Portrait photography, for me, involves creating context. Between myself and the subject, between the subject and the location, and eventually, between the photograph and the memory. Photographs are made to be shared, to represent a person or a place which can be communicated globally, which today is even easier with photography representing a large basis of the social media economy. Photography to me, as a form of communication, is about creating these connections; constructing a story around characters, places, events, and emotions.
The portraits accompanying this article were taken at MCM London Comic Con, October 2016, across three days of exhibitions, stalls and presentations. The beautiful, mostly hand-made, costumes, makeup, and props were secondary to the personalities and attitudes of the guests and organizers at the show.
Very evident at this event was a special sense of community, shared culture and connections. With everyone representing their favourite (or most hated) characters ranging from the mainstream to the obscure, there is a very unique joy to be seen in the faces of people recognizing and instantly bonding with strangers over these references.
I made these portraits with my Leica M ( Typ 240), which I use as my main camera for several reasons. What separates my M from other cameras that I have used is its innate tendency to draw subjects towards it, rather than leaving it to the photographers chore to seek out interesting faces.
The classic aesthetic that Leica maintains in its designs are non-intrusive, and friendly in an instantly-recognizable way. It is the image of a camera that we all picture when we imagine what a camera ought to look like. Unlike DSLR’s with noisy shutters and beastly lenses a Leica is silent, and allows eye contact between the photographer and subject.
Leica lenses are some of the highest quality optics in the world, and what really makes them that much better than the competition is that they are vastly more compact. This is because of the quality of the glass used, and the lack of an auto-focus motor which bulks out equivalent lenses.
Leica lenses are constructed almost exclusively from metal and glass, which leaves next to no room for anything to go wrong that the tolerances of plastic usually allow. The lack of an auto-focus system means nothing to get damaged by water, or otherwise malfunction.
Achieving the highest possible performance in the smallest size again improves the opportunities for interaction and connection. The more opportunities you have for connection, the more personal your photographs are able to become.
This is obvious in the results, with models who are very intimately engaging with the audience.
Finally, and somewhat more subjectively, I have noticed as a Leica user that the majority of Leica photographers are deeply passionate individuals, which provides a connection when interacting with other passionate people. Inevitably, whatever things divide you, you end up speaking the same language.
When I have worked with truly passionate artists and musicians, or collaborated with other photographers, I have found that the capacity to discuss one’s passions, whilst in an environment that encourages these passions to be put to practise, I found that my work truly reflects the positive relationships that are accessible through a connection of shared enthusiasm – even when it is enthusiasm for different things.
The Leica M affords the user a unique connection to their tool, and between the photographer and their subject. Where other cameras may separate, and intimidate, the M gravitates and enables creation like no other.