Leica. My Life – Max Malatesta

Capturing movement in a picture is an insane paradox which most of us wouldn’t even try to crack. Not so for Max Malatesta. The 41-year-old actor takes on this challenge, relying on only one true companion: his Leica X1.

Q: Max, first and foremost, tell us a bit about yourself and your job.

A: Well, I’m 41-year-old actor, half-Italian, half-Austrian. Although I’m an actor I’d describe myself somehow as a professional traveler as well, because my job requires lots of travelling. In an average year I’m on the road for six or seven months at least. Sometimes I feel almost like a gypsy. The rest of my time goes mostly to teaching. I’ve been teaching acting for over seven years now. And to be honest, I’d never expected to learn so much about people through this job.

Q: Did the fact that you are around people almost all the time influence your philosophy of life somehow?

A: Yes, absolutely. My motto has always been “Panta rhei”. In my mind, everything is in a constant state of flux. You can’t stop life and you can’t plan it either. You should just embrace it. Therefore, friendship and people in general play a big role in my life. You only learn to know yourself through other people. How boring would life be if we weren’t able to share happiness with people around us? The guy next to me is my friend, even if he’s a stranger.

Q: How does that translate to your style of photography?

A: When I’m thinking about the combination of life and photography I’d say my motto is “Carpe Diem” – or in other words: capture the moment.

Q: Is that the reason you started photographing in the first place?

A: When I started my career as an actor, I started to observe people at the same time. I literally took pictures of people with my soul. Through all this I suddenly felt the desire to capture my observations with a photo camera. I wanted to give proof to myself that there’s always another interesting perspective to look at people. Another reason I started photographing are definitely women. I adore their beauty, but they’ll always be a mystery to me.

Q: What’s the thing you consider as most important regarding your photography?

A: I’d say feeling, soul and movement are most important to me, though not necessarily in that order. I consider movement as the most important of the three. The English word emotion has its root from the Latin word ‘e-movere’, which literally means move outwards. Trying to capture movement in a picture is a paradox, isn’t it? I think that’s why I like it the most. I adore Caravaggio and Cartier-Bresson, two masterminds of this idea.

Q: Well then, tell us about your approach when you take pictures?

A: I would describe it as spontaneous. I always carry my camera with me. You never know what life will offer you each minute. You have to be ready at any time. All of a sudden a beautiful woman will pass you with her bicycle and it occurs that the wind will blow up her coat. That’s when you have to be there and take a picture. Photography is all about envisioning an unpredictable incident.

Q: Regarding your camera, what technical requirements are a must?

A: My camera has to be quiet. Nobody must realize when I’m taking a picture. Also, my camera has to be small, so I can carry it with me all the time. And I’m definitely very keen on manual control.

Q: Is there a story about why you shoot only on a Leica camera?

A: Yes there is a story and I definitely don’t mind sharing it. So during my childhood, my mother had this huge “Magnum” book which included the most beautiful pictures of the world. Those pictures defined my quality standard for photography. Years later, when I started to take pictures myself, I had always to deal with technical flaws. I always felt that focus-wise, the pictures weren’t crisp enough and almost all of my black and white shots were lacking dynamics. One day, I saw an older man taking pictures with a rangefinder camera. I’ve never seen one of these before. When I asked him what kind of camera it was he told me, it was a Leica. And when I asked if the camera was good he was laughing his head off. Before he walked away he put his hand on my shoulder and told me that if I wanted to shoot seriously I should stop wasting time and buy a proper camera. After I got home that day, I started to search online for the name “Leica” and noticed that all of the pictures I liked most were taken with a Leica camera. It was then when I realized I didn’t need any camera, I needed a Leica.

Q: That’s a pretty unique incident. How did the Leica story continue?

A: Well, when Leica announced the X1, I started to read a lot about it. When the model finally hit the stores, I watched it through the shop windows a hundred times. Eventually, when the silver package was lying on my desk, I acted like a little kid who is right about to blow out the candles at his seventh birthday. The camera came with a small certificate that had a signature on it. It was the name of the technician, who had built it, and I thought, “Wow, somebody assembled this camera just for me”. It was just a small detail, but it blew me completely away.

Q: Did the way you take pictures change through the X1?

A: I have to admit that the X1 taught me a lot about photography. At the beginning I was a bit concerned that the steady lens might be a limitation to my style, but it isn’t. It’s actually the reverse. It forces you to literally take a stand before you capture a certain situation. Also, the camera is so quiet that I can barely hear the shutter. That is one of the details I like a lot, because it allows me to take pictures without distracting people. And last but not least, there is this magnificent optical viewfinder that allows you to concentrate on the essentials. The X1 allows you to focus on the things that are happening right in front of you and in your heart.

-Leica Internet Team