Andrés LaBrada, born in Brooklyn New York, currently lives in Miami where he captures its people and landscapes. In part one of our interview, Andrés described using the Leica X Vario for his “The Miamians” portfolio. Here, he delves deeper into the images and his photographic approach.
Below is the story of how Andrés used a Leica X Vario to create “The Miamians,” an amazingly authentic and insightful portfolio of life in one of the world’s most diverse and colorful cities.
Q: What approach do you take with your photography?
A: My goal is to capture that which is in front of me, to create a document of that moment of time and place. Beyond this, I am also looking for the fourth dimension of photography. A basic photo is two-dimensional. Examples would be a typical family portrait or tourist picture. I look for the third dimension of a photograph, which mainly deals with composition of an image; however, there is a fourth dimension that involves the third dimension plus the emotional attachment of the photograph and the viewer. That is what makes a photograph go viral.
Q: When did you first become interested in photography?
A: Ever since I can remember I took photographs. When I was growing up in Brooklyn, I was always around cameras from motion picture cameras to film cameras. I began making films. A few years ago, a DSLR was given to me. On holding it a sense of freedom came over me. The ease of just going out and photographing the stories in front of me in pictures was liberating. I didn’t have to worry about the complexity of making a film. Now it’s just me, the camera, and the scene unfolding in front of me.
Q: Did you have any formal education in photography, with a mentor or were you self-taught?
A: I studied Motion Pictures at the University of Miami. I was an avid filmmaker in my youth. The translation from cinematography to photography was smooth. When I began shooting still images I primarily looked toward masters like Ansel Adams for his landscapes.
Q: How do you think your education and training as a filmmaker has influenced your style and technique as a still photographer, and what are some of things about still photography that draw you to this medium? Do you plan to shoot any documentary films going forward or is still photography now your preferred means of creative expression?
A: The film era of the German expressionists influenced me. By using the film medium to express their place in society the expressionists created the story of the characters through adept use of sets and surroundings. The pre-1970 films focused largely on the image and how it relates to the subject. In still photography I also look for how the surrounding objects affect the story of the subject, looking for what is going on in a scene and capturing that moment in time. Still Photography also enables the viewer to stop, focus a moment, and care about the photograph. In modern times, the Internet is flooded with videos, creating an audience with short attention spans. However a photograph can capture the imagination of the viewer giving it a little more time to relate to the image.
Q: What do you think you have achieved with your Miami project, and do you plan to continue covering the street life of this fascinating city and its people and possibly creating a sequel to your forthcoming book?
A: In the project “The Miamians” I wanted to show Miami as it was during the time I spent photographing it. The unique locations I photographed are off the beaten path. This gives the viewer the true sense of what a Miamian experiences. I am always photographing daily life, currently in Miami.
I do have a sequel planned for an additional Leica-based project revealing another side of Florida.
Q: This shot is a beautifully backlit tableau drenched in golden light showing adults and kids standing in a grassy field, but there is a profusion of vertical streaks in the background and foreground that look like it might be back-illuminated streaks of rain. Am I over the top here, and can you tell us something about where, when, and how you shot this striking image?
A: I went out scouting with the Leica every day. Since I love the outdoors I went to a park. While driving in the park toward sunset I saw the setting sun’s golden light mixed with a sudden rain and children playing. I jumped out of the car over a wooden fence and moved in as close as I could without being noticed and before the scene was gone. This is what you see. Amazingly, the one child in the middle stands, proudly steadfast in a pose like a tree—a real champion.
Q: This image is an urban street scene at night. The walking figure in the foreground is blurred, indicating you shot at a slow shutter speed, and the brightly lit marquee of the Colony Theatre is blown out, but the extended depth of field suggests that you shot it at a moderate or small aperture. Did you use a tripod or monopod to take this picture and can you provide the tech data including shutter speed, aperture, and ISO?
A: The Colony Theater is a Lincoln Road staple. I wanted to capture it the way a local would see it. I positioned myself in a way to see the marquee and the crowd enjoying dinner next door. I never used a tripod. There is no time for this luxury while photographing street scenes. I waited until a person walked in front of the theater. I preset the ISO to 800 as I did not use flash, exposing at f/4.3 and 1/8 sec with the focal length set to 35 mm. I thought if the settings are right it would enable me to capture the movement of the person walking, the marquee’s brightly lit letters and the neighboring patrons dining next door.
Q: This image is a gorgeous seascape at sunset with a lone figure walking along the shore and seagulls flying randomly through the air. It is an ethereal, impressionistic image with subtle hues that is quite unlike the brash colors of your street scenes. Can you tell us something about it and what you were thinking when you pressed the shutter release?
A: On this day I planned to photograph the sunrise from South Beach. The colors on that morning were amazing. Out of the corner of my eye I saw this lone, silhouetted figure walking near the water and I quickly turned aimed my camera and took this photograph. My first thoughts of the scene were that it looked like a painting in the style of the impressionists; however, this is real it is a man and nature it shows his daily struggle. What is in that bag? How humble he is with regard to nature, glancing respectfully over at the sunrise. The birds seem to be helping him along. There is a story here about a person we will never know, but he existed at this precise point in time.
Q: This shot is such an iconic scene of a couple at the beach sitting in their folding chairs reading magazines that it is almost a cliché, but it is also kind of funny in an ironic way, and that feeling is emphasized by the bright, saturated colors, excellent detail, and extended depth of field. What was your intention in shooting this image, do you see the humor in it, and how have viewers reacted to it?
A: They are actually locals from Miami. Although they look like typical tourists, enjoying the sunny beach, sitting on beach chairs reading magazines. At first I was drawn to the gentleman’s hat. Then, quickly, I noticed the young woman in the background, and further back the classic art deco Miami hotel. The photograph says something all right, but I will leave the interpretation to the viewer.
Q: How do you see your photography evolving over, say, the next three years, and do you plan to explore any other genres or styles going forward?
A: I intend to continue my working relationship with Leica on projects around the United States and abroad on subjects for publications and creating books. I would consider working in other areas as the opportunities arise.
Thank you for your time, Andrés!
– Leica Internet Team