Enrico Markus Essl was born in Linz, Austria in 1970. Growing up in Salzberg, he discovered a passion for photography that would metamorphose many times throughout his youth and ultimately land him in the world of street photography. He is currently based back in Linz and enjoys exploring the urban jungle to discover crucial moments through endless trips through the streets and other places that stir his desire to capture images. Enrico recently spoke with Alex Coghe about his work.
Q: How did you get started in photography, street photography in particular?
A: When I was a kid I bought my first camera, a Russian Zenit reflex camera. It was my companion for the following ten years. I have always favoured taking pictures in the street, but I have never assigned my work to a certain field of photography. Some years ago I came across the group “In-Public,” whose members have defined the genre of street photography in a new way. Their work aroused my motivation to plunge into street photography.
Q: What is street photography for you and what certainly is not street photography?
A: To my mind street photography is capturing glimpses of non-staged situations in an urban environment. Scenes that don’t emanate from random situations don’t count for this kind of photography.
Q: Looking at your work we can observe an attention to details that attract your attention and you then decide to photograph them – sometimes it can be a dress or something on the floor. This denotes in your research, attention to the street as a whole. Do you find yourself in this consideration?
A: You constantly have to wander through the streets with your eyes open. I’m keen on detecting colour contrasts, shadows, lines, shapes which offer a perfect motive. There are sometimes single objects that seem to be unremarkable at first sight, but then they become the main part of a picture. They simply fall into place with the surroundings and make up a good pic.
Q: What I appreciate about your work in the streets is that you take a lot of photos without humans in the scene. How do you respond to those who think that street photography is limited only to photographing strangers on the street?
A: In my opinion the field of street photography should be considered wider. It’s absolutely legitimate to include taking pics of only objects or other stuff. The most important thing is always the connection of the elements shown in the picture. This amounts to the message of the piece of work and offers a variety of possible interpretations by the spectator.
Q: What makes a photograph in the street a good street photograph?
A: Shortly said, a good street photographer should be a good observer and detect motives that are not visible at first sight for others.
Q: We have had the opportunity to exchange a few words about how we use our cameras, virtually identical – full manual, zone focus, optical viewfinder with LCD turned off. Do you think this is the way to go for street photography, in particular using a Leica camera?
A: It’s definitely my way to use the camera. This way of taking photos enables me to concentrate on the essential and to tap the full potential of the X1. I have taken over this simple way of taking pictures from analog photography according to the motto, “Go and shoot!”
Q: What is it that makes Leica different from other photographic brands for you?
A: Leica is a cult. It’s perfectly manufactured and has a wonderful haptic. For me, personally, Leica refrains from unnecessary tools so I am able to focus on the essentials. The extraordinary quality of the lenses adds to a perfect quality of the photos. That’s why I decided on a Leica camera.
Q: You always take your X1 with you. What about this camera is so special? And why do you consider it a great tool for your street photography?
A: The X1 is small and inconspicuous. All required set ups are well positioned and that makes it possible to react fast. The fixed focal length is perfect for my way of photography. The fixed length always keeps me moving and allows me special perspectives and angles.
Q: What other Leica camera would like to have?
A: I’d like to have a Leica M Monochrom. With this camera I would like to produce a series. Then I could explore the field of black-and-white photography in a more intense way.
Q: Is there a particular project you are busy with at the moment or do you have another one starting soon?
A: At the moment I’m working on a series called “Park Life”. The pictures show people in silent moments – sometimes the situations are thoughtful, sometimes funny. I think I will finish the series in the next few weeks!
Thank you for your time, Enrico!
– Leica Internet Team
Alex Coghe is an Italian photojournalist currently based in Mexico City whose professional activity ranges from editorial photography to events. Learn more about Alex’s nasty project on his website, Tumblr, YouTube and download his book “THE ART OF SEEING” here and other publications on iTunes. He is also a member of the international photography collective, noise. Check out their work on Facebook and Blurb.