With an interesting (and hard to remember) website like www.lmnopqrstuvwxyz.com, it’s easy to make an impression for Stu Robertson. Often described as a “hardcore fan” of Leica’s D-Lux series, the New Zealander travels frequently and captures his trips with nothing but a compact camera and a couple of spare batteries.
Q: So, Stu, tell us what do you do for a living and if it has any relation to photography?
A: I am a director of a series of creative companies that offer various services from brand engagement, activation, event design, venues and catering to a restaurant and hire company. Day to day there is a little relation to photography (in the creative aspect) although the photographs that I take have formed the basis of the companies’ websites, marketing and brochures.
Q: How did you get interested in photography, or more specifically, Leica?
A: One of my grandfathers collected Leicas and had his own darkroom. My other grandfather worked for Kodak Eastman, and they were both avid amateur photographers born in the early 1900’s. This being said it was largely missed on me as a kid growing up, and I certainly wasn’t allowed to play with the Leica collection! I guess my interest developed at school when my top mark was in photography. I found the whole concept of freezing a moment in time most intriguing, but also showing people a place or object they knew well in a different way.
Regarding Leica, that’s simple: I have always aspired to own a Leica.
Q: We understand that you are an avid fan and user of Leica’s D-Lux series. What aspects of the cameras in this family have captivated you so much?
A: Yes, I am a fan. I have five D-Lux 5’s in fact, including the Titanium model. I think the D-Lux 5 offers a great size / quality / feature ratio. I travel a lot and I travel very light. On my last trip (featured on my website) I only took a shoulder bag with a total 7 kg of luggage for two months of travel from desert hot to freezing cold. My only luxury was a spare D-Lux 5 and 4 spare batteries to accommodate the lack of charging opportunities. So for me it’s light, not fussy, never misses a beat and offers great flexibility for my style of image capture, which is everything from architecture, stolen moments, to dark alleys and streets late at night.
Q: Which feature of the D-Lux 5 can you not live without?
A: Well there are two I couldn’t live without. (Sorry, but I just couldn’t drop one they are like a gin and tonic – perfect combination!) In no particular order, the square format option – brilliant, thank you design team, and the black-and-white “Film Grain” setting. When I had my dark room, I would use copious amounts of the Ilford grade 5 paper for deep black tone and grain in the mid tones, and the D–Lux 5’s “Film Grain” setting nails it perfectly for me. Love it.
Q: What subject inspires you to pick up the camera and click the shutter button?
A: Two L’s – Life and Leica (sounds corny, but it’s true). With my Leica in hand and the mind boggling gift of a life to live, I am out there capturing it, my eyes are constantly filled with wonders of nature and creations of mankind, and the D-Lux 5 does a fantastic job of putting how I see the world onto screen / canvas.
Q: Most of the pictures on your website are shot in the square format with the D-Lux 5. Is there any reason why you are so attracted to this image format?
A: There are a couple of reasons to digress momentarily. One, my motivation to get my first D-Lux 5 is it challenges you as it doesn’t have an option for interchangeable lens. I have added shooting in the square format into the mix to challenge my composition abilities. Many of my shots are taken very quickly. When I see it, I shoot it and I seem to see a lot of things in a square now!? I print and frame my images 1 meter wide, regardless of depth, and the 1 x 1 meter prints look stunning.
Q: Among all the countries that you have travelled to and photographed, which remains as the most memorable and why?
A: Phew, in the last year I travelled to over 20 countries and hundreds of cities. There are so many and the world is a wonderful place. However, I did have a true Leica moment.
I was in a town called Verona in Italy (Romeo and Juliet’s town) and found a small restaurant in an alley. It was a local restaurant, not much English spoken, real good food and no tourists. We walked in and sat down, ordered some wine, and a cool old guy in an apron was watching us. After about 30 minutes he wandered over, smiled and opened his arms. He gestured at my camera and then touched the Leica logo and winked at me. He spoke no English and I don’t speak Italian either. He then gestured for me to follow him and took me downstairs to see his family’s wine cellar under the restaurant. His family had been on this site for over three hundred years, and some of his wines were hundreds of years old. Back up in the restaurant one of his staff in broken English explained he knew Leica was the best camera in the world and stood for quality. This meant I had great taste and someone with great taste should in turn be honored with a visit to their treasured wine cellar! Priceless.
Q: Which photographers’ works inspires you most?
A: When I started out more seriously I made a point of not looking at work for fear it would influence my look, style and subject composition. This was also to keep my work fresh and original. But the works that inspire me are ones that look impossible, that looks set up, re worked or touched up but in fact aren’t. That’s just what they captured. So in that sense I like a lot images from the 1920’s to 1970’s where life was shot and recorded as it was, no one changed the clouds or even thought of doing it. So now I am finding my style and I am inspired by the likes of Robert Frank, William Eggleston, Eugene Atget, Andreas Gursky and Ansel Adams.
Q: If there is a chance for you to dine with any photographer, dead or living, who would you like to have a meal with most, and what would you ask him/her?
A: I love food and wine so am very pleased I was offered the chance to dine with them, rather than a stroll on the beach or a bungee jump! I would like to go way back to the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s… where photographers worked in trying circumstances, they had a bit of dodging or burning… in the dark room and that was it. I would like to find out what inspired them back then when they were breaking new ground and testing the limits of their gear and society’s view of their work. I would want to ask what challenged them and where they could see photography heading. Imagine them even conceiving of shooting a celebrity and firing it across the working in thin air to appear in a paper that night!? Never. So I guess if I was to pick a name it would be Robert Frank, amazing and ground breaking, he went along foisting paving stones in front of him making the path as he went, and I respect him for that.
Q: Do you have any plans to move up to the Leica M or S series for your photography?
A: Yes there definitely is. Right now I am really enjoying the D-Lux 5. Everything it offers me for my style is perfect and it’s very portable. But as I devote more and more time to photography, there will no doubt be new focuses and challenges that the Leica M and S series will serve me well in.
Thank you, Stu!
-Leica Internet Team
You can see more of Stu Robertson’s works over at his personal site, www.lmnopqrstuvwxyz.com.