Photo discovery in Japan Traveling with the Leica Q as experience by Arthur Meyerson

A photographer with a strong commitment to his profession, Arthur Meyerson teaches photography workshops, does individual mentoring and participates in speaking engagements throughout the U.S. and abroad. Since 1974, this native Texan has traveled throughout the world, creating award winning advertising, corporate and editorial photographs, as well as an extensive body of fine art imagery. Equipped with a Leica Q, he shares with us his photo tour experience in Japan, the camera’s performance and beautiful imagery. 

Please share with us the use of the Leica Q. How was the performance of the camera, considering low lighting conditions and Winter time?

The camera was the perfect companion for this trip. First of all… it is dead silent… never attracts attention. Add to that the ability to shoot extreme ISO’s (I shot up to 12,800)  for photos I don’t think I could have made otherwise. That said, the quality of light at any time of day was photographable and in the end I feel that I made some photographs I probably couldn’t have made without this camera.

What led you to acquire the Q? 

I’ve been shooting with Leica’s (M4, M6, M7, M9 and the M) since I began my career back in the mid-70’s. I’ve continually looked for the right camera to help me take my work forward and the “Q” has done that again. Lightweight, extreme sharp, fast 28mm lens, up to 10 frames-a-second and off the charts ISO all wrapped up in a classic Leica design made this the perfect combo for me to use on this trip.

What attracts you to Japan?

I’ve been traveling to Japan since the 1980’s. It’s one of the few places that I truly feel like I’m a “stranger in a strange land”. And yet the people could not be more pleasant, respectful and kind. Their cultural differences are unique and allow for extraordinary photo possibilities.

Why have you traveled there so many times and what was the reason behind doing the photo tour there?

In 1984, I traveled to Japan with great color photographer Ernst Haas. The experience of traveling through this exotic country with this master of color photography leading the way became a life changing event for me… not only photographically, but also on a personal and spiritual level as well. After his death, I wanted to share that experience one day with other photographers. So in 2007, along with Ernst’s Japanese companion, Takiko Kawai, I led a group of 12 photographers on a very similar trip. The experience proved to be all that I had hoped it would and left me wanting to do it again someday.

Fast forward to last summer.  The Santa Fe Photo Workshops, where I’ve taught my workshop for the past 24 years, called and asked if I would be interested in co-leading their first Asia Photo Tour to Japan with Canadian/Japanese photographer, George Nobechi. George is an extremely organized man as well as a sensitive young photographer. He knows his homeland well. As the trip would take place in February, we decided to title the trip, “Japan In Winter Light”. We spent several days together in my studio in Houston preparing the basic itinerary. And when it was complete, we felt that we had the most unique Japanese photo tour experience we could offer. We must have been right as participants lined up right away.

Now we are preparing for our next trip to Japan with a different theme to be scheduled in the Spring of 2017.

You’ve conducted other photo tours in places like Turkey or assignments like China, how do you organize these photo tours and what are your objectives? 

It begins with places the I personally am interested in going to, whether I’ve been there before or it’s for the first time. Any chance to share a photographic experience with others is always exciting to me in that I am always interested to see what the participants will do in making their photographs. And the camaraderie that occurs on these trips is wonderful as I’ve seen many friendships crested on these tours.

Besides that, our objectives are simple in that for me, the basic difference between a photo tour and a workshop is that a photo tour is designed to provide the participant with great photo ops and a chance to experience the place on all levels while doing it with a group of like minded photographers. So while we do not have classroom sessions or assignments we do set time aside for reviews and critiques to help everyone see what’s working and what needs work.

It’s a formula that has proven to be very successful.

How do you see the evolution through the years of your photography after having explored many other places?

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had the photography career I’ve had. It’s taken me around the world several times and to all seven continents. And throughout that time the one thing that continues to drive me is the chance to make new work and grow as a photographer. Too often photographers get to a point where they’ve made good work but they become complacent. Some call this style. And the problem with style is that things continuously go in and out of style. It’s more important to work toward having an overall vision. And that requires a photographer to continually keep trying to move the work forward. It’s not easy nor does it always yield great results. But, when you do connect with a new way of seeing things, that excitement is what can help take you to your next step photographically. That’s what I’ve continued to try and do.

Many of these images like the “Window Washer” show day-to-day activities and show the people’s behavior in the city, what were you trying to achieve here?

I recognized a unique moment and point of view for making the photograph and jumped on it. I’ve shot window washers before but never from this perspective. It was all about capturing the moment.

Several geometric shapes can be found in images such as “ Tokyo International Forum”and “Lighted Sidewalk”, does capturing these shapes in relation to the people circulating through these areas something intentional?

I think so in that I’ve always had a strong appreciation for pattern and design which I think helps to create tension in the composition and bring the viewer into the photo.

The image of the wall of water looks as if it was an impressionist painting from the early 1900’s with bright yet washed out colors. How did you achieve this picture?

This was in the hotel in Tokyo. I had just checked in and was on my way to the elevators when I turned around and saw this water wall separating the lobby from the dining room. Any photographer would be crazy to pass up a chance to shoot something like this. But the fun part was playing with exposure (varying the shutter speed) to see the effect that could be created.

You also shoot on the Leica M, what are the main differences with this camera?

Everyone has asked me since I’ve had the “Q” would I be selling the “M”. The answer is, “No”. They are really two very different cameras. LIke all cameras I’ve owned, I’ve always tried to match the right “tool” to the job. They both have their place in my work. With the M which is a pure rangefinder, I tend to “shoot first and ask questions later”. It’s more about working with spatial relationships as well as watching “the moment” present itself.

That said, I’ve created a self assignment since I received the “Q”… that throughout 2016 I will make a photograph (meaningful, I hope) everyday using it. The pressure is on, but hopefully the results will be worthwhile.

Thanks Arthur!

To know more about Arthur Meyerson, please visit his official website and follow him on Facebook.

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4 comments

  • Arthur,
    Congratulations on your strong work in Japan. You overcame many challenges and produced wonderful, sensitive images.
    Having grown up there I can say that I appreciate how your photos went beyond the alluring, but-often-superficial images of shrines and temples or busy crosswalks. Instead, you reached the essence of the place and photographed “as a local.” And that has led to some amazing work.
    Standing next to you for many of these images, I agree that the “Q” was a wonderful tool for achieving these images without the obstacle of a hefty SLR putting “distance” between you and your subjects. It was a pleasure watching you work and learning from you.
    Finally, to read these words as you have eloquently expressed them, has given me great joy. I am looking forward to our next adventure together in Japan next spring, and I am excited to share with you many more “secret” and wonderful locations with you and our participants.

    So, a toast to you, sir. I raise my glass of honey-coloured Japanese single malt to you. Congratulations on some fine work.
    -George Nobechi

  • Japan seems so exotic and interesting, hope I’ll go there someday as well! The photos are marvelous, I especially love the one with the green light on the foreground and lit up windows in the background. The colors are mesmerizing on this one. I also like how there are so many patterns on the photos. Arthur’s thing for patterns is obvious 😉

    • Hi Leyva!
      Thank you for your comments! I’m glad to hear that you liked the photos. Pattern and design are two elements that have always intrigued me both aesthetically and visually. Keep an eye on my website http://www.arthurmeyerson.com as I will be announcing my next photo trip to Japan in 2017 soon. Hopefully you can join us!

      Best,

      Arthur

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