Christian Kantuzer: Travelling Through The Philippines With The Leica X2

Christian Kantuzer was born in 1971 in Austria. His family moved to Germany in 1972 and he has lived in Cologne for the past sixteen years. In Cologne, he studied the science of film, television and theatre. He co-founded with Jan Oellrich freishwimmer, a directors team creating commercials, documentaries, web only video content and more. Kantuzer does most of the camera work and recently has worked on fashion films with the experienced fashion photographer Thomas Probosch. This work has helped him understand the making of professional photography. Kantuzer shares with us how he combines his film making skills with his photography.

Q: Hi Christian, thanks for taking time to talk with us. To start off, when did you first become interested in photography as a mode of expression, and art form, a profession?

A: My first experience with photography was in my childhood. We had a lot of old family photos in a box. There was a big heap of photos of different ages and origins. The color, the paper … I remember the touch and smell of the papers and the different saturation of colors.

As a teenager I read a lot of different magazines and was impressed by some of the pictures. Later on I bought books of my favorite photographers and went to many exhibitions. My first job application in my life, at 15, was at a photo studio, but they did not give me the job then, unfortunately.

Q: That’s too bad about the job! Did you have any formal education in photography, with a mentor, or were you self-taught. Was there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?

A: I learned photography and camera work by doing, collecting photo books and going to exhibitions. Some of my favorite photographers are Philip-Lorca diCorcia or Todd Hido because I like the mood of the pictures and the lighting in their work. I do try to find my own direction.

Q: Would you describe yourself as a serious enthusiast? Do you want to pursue going pro in regard to photography?

A: I like to watch photos. And it is very interesting to see different ways of working on photos. You can see a fingerprint in good work.

Q: How would you describe your photography? Any specific genre or category it falls into?

A: It is an attempt to catch situations and curiosities around us. I don’t think in genres. I like to explore different places and see what happens. I try to stay open minded.

Q: How did you first become interested in Leica?

A: Leica is a traditional brand that everybody knows. I assume that most people know them from their fathers, uncles or someone in your personal environment during childhood.

Q: The images you provided us are quite striking. Can you provide more detail like when and where they were taken?

A: The tricycle series was taken at the Philippines in October 2012. I was there for around three weeks.

Q: Do the tricycle motorized vehicles have a specific name? They seem to be everywhere on the road. What’s the purpose behind them? And what attracted you to capture them?

A: These vehicles are called tricycles. They are like taxis. They are everywhere and bring you anywhere. I just came to the Philippines without any idea, what I would shoot there. It was my first time in Southeast Asia and I wanted to be open for this new part of the world. When I first saw the tricycles, the idea suddenly came to me to make a series about it.

Q: What equipment did you use to take these images? Further to that, how did the equipment you used on these images allow you to accomplish your goals with them? Why did you choose the equipment you did?

All photographs were taken with the Leica X2. The X2 is a very handy camera. You can work with it very discrete and spontaneous. And the results are very good. The colors are great and you do not need a lot of postproduction with the photographs.

Photography with the Leica X2 is very pure. I do not use any extras or digital aids for my photography. This is really how I like to shoot.

Q: Where did you get the inspiration or what was the motivation behind taking this series of images? Do you feel you achieved what you set out to?

A: Like I said earlier, I did not have a plan right from the beginning. In Manila I saw all these tricycles for the first time and the idea of the series came up. All tricycles look different depending from the town they belong to. It was a lot of fun to see all the different colors and individual parts of the tricycles. The tricycle looked like old helmets and armors of the past time.

Q: The colors in your images, the blues, greens, yellows and reds of the tricycles are vibrant and make the pictures come alive. What do you think the vibrant colors bring to the photos?

A: The Philippines are very colorful. This inspired me.

Q: Some of the tricycles seem to be detailed and personalized. For instance, one has a skeleton stabbing itself with a sword. Do you know what these mean?

Many parts are self made by the drivers. And you can find a lot of personal things like buttons, names etc. around and inside the tricycles. Some of the names are a family thing, the name of the children or wife for example. Many tricycles have a personal style.

Q: I can see through your pictures that some of these vehicles have seen better days. The detail in the paint chipping is quite clear. Do you try to capture the small details in your work? If you do strive for detail, why is this important to you?

A: If you focus on a button, a scrabble or whatever, you can make it more beautiful or important just because you see it from another prospective.

Q: The roads also look a little rough in places. Is it an adventure to ride in one of these?

A: Yes, traveling is really uncomfortable on these roads. It takes a long time to go from one city to another. For a European, who is in this region for the first time, it is an adventure. I took a lot of photos during this trip.

Q: Do you see any similarities in your approach to film making and photography?

A: Yes. In both cases visual language is important. You need to be open-minded and have to know something about framing, motives and situations. You need a feeling for the right distance, angle and lighting situation.

Q: How do you think film making and photography complement each other?

A: As a filmmaker you have to think in moving images. Also when you work in a “photographic” style, the light will change while moving and your frame is changing permanently. The motive is a sequence! In photography you have mostly a situation which you want to freeze a frame.

Photography inspires and influences my film making a lot. When I see a good photo, with great colors or black and white, with an interesting frame I try to adapt this in my film making.

Q: Where are these images goes to be displayed? You mentioned an exhibition – can you tell us more about it?

A: We are doing an exhibition with five film camera colleagues. A lot of Directors of Photography are making photographics for their inspiration now, and I think it’s a different way of seeing.

Thank you for your time, Christian!

- Leica Internet Team

To learn more about Christian, visit his website.