Documenting life with an array of Leica cameras Catching oddness with Jean-Christophe Clamagirand

When I was a child, my father bought a second hand Leica R3; I was intrigued by this camera and these five letters: L E I C A. Sometimes, I was allowed to touch and manipulate (under his control) this camera that was so heavy for children hands. I was certain that one day, I will have one.

Some years later, I bought my first Leica, a M4-P with a Summicron 35mm and discovered this strange and particular feeling that this camera is the continuation of your eye, your soul and your heart.

I am working as picture editor at  press agency ROGER-VIOLLET in Paris and before that, I have been  working at GAMMA PRESS IMAGE and SIPA PRESS agencies  making  their black & white prints. Looking at the contact sheets on which some pictures were framed or annotated in red, I learned to understand why this picture and not another one was selected. That’s the way I began to do photography.

My inspiration comes essentially from painting (Le Caravage, Georges de La Tour, Egon Schiele, Diego Velazquez, Francis Bacon…) music (Schubert, Jean-Sébastien Bach, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, The Rolling Stones, Glenn Gould…), literature (Thomas Mann, Donald Ray Pollock, Richard Brautigan, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Hubert Selby Junior…), photographers of course (Diane Arbus, Ralph Eugène Meatyard and most of all, Nan Goldin and William Eggleston for their astonishing colors) and from  sensations  as smells, sounds, emotions : For instance, in summer, I like this smell of dust which emanates from the ground just after heavy rain or thunderstorm . Another moment very inspiring is this blue hour called in French “Entre chien et loup”: The landscape is still lit by the last rays of the sun, the sky taking a dark blue tint.

By making pictures, I try to catch the oddness in the daily life and capture the ambiances, atmospheres, trying to restore this emotion I feel when I shoot. The city is my preferred “territory” for exploring and photographing by night and day : People, architecture, shops, windows and dummies, backyards, public transport, works… Depicting the comic and drama of life and beauty too of the urban environment. There’s nothing better than being posted in a place with some crowd and many passers-by, observing, tracking and pressing the shutter at the right moment. Thus the street becomes a stage, the unexpected is waiting for you just around the corner.

Much later we entered in the digital age of photography,  I got a Leica M9-P after having tested many digital cameras without being really convinced by the quality of digital pictures. Finally I found an image quality that reminds me the golden age of Kodachrome : Same shadows and same warm and brilliant colors.

Having learned photography  by practicing black & white print, I have always felt  some emotional attraction for black & white photography. And then, the Leica Monochrom arrived. I was astonished by the files issued from this camera. As there was no AA filter the definition is absolutely awesome. It’s the ideal camera for going to the essential.

A few months ago, I was lent a Leica SL by Leica Camera France for a complete week. I was completely blown away by this camera. The image quality is absolutely awesome and this is why I did yield to the temptation when luckily I found a second hand one, quite by chance.

To know more about Jean-Christophe, please follow him on Instagram.

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