Since 2009, the Italian photographer Fulvio Bugani (*1974) has travelled many times to Cuba. When he was commissioned to try out the Leica M10, he once again returned to the Caribbean island, which he now considers a second home.
With the M10, Leica managed to downsize the digital M to the dimensions of the analogue M cameras. How did you find the handling of the camera?
There’s a substantial difference in weight and structure compared to the Leica Q, which I’m used to. You notice that the Q with a lens weighs the same as the M10 without one; but the dimensions barely differ and I find that very important. I need a compact camera for the kind of reportage I usually do. Furthermore, the Leica M10 handles well, and every main option is on hand and can be changed quickly.
Yes, the operating concept of the M was fundamentally overhauled. All functions can now be accessed via three buttons and the ISO setting dial. What did you like in particular?
I appreciated this overhaul, which made the menu easy to manage. What I liked most was the possibility of setting the ISO, aperture and shutter speed when the camera is switched off. This made it possible for me to be ready right away. Thanks to my experience, in fact, I don’t need to check the exposure meter to set the camera before triggering it.
Why did you decide to continue working in Cuba when you got the assignment?
If you want to produce good work, you need time to settle in and be comfortable in a place. The assignment had quite tight time constraints, so I preferred to continue with this work rather than starting a new project.
Could you please describe your project in three sentences?
The pictures I shot with the M10 are part of a broader long term project about Cuba, which I started in 2009 as a documentation of Cuban life style. Over time it has turned into a personal investigation of the Cuban situation, in an effort to gradually better understand its many facets. This last set of images were shot at the beginning of October 2016 during one of my trips to the island. I used a Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4, in other words, quasi the same lens as on the Q. Over the last 4 years, after having experimented with others, I’ve only been using this focal length (28mm) for my reportages, because it’s what best suits my vision.
In your pictures you work a lot with black areas – from time to time you even cut off people’s heads. Why is that?
We are usually attracted by the face of a person. It’s normal to look at it first if you have one or more people in a picture. They are our natural subjects. Removing their heads produces a kind of tiny shock in the observer, who is then obliged to seek another point of interest throughout the whole frame. It’s a way to tell your viewers that something is not exactly as they expect it should be. This triggers a reflection and raises questions that the viewers have to answer.
The M10 has a higher ISO range than the previous models. How did it deal with available light situations?
I find this feature one of the best improvements. When I work I’m used to using natural light. I never use the flash, and auxiliary external lights very rarely, so for me it’s important to know that I can get good results even at high ISO. When I look for a camera, a good sensor that responds well to high ISO, without creating too much noise, is a must. I must say that in this work I often used 3200 ISO to shoot the pictures, which I considered important for my project. The results were excellent. I’m very satisfied.
In your pictures, human bodies, shapes and silhouettes are lost in the compositions rather than being at the forefront. When do the people play a role?
To be honest, my first interest is always in people. When I arrive in a new place I try to mingle with the locals and talk to them as much as I can. This is my way of getting to know a place and a culture. And it’s the only way I know of telling a story. In my pictures, people always play a role even when they are half hidden or caged, or they are not there. You can still see their shadows, which, as they are imbued with life, are an important part of the scene. I like the idea of playing with the viewers, letting them imagine what is it that’s going on and who these other presences are and what they’re doing.
You work with strong contrasts. Do you want to show the absence of light or the presence of shadows?
More than the absence of light I focus my attention on the presence of shadows, which are the evidence of the existence of light. Without it shadows would not exist. The stronger the light, the deeper the shadows. I’m fascinated by light and by what I can do with it using my camera. I think that a good way to represent something that’s not clearly visible at a first glance (in this case, I’m referring to the complexity of a country), is to produce a picture that’s not an immediate representation of reality. In fact, those black areas are not so dark nor so strong if you use your eyes to look at the whole scene; but in my pictures they’re a strong component and, consequently, become a metaphor to describe the mystery and complexity of Cuba.
How do you like the colours produced by the M10?
The colours are amazing: bright, shiny and vibrant. They are almost perfect already in the Raw files. I was overwhelmed by the results. They stand out the screen! In my imagery and my style I love to use colours to communicate feelings on an emotional level, as they play an important role in my pictures. The Leica M10 gave me a great deal of satisfaction because I was sure to get exactly what I wanted.
Thank you Fulvio!
To know more about Fulvio Bugani’s work please visit his official website.