An Interview with Alex Coghe

WARNING : THIS POST CONTAINS EXPLICIT IMAGES

Alex Coghe is a world renowned street photographer and I’ve followed his work for years, however it wasn’t until I interviewed him that I saw there was more to the man than his street work…

 

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Hi Alex, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background.

I am an Italian Photographer, and have been living in Mexico for 5 years. I’ve never just been a photographer, I was born a writer.

My profession is therefore a union of various activities: I am a photo-journalist. In the past I have written articles about Mexico for an Italian Magazine. I have also had experience as a political journalist but now I interview artists, especially photographers, for my blog and for The Leica Camera Blog.

I also have experience as a photo editor, a skill that I now apply to my publications. The most recent is The Street Photographer Notebook, a project that I’ve just started but that already has been greeted with much enthusiasm from street photographers around the world.

I consider all my professional entities equally important, I’ve never been just a photographer. I hold workshops, for example. And I still offer my journalist services.

I think Photography for me has been an evolution, an extension of my experience as a creative a writer. Poetry is an admission of loneliness and when I realised that I had no more time for this, my camera has become my pen. I will never abandon writing, but I’ve delegated the exploration of my soul to photography.

 

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Alex you are known throughout the digital world for your street photography. How and when did you get into street as a genre?

Well I actually began seriously in 200, but before that I had studied it alot. All the work done without a camera helped me a lot in terms of a solid base.

There were just a few resources on the internet then and books have been very important for me.

 

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What is it about street photography that compels you to get out and shoot?

The sense of self challenge. Street Photography is probably the most challenging genre and I consider it a permanent school for the photographer. I would advise all photographers to practice on the street because even a studio photographer will benefit from it.

For me Street Photography is an attitude, a state of mind. When I am shooting in the studio i still apply the approach of street photography.

But the main reason I shoot street and walk miles exploring places in the city si the feeling that at any moment I can be surprised and get as excited as a child, and the street is always and experience within an experience where you can meet new people and hear their stories.

To be a good street photographer you must have empathy for people. If you do not have a sincere interest in your subjects you will never get good photographs of them.

 

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Recently you have entered into erotic photography. Why this move and how does it link with your street work.

I’m just exploring another part of being a photographer.

I’m a commercial photographer and sometimes I’m not a contractually restricted from showing the images I made which is a pain. I respect the agreements with my clients, but I am pleased with some of this work ,especially my work for fashion brands. I would share but I can’t by agreement, so a year or so ago I launched the Mexicana Magazine project. It is a project where my followers finally can know another side of my work.

I don’t think I need to find a connection between my street work and erotic or fashion photography, but you can certainly see some elements typical of my vision as a street photographer inside my work with models.

I use the available light most of the time and my approach to this genre is the same as my approach to street, looking for that special candid moment. Yeah, erotica and fashion is “set” photography, but I am always looking for the “random moment”, that special, natural moment avoiding fake expressions and poses.

Mexicana Magazine is not just erotic photography, inside you will also find good documentary.

 

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Between street and erotic photography, which do you find the most creative and why?

Both are creative in a different way. I think creative ideas in erotic photography can be more interesting as I am not alone like I am in the street.

I do not direct my models. It is real creative work with them. We have equal power. They are in front of a camera and I’m behind it, but there is always a dialogue and a shared experience. I think erotica is like sex; it can never be one-way. The result would be bad.

 

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Can you tell us about the kit you use to shoot with, especially the Leica gear and how you go about processing your images?

I have been using a Leica X2 for two years now after delivering work on assignment from Leica Camera AG.

The Leica X2 is my main camera. I use it for street photography, photojournalism, fashion and erotica.

As a photographer I don’t need a lot of equipment or big cameras.

I have two ways to work with Leica X2. When on the streets I use the X2 like an analogue camera: LCD turned off, and shoot black and white JPEG without RAW (DNG), optical viewfinder and pre-set focus. When I am working with models I prefer to work with the electronic viewfinder, autofocus and of course I work in RAW.

In my opinion, this camera is always best with manual exposure.

For street photography I don’t edit the files that much. Sometimes I add contrast but that’s all.

For erotica and fashion, yeah I work the images with Adobe Lightroom where I will choose colour or black and white and of course I alter the mood and aesthetics to suit the shoot’s particular requirements.

 

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What is next for Alex Coghe?

I will continue to devote myself to the projects that I have… with two magazines there is a lot of work to do.

I need to prepare work for the agency I am collaborating with: it will be a classical photojournalistic piece, here in Mexico City.

I have other projects and ideas for 2015, but right now I can’t tell you about them. I will announce them when they are ready to go.

 

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Thanks Alex!

Alex Coghe website

Featured Photographer : Masum Khan

Masum and I talk regularly on Flickr and Facebook and I find his work interesting because he has the ability to flip between street, landscape and portraiture seamlessly and deliver consistently good results…

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Name : Masum Khan

Location : Bangladesh

Photographic Genre : Street Photography, Street Portraiture and Landscape
Masum’s Bio


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First of all I would like to thank Stephen for selecting me as a Featured Photographer. I’m a Computer Engineer by profession but photography is my passion. It’s like meditation to me. When I go out with my camera, it feels like I have made a virtual communication with my soul… like day by day photography becomes my blood cells ☺ .

I live in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Bangladesh is a highly populated but small country, and Dhaka is the capital. More then ten million people live in that city. So, you can imagine the density of population here. Photography, especially street photography is great in my city because there is so much going on and that’s what attracts me to it.

I am a self taught photographer. I don’t have any academic qualification and haven’t done any training, in fact I am still really learning street photography. It feels like exploring the known world in a different way. You just open your eyes with a complete different depth of field. Searching for a interesting moment within regular activities is a challenging task. I spontaneously look around me and shoot continuously and try to get close to the moment.

After starting street photography I got so many positive responses from my photography friends. They inspire me a lot and some of them even treat me as their mentor, which I find quite amusing. I was on a judge panel in one a recent exhibition held in my country. I also run some photography groups in my country. Sometimes we go out with groups and shoots together and discuss our pictures.

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You manage to jump between street photography, landscape and nature shots seamlessly. How do you change your mindset between genres and which genre do you prefer?

After 2007, when I seriously started photography, I tried every photographic genre looking to find my niche. I don’t like to decide on one road unless I have tried others. I think that gives me more confidence about my journey.

After trying different genres, I can definitely say that street photography is the one that can gives me more than I expected. You can’t imagine what you are getting next. It’s like you are playing with your present and future. You try to predicting the coming moment but you cannot guarantee that’s how the shot is going to come out. That challenge attracts me. Now I can confidently say as a photographer that my soul is in the street.

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What equipment do you shoot with and why?

I use Nikon D7000 with 18-105mm lens most of the time but I also use 50mm prime lens now and again. I’m also about to buy a 35mm prime. I like the 18-105 lens most because it gives me more flexibility. Sometimes I need to use some zoom, but I want to try and work with a 35mm fixed length for street work, because I feel it’s a better length for street and will force me to move more and deliver a better perspective.

However no matter what equipment I am using, I never really feel any restrictions. Kit is irrelevant though. You can take good shots with any camera.

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You publish your work in both mono and colour. Do you plan ahead which shots will be colour or is your decision made in post?

That’s a good question. Actually when I look into my viewfinder and compose a shot I’m already thinking about post. I know what I am looking for. Black and White always feels more classic and normally I never feel a need to use colour in my street work unless colour is the main subject. For example, a few days ago I shot a guy selling t-shirts and I don’t think this shot would have worked so well in B&W. However, colour can be a distracting element if it’s not the main subject in my opinion, so the majority of my street work is B&W.

I always try to decide between black and white and colour at the time of composition as oppose to in post.
Recently you have delivered some very impressive street portraiture work, can you tell us how you go about sourcing your subjects and how you handle them when they agree to be photographed?

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In my country people are very friendly. If you train your camera on them they will wither smile at you or just walk away. If you let them see the photograph you have taken they feels very honoured. Sometimes they will come and ask me to be photographed. But completely candid portraiture is very tough here as the people are naturally curious when they see someone pointing a camera at them. As I like to shoot candidly, I need to wait until they let go on their way otherwise they will be start posing for the camera!

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Are you working on any projects that you have so far not published?



Yes, recently I started a “100 strangers” project and wish to finish that this year. I am also going to start a documentary project based around my historical culture.

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Who are your favourite street artists alive now and in the past?



Well I have to say the father of photojournalism Henri Cartier-Bresson and then Robert Doisneau and Dorothea Lange. I really admire their work so much.
Presently there are a few photographers that inspire me a lot and I always look for their work and analysis it. These people include Stephen Cosh (ed: blushing), Eric Kim, Peter Kool and Thomas Leuthard. These guys are very inspirational to me. A big thanks to all of them.
I always try to watch good photographers work and learn from their it.

Every day I learn something new in this genre and it’s great to be considered a part of it!

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Masum’s Flickr Stream

Masum’s Facebook Page

Featured Photographer – Mark Simmons

Mark T Simmons is an interesting street photographer in as much as his style of work varies from camera to camera. That’s a fairly normal observation I guess, but his cameras vary massively. Mark jumps from shooting on an SLR, to a mirrorless to an iPhone.

His work portrays a great understanding of how to use light and negative space and his attitude towards his photography is quite refreshing…

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Name : Mark T Simmons
Location : London
Photographic Genre : Street Photography and Streetscapes

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Mark’s Bio

My name is Mark T Simmons and I am a (predominantly) London based amateur photographer, working within both DSLR and mobile formats. I first started to take photographs regularly in late 2012 and while most of my images fall into the street photography genre, my iPhone work has begun exploring more broad themes of light, shadow and landscape.

As my focus has been primarily street photography, I believe that the strongest work emerges when you are not afraid to enter the street, that the best approach is to get in, get close, take the shot and then get out again; but never hide what you are trying to do.

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1: How and when did you discover street photography and take it up as your genre of work?

I have only really been into photography since 2011 and back then I wanted to use it for travel photography. I discovered street photography when I returned to London to live and bought my first iPhone. Around the same time I had also started a new job in the centre of the city and began travelling regularly on the underground system. The only time in the day I had to take photos was during my commute to and from work and my lunch hour; the iPhone became invaluable for capturing what was going on around me. Travel photography disappeared very quickly from my thoughts once I bought that phone.

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2: You swap between smart phone cameras and high end cameras seamlessly. What equipment do you shoot with and why?

For mobile photography I use the iPhone 5 and shoot almost exclusively with the Hipstamatic app. There are so many apps available for mobile photography but I have found they all do basically the same thing. All of my best mobile images have been shot using the Hipstamatic combination of BlacKeys SuperGrain film and Jane lens, as this combination captures light so well while allowing more detail to emerge within the shadows. When using the iPhone, I very rarely shoot anything other than black and white, as I don’t think smart phone cameras produce great colour images.

When it comes to high end cameras I love my Ricoh GR for street work. Its fixed 28mm lens and compact camera size means I can get in very close when capturing the image I want. I especially like how it renders colours and would say it is the camera that is most responsible for developing my style in street photography, more so than any other.

I also have a 1 year old Fuji X100 that I have virtually never used, though I am determined to master it this year as I am a big fan of photographers such as SinoLaZZeR and Davide Filippini who produce beautifully rendered black and white images using this camera.

Finally, I have an old Nikon D7000, which was my first camera and now seems to have been neglected as my style has changed to favour the ‘close proximity’ street photography. The D7000 was never intended to be used that way.

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3: You work is as much to do with the light as it is with your subject. Can you tell us a little about how you marry up the subject with the light source?

It’s strange but I find working with great light easier to do with mobiles than I do with more high end cameras. I mostly use smart phone cameras for architecture projects in countries where I know there is going to be great light, long shadows that fall across the buildings and dramatic shapes thrown against walls, such as Tuscany and the North End of Boston. With street photography I am still a long way from mastering light for the type of image I want to capture. Street photography is being in close to people, that is the major thing for me but I know I need to try to use light more in street photography the way I do with my mobile images. That’s a major plan for this year.

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4: You shoot and publish in both black and white. What are your feelings on using colour in street photography?

I had never really felt a huge push to shoot in either black and white or colour when I first started photography. It wasn’t until the end of 2012, when I saw the show ‘Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour’ (Held in Somerset House, London). This was an exhibition that changed everything for me. Seeing the work of photographers like Ernst Haas, Fred Herzog, Saul Leiter and Joel Meyerowitz, and their mastery of colour just blew me away. They made the street look more exciting then I had ever seen it before. It came to life. I went to see that show 4 times while it was on and would have kept going, if I could.

I actually think light is more important to colour photography than black and white. A dull colour shot just looks bad, no matter how much you try to save it during post processing.

Ultimately, the choice between black and white or colour is determined by the nature of the project or series I am working on. When I was assembling a series of images (shot with a Ricoh GR) from a trip to the US last year, I alternated between both black and white and colour. I regret that decision a little, each time I look at those images. I feel they should have all been processed in colour.

Colour is significant to my US series because, while the photography greats worked mostly in black and white, I grew up in the 80’s where television blasted out the colours that would come to saturate my world (the legacy of shows such as Dallas, for example…. blame my mother) and as a result, this colour is forever linked to my memories and ideas of the US.

I have a two week trip to Japan planned for later this year and as so many photographers seem to shoot Japan in black and white, I am determined to give it a go in colour.

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5: Are you working on any projects that you have so far not published?

In 2014 I am looking to move away from publishing any images on social networks and will instead concentrate on two projects that I want to develop over the whole year. I am quite superstitious about talking about any projects until they are complete, but one of the projects will be street photography-based and the other closer to social/documentary photography.

We live in a time where I feel so much is subtly changing in the world and very few photographers seem to really be documenting it. I am an amateur photographer but I want to produce a body of work this year that captures a sense of this time and place, so if someone were to see it one day they would experience a bit of what was happening in England in 2014. That’s the plan anyway.

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6. Who are your favourite street artists alive now and in the past?

There are, and have been, so many great street photographers but for me, no one beats Bruce Davidson. His work on the New York subway in the 80’s is unsurpassed. The colours are so sexy, the lighting (both natural and from his flash work) is superb and as mentioned in the previous answer, the work captures a time and a place: the subway in the 80’s. Anyone seeing the work now can imagine what it must have been like then. The fact that the subway itself looks nothing like that now makes Davidson’s work all the more powerful.

It seems that every street photographer wants to be either the new Martin Parr or Bruce Gilden, both fantastic photographers. Though, again, no one is better than Bruce Davidson.

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7: If you had one piece of advice for street shooters, what would it be?

Concentrate on creating a series of images rather than a succession of individual shots with no central theme. Those single images are so much more powerful as a collective.

> Mark’s Flickr Stream

> Mark on Twitter

A selection of Excellence from The Leica Meet

This weeks top shots from The Leica Meet Flickr group. Last one of 2013 so there’s a few more in this one!

Adam Miller

Adam Miller

Alvaro Lucena

Alvaro Lucena

Antonio Sanchez-Barriga

Antonio Sanchez-Barriga

Axel Wohlbold

Axel Wohlbold

Benya Acame

Benya Acame

Bill McCarroll

Bill McCarroll

Christine de Loë

Christine de Loë

Derlin Zhang

Derlin Zhang

Dirk Holvoet

Dirk Holvoet

Fredrik Lubbe

Fredrik Lubbe

Gavin Mills

Gavin Mills

Gianluca Federighi

Gianluca Federighi

Grzegorz Kobiela

Grzegorz Kobiela

Haoming Wang

Haoming Wang

JB Rasor

JB Rasor

Jed Best

Jed Best

Johannes Huwe

Johannes Huwe

Khaled Al Abdul-Mughni

Khaled Al Abdul-Mughni

Nicoblue

Nicoblue

Olaf Willoughby

Olaf Willoughby

Pablo Sanz

Pablo Sanz

Rod Higginson

Rod Higginson

Roger Yip

Roger Yip

Sung S Lee

Sung S Lee

Teuku Adifitrian

Teuku Adifitrian

Tobias Gaulke

Tobias Gaulke

Win Soegondo

Win Soegondo

Wook Bang

Wook Bang

Yonathan Budi

Yonathan Budi

Zoran Kulusic-Neral

Zoran Kulusic-Neral

A Selection of Excellence from The Leica Meet

This weeks top shots from The Leica Meet Flickr group.

Alvaro Lucena

Alvaro Lucena

Antonio Sánchez-Barriga

Antonio Sánchez-Barriga

Axel Wohlbold

Axel Wohlbold

Benya Acame

Benya Acame

bluesphere

bluesphere

Dian Savitri

Dian Savitri

Dirk Holvoet

Dirk Holvoet

Eileen McCarney Muldoon

Eileen McCarney Muldoon

Fabio Lugaro

Fabio Lugaro

Gavin Mills

Gavin Mills

James Hughes

James Hughes

Lillo Cabrera

Lillo Cabrera

Marc Hartog

Marc Hartog

Michael Walker-Toye

Michael Walker-Toye

Olaf Willoughby

Olaf Willoughby

Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis

Rod Higginson

Rod Higginson

Sorin Vidis

Sorin Vidis

Teuku Adifitrian

Teuku Adifitrian

Win Soegondo

Win Soegondo

The Leica Meet Group : WebsiteFlickrFacebook

If you would like your photo removed from this article, please contact me via this blog.

A Selection of Excellence from The Leica Meet

This weeks top shots from The Leica Meet Flickr group.

Win Soegondo

Win Soegondo

Tobias Gaulke

Tobias Gaulke

Sung Soo Lee

Sung Soo Lee

Stephen Starkman

Stephen Starkman

Rick Bronks

Rick Bronks

Mark Heaver

Mark Heaver

Lillo Cabrera

Lillo Cabrera

Lane 4 Imaging

Lane 4 Imaging

Keith Goldstein

Keith Goldstein

Julien Ducenne

Julien Ducenne

jonathanliewys

jonathanliewys

Johannes Huwe

Johannes Huwe

Haoming Wang

Haoming Wang

Frédéric Lanoizelé

Frédéric Lanoizelé

Camelot98

Camelot98

Alex B Muir

Alex B Muir

The Leica Meet Group : WebsiteFlickrFacebook

If you would like your photo removed from this article, please contact me via this blog.

A Selection of Excellence from The Leica Meet

This weeks top shots from The Leica Meet Flickr group.

Axel Wohlbold

Axel Wohlbold

Benya Acame

Benya Acame

Camelot98

Camelot98

Daniel Novello

Daniel Novello

Elie Bescont

Elie Bescont

Ferenc Simicz

Ferenc Simicz

Gavin Mills

Gavin Mills

Gianluca Federighi

Gianluca Federighi

Giuseppe de Santis

Giuseppe de Santis

Jason Howe

Jason Howe

Johannes Huwe

Johannes Huwe

Marc Hartog

Marc Hartog

Marc Hartog

Marc Hartog

Rob Steele

Rob Steele

Steve Lee

Steve Lee

Sung Soo Lee

Sung Soo Lee

Turodrique Fuad

Turodrique Fuad

Win Soegondo

Win Soegondo

The Leica Meet Group : WebsiteFlickrFacebook

If you would like your photo removed from this article, please contact me via this blog.

Featured Photographer – Christine de Loë

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The hardest thing about interviewing Christine de Loë was choosing seven or eight of her pictures for this article. It’s ridiculous… I was going through her Flickr stream for about an hour and realised I’d only got to the third page. Everything is class – and I mean class. You really need to look at her stuff closely but take it from me… you will need around an hour. I ended up choosing ten pictures to feature and I know I have not done her justice.

Her work draws you in. There’s something very feminine about it. Very considered. Very connected.

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Name : Christine de Loë
Location : Geneva
Photographic Genre : Multi-Discplined

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Christine’s Bio

Photography, first of all is my passion. It has always been my passion and a few years ago it became my work as well.

Photography allows me to express myself.  It enables me to show what moves, fascinates and amazes me. A  moment, a special light or an expression that will last forever in an image – that is magical. Photography is a universal language, it’s just feeling and emotion.

I do not have guidelines or defined ideas or pictures I deliberately go after – it’s all about a moment, about something happening.

I’m self-taught and I try to learn and practice as much as possible but it was not until 2010 that I decided to seriously cultivate my passion.

I recently did two exhibitions in my home town, Geneva and have another one in two weeks time. The first one was surreal for me. Showing my work for the first time was like being naked… but what a rewarding experience!

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1: You are a professional photographer but yet you still take photos as a hobby. After a day behind the lens do you find this hard to do or something you need to do?

Being able to turn your passion into work is a real blessing. Being first a big love and a passion, I could not imagine not taking pictures only for work projects. I am a mother of three boys and they were always the center of my photography. Children are for me the most wonderful subjects, their faces and expressions are magical.

I can be physically tired after a day’s work behind a camera, but photography is something I need to do. It’s not an effort… it’s something I love!

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2: You have more kit than a camera shop so what camera and lenses do you use most and why?

I think it’s like testing different brushes for a painter or pencils for a designer – you keep testing until the day you find the one that’s right for you.

I started with big DSLR’s and ended up rediscovering Leica. (My father was a big Leica fan and was raised with these).

I keep one reflex just in case but my heart goes to my M system. I can do almost anything with it. Apart from being a wonderful object it’s also a wonderful tool – so less intrusive than these huge cameras. No zooms, only fixed focal length. It obliges you to move and get close to the subject and this is what photography is all about… getting close to get as much emotion and interaction as possible.

I learnt to take pictures differently and I love that. I could take my Leica with a 50 and I would be just fine. My favorites are 50mm and 35mm; portraits, landscapes, street – all can be done with these. More is just a luxury.

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3: Your work with the Leica Noctilux f/0.95 lens is simply amazing. Tell us a little about your experience with this legendary glass?

The Noctilux has this very special thing one can not describe..it’s a magical lens. Every photograph you make with it has something special. If I had to keep one single lens, it would be this one without a seconds hesitation.

I am not talking about the technical description of the glass, it’s just how it feels, how it enables me to paint with it. I feel it’s the right tool for me. It has this fantastic smoothness as well as an unequalled sharpness.

The Nocti is not hard to use as frequently claimed. It can take time for some to get used to it but it’s worth it to keep trying!!

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4: Most photographers I feature shoot almost solely in black and white, but you mix it up a lot? What are your views on colour versus black and white photography?

If I had to choose between black and white and colour, it would be black and white for sure… no doubt about that. My heart is in black and white  photography. It captures the essentials without the distraction of colour.

Someone said, I can’t remember who – when you take a photograph of someone in colour you photograph the colour of his clothes, when you take it in black and white you photograph his soul. And this is so true.

I have a Leica M Monochrom that only delivers black and white files and never feel I have lost something not capturing colour.

Nevertheless, I sometimes feel colour can be more appropriate, mostly in landscapes, but again, it’s always down to how I feel at that moment.

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5: Are you working on any projects that you have so far not published?

I’m not  working on any project at the moment. Just waiting for something to show up, but I guess that it will be obvious the moment it does!

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6: If you had one piece of advice for photographers, what would that be?

The only advice I can give is do it with your heart and your soul! Only good things can come out when done with the heart.

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Christine’s Flickr Stream – You must see this!

Christine’s Website