Nicolas Hermann: Incredible India, Part One

Born and raised in Nice, Nicolas Hermann later moved to Paris at the age of 18. After receiving his baccalaureate, he began a course in language studies, which was interrupted when he pursued a different path, that of a real estate agent. He has now been running his own real estate agency, with a close friend and business partner, for five years. A couple of years ago Nicolas discovered his passion for photography which was instilled in him by his mother’s best friend and mentor, Richard Geneste. For the past two years Nicolas has pursued this passion on the streets of Paris and his travels including a recent six week long trip to India during which he used only one camera, the Leica M9, and one lens, a 35mm. Nicolas shares the story of his new found passion for the photographic medium.

Q: You mentioned that you use a Leica M9 and a 35mm Summilux f/1.4. What other camera bodies and/or lenses do you use, if any?

A: My first camera was a Nikon D90 and it was a good camera to start with; it allowed me to explore different kinds of genres (macro, landscape, architecture, etc.). Then, I acquired a Leica M9 with the 35mm and it was exactly what I was looking for: small, discreet, full frame sensor and with beautiful lenses. I just bought a 50mm Summilux f/1.4 to frame closer, especially when I shoot  portraits.

Q: What is your goal when you go out shooting?

A: What appeals to me most is to capture the ambiance of a scene, the expression in a human face, the contrast between light and dark. I like to play with short depth of field and to remain invisible while catching the spontaneity of a child playing, the small happenings in the street during a promenade in Paris or during my travels abroad.

Q: You mention that you have been photographing for just about two years now. What prompted you to begin exploring the medium?

A: My family is very keen on art and photography. My father loved to film and take pictures of us when we were children. Then I met my mother’s best friend who loved photography passionately and he passed along his love for technique and composition. His enthusiasm at showing me his work, his intellect and his curiosity in all the realms of art captivated me.

Q: Can you tell us about your mentor? Are there any other photographers who have influenced your work?

A: His name was Richard Geneste and he taught me everything he knew until his death, six months ago. He became my mentor and had a very strict, objective eye on my work. I needed his criticism to build up my own vision. Each time I pick up my camera I feel grateful to him. He would take me to art exhibitions and teach me how to keep a sharp eye on any street scene or the people in Paris during our weekly promenade. I became so hooked by this new passion that I went through all the books on famous photographers: Henri Cartier-Bresson for his perfect sense of composition, Elliott Erwitt for his subtle irony and his sense of humour, W. Eugene Smith for the emotion emanating from his pictures, Steve McCurry for his mastery of colors and so many other talented artists.

Q: Do your images fall into a specific genre?

A: I have an aesthetic approach to all subjects. For the time being, I am absorbing all the genres from street scenes to portraits and would like to improve my knowledge of lighting, especially in studio. I’m fascinated by man’s connection to his environment and the whole range of his emotions. I also love entering the subject’s world and becoming part of it.

Q: How did you first become interested in Leica?

A: Richard had a Leica M7 and advised me to start with a DSLR to explore every domain of photography. He loved street photography and a Leica camera was the best tool for that. So after a while, I was ready to buy one and now I cannot do without it.

Q: What effect has photography had on your life?

A: Before I was taken in by photography, I was half blind to my environment. This additional eye of the camera enlarged my vision and my sensitivity thus affecting my personality. Now it seems to me that the world is bigger, richer and I am no longer indifferent to nature. I live in a materialistic world and thanks to this new medium, I am opening up and feeling more and more at peace with myself and my environment. As Annie Leibovitz said, “Photography lets you find yourself. It is a passport to people and places and to possibilities”.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your trip to India? You chose to travel with just the Leica M9 body and one lens. How did that influence your shooting?

A: India was my first trip alone with my camera. I spent six amazing weeks there travelling through Rajasthan and then Kashmir (Srinagar) for a week trekking into the mountains. I was accompanied by a guide and a driver who took me to places unknown to tourists. I took only my Leica M9 with the 35mm and three batteries as I wanted to travel light and be as discreet as possible. Most of my pictures were taken without anybody noticing it. The camera is so unobtrusive and was perfect for the purpose.

Q: You also mentioned your determination and plans for an exhibition in Paris of the photos from your trip to India. How is that coming along?

A: I am more determined than ever! But after some thinking, I decided to postpone this exhibition because I am planning other travels abroad including a trip to New York City to shoot street photography which I’m very keen on. I would like to deepen my goals and explore new themes before selecting my shots for an exhibition.

-Leica Internet Team

You can see more of Nicolas’ work on Facebook, www.facebook.com/nicolashermannphotography, and Flickr, www.flickr.com/photos/nicolashermann.