your time about what you were shooting, compose it well and wait for the right moment. Sometimes I'd go for many nights without having a good shot. I would go home, process the stuff, and throw it away. In time you get up a collection of good shots. When you work with smaller cameras you have a tendency to overshoot, hoping to catch that moment, and you end up with a lot of junk."
Dexter Gordon photographed in 1948 by Herman Leonard. The smoke is illuminated by flash. (AP Photo/Herman Leonard Photography, LLC., CTSIMAGES).
Harman Leonard on composition: "You look, you just look. I think that when a musician or a musical composer sits down to compose a piece he will get the general outline of what he is doing and then he'll refine it, listen to it back, and make the changes that he wants. When I'm sitting there in front of a drummer or sax player, I look. I look at the angles. I look at the light. I look at the background. And being disciplined by using a large camera, you have to look. You don't look into the camera, you look at the subject. You feel the composition within the frame within which you're working, and you do it to your own liking. I happen to like a certain style. I like back lighting because it sets the subject off from the background, especially if the background is dark, which most of the clubs were. I like light that goes around the subject and not flat lighting."
The incredible story about the unpublished photographer Vivian Maier who left a goldmine of street photographs when she died in 2009. In November 2011 the first book came out with her photos.
Martin Munkácsi: "All the great photographs today are snapshots"
In the 1930’s a photographer named Martin Munkácsi who had come to America to escape the Nazis, was highly respected through his work in Harper’s Baazar and was the highest paid photographer in history. He never worked indoors and always in black and white.
He always used large format cameras and changed fashion photography. Dynamic pictures in new settings and women who seemed happy about the fact of being free.
His knowledge of composition, -his father was a painter who worked as a magician to earn some money on Sundays- made him the “man who liberated women”. His images possess a new dimension and the models stopped looking languid and gloomy. Instead they looked sporty, cheerful and attractive.
For most of his life he was an adventurer and began the search for good pictures during the 1930’s and 40’s. From Berlin, the young Hungarian travelled to New York, London, Liberia, Rio de Janeiro, Hawaii, Turkey, Seville and San Francisco, looking for stories to shoot.
In all his images, from sport event and reporting to photos of starlets like Greta Garbo, Katherine Hepburn and Leni Riefenstahl, he projects an air of informality. He always refused anything other than the natural “all the great photographs today are snapshots” he would say.
Henri Cartier-Bresson confessed that the photo that touched him most in his life and made him to go out on the street with his first Leica was a picture taken by Munkácsi in 1932 on a beach in Liberia, in which some children are entering the water. That picture stopped beauty for a moment.His camera also shot a volatile Fred Astaire on white background and the strong descent on skis of a young Leni Riefenstahl; but apart from motion he printed poetry to a scene of a naked woman hidden behind a parasol. The images were an idea: “Think while you shoot”.
When he died of a heart attack in 1963 at age 67, his archives was offered to several museums and universities. No one was interested. Until five years ago the world knew of only 300 of his images, until one day on eBay 4000 glass negatives appeared that had been found in Connecticut. The ICP (International Center of Photography in New York) negotiated a price and bought it all.
LEItz CAmera = LEICA
Founded 1849 in Wetzlar, Germany
Leica invented the 24x36mm film format, the 35mm camera, the flash shoe, the length of a roll film (with 36 pictures; this was how far Barnack could stretch his arms), the darkroom enlarger, autofocus and more...
Photo above: A neon sign, "Headshots" in Los Angeles.
Thorsten Overgaard is a Danish feature writer and photographer who contribute stories and unique branding to magazines, newspapers and companies through exclusive and positive stories and photos. He currently photographs for WireImage, Redfern Music Photo, Getty Images and Associated Press.