Simon Emmett: A Varied Approach with the Leica S-System

Simon Emmett was born in London in July 1969. From an early age, he was fascinated with the camera. After taking a short foundation course in photography, he eventually got his first full-time assisting position. He shot his first story for British Vogue in 1997. Although he initially focused on beauty photography, he became more interested in portrait photography and has worked to combine the two. Most recently, Simon has branched into documentary filmmaking, alongside photography.

Q: What would you say, if anything, is your photographic approach?

A: It’s difficult to give an accurate answer as I try more and more to take the best approach that’s relevant to the project. For example, a studio shoot may involve big cameras, 10-20 lights and a large crew. Another documentary project might involve me alone with one camera and a fixed lens. Regardless of the project though, I always, where possible, try to keep the numbers down, as it’s so easy to lose the personal feeling for the subject.

Q: The images provided here were for a campaign for The Mole Clinic and are very powerful as they depict the deadliness of skin cancer. How was the concept for this shoot formed?

A: Jo Wallace, a creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi, developed the idea as she had a mole scare herself. The driving thought behind the campaign was that a small mole on your body could be the real danger to your life – and not all these scary, violent attacks that we read about in the papers. When Jo showed The Mole Clinic a mock up of the posters their immediate response was that it was a fresh, impactful approach. Jo then worked with them to bring the campaign to life, and asked me if I would consider shooting the campaign. Being from a family that’s been impacted by cancer on several occasions, I was more than happy to oblige.

Q: You used the Leica S-System for this shoot, correct? What specific camera and lenses did you use?

A: Leica S2 and 120 mm lens.

Q: Why did you choose this equipment for this shoot? Any specific technical qualities or characteristics you find especially suitable?

A: More than anything, we wanted to make the skin feel as natural and sharp as possible, without the use of post-production techniques.

Q: Did you have any formal education in photography? Was there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?

A: I only did a one year foundation course, fairly basic but our teacher was very enthusiastic and had a profoundly positive effect on us. He was instrumental in me getting my first full-time assisting position. I’m still very much in touch with him to this day, and he’s certainly one of my greatest influences. Initially I was most interested in fashion photography, but as things developed, I was lucky enough to work with a range of photographers in several fields, and learned to appreciate the skills and craft in different areas, long before digital photography existed. I’m interested in all different types of photography now, more and more varied.

Q: How would you describe your photography?

A: Hopefully varied. It’s inevitable that photographers get categorized, and in many ways that can be a benefit. But equally it’s important to try new things, or produce an occasional unexpected project to keep things interesting.

Q: It seems you mainly shoot commercial and advertising work. Do you shoot any personal photography and, if so, does that differ from your commercial work?

A: I shoot many different types of photography. The commercial and editorial work is essential to sustain my existence, and often rewarding creatively. But my personal work can differ greatly from what’s often published. In addition, I’ve recently begun moving more into documentary film work, having just completed my first short film.

Thank you for your time, Simon!

– Leica Internet Team

Learn more about Simon here.

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