«Thomas Leuthard is a passionate street photographer based in the heart of Switzerland. He travels to the big cities of this world to witness and document life on the street. He currently works with an unobtrusive mirrorless camera to capture the essence of the ordinary life happening in public. For him the camera is a black box capturing the moment seen by his eyes. There are more important questions in photography than asking about what gear we are using.» (https://thomas.leuthard.photography/)
In this interview you’ll find a different approach to street photography from a very well-known photographer: Thomas Leuthard. This swiss street photographer shows us his very own perspective about the current state of the art.
Life on the street is very average and boring for the normal person. As a street photographer I can escape this boring world and show it through my lens
Hi Thomas, we’ll speak a little bit about yourself and your first steps back when you started to do street photography.
I bought my first DSLR in early 2008, but it took me more than one year to find my passion, street photography. After a trip to Beijing in summer 2008 where I could work at the Olympics, I realised what is going on in a big city of the Chinese capital.
You are a very active person, you travel to different cities in different countries, you organize online courses, you also make tutorials and Lightroom presets with your own settings. Why do you think that it’s important to communicate all your knowledge to the rest of the world ?
For me photography was never ment to be a business. I started very early to write ebooks, share my knowledge and my photos for free. I strongly believe that knowledge is power, but only if it’s being shared. Since everyone sees the world through his eyes, there will be different photos taken. And on the street you cannot take the same shot again, it’s always different.
Now we’ll get a bit personal… What is “Street Photography” for you? What makes it so special ?.
For me street photography is the challenge of creating something extraordinary out of nothing or out of something normal. Life on the street is very average and boring for the normal person. As a street photographer I can escape this boring world and show it through my lens. This requires a lot creativity, passion and stamina. But the good thing is that the street is endless, it’s different every time of the day and in every city.
You have done almost every thing in this discipline: candid, backlighting, highlights, street portraits, etc..
Where do you think that the soul of street photography can be found ?. Do you think that every picture must have a story to tell or is the moment the most important thing for you ?
The soul of the street is in the mood that a photograph transports to the audience. This can be through a very close an intimidating portrait of a stranger or a nice light situation. Basically it’s about touching the audience with emotions while looking at a photograph.
You cannot tell a story in every image. Sometimes it’s enough to show something which is just appealing to the eye or when I catch the right moment. There are many different disciplines in street photography and all of them have their existence.
Most of your portfolio is in black and white, high contrast but very clean and refined, but you doesn’t seem to like “photoshopping”. Any tip or trick you want to share with us ?
Yes, for me it’s very important to make it right in the camera as you cannot really add something in Photoshop. When I cannot post process an image in one minute, there is something wrong with it and I should delete it. Post processing doesn’t make a good photograph or makes it better. It has to be already good while you take it. Basically you could shoot out of the camera, if the settings of the cameras would be better or more versatile.
Tell us, which is the city you felt more comfortable while taking pictures ? (except Switerzalnd, if that is your first choice?
I was feeling comfortable in different cities and I like a lot of them. But there is no place like Mumbai, where I was exploring life at the edge of everything I knew before. People are very friendly and you see things happening which makes you forget your camera.
Independently from all that camera hype created by the marketing industry, which skills does a good street photographer need to have ?
The most important skill is seeing. You can have the best camera of this world, when you don’t see it, you will never be able to capture it. Apart from that you have to be fast and still be able to compose the shot in a proper way. Everything which is important happens before you press the button. You have to take a lot of right decisions within seconds in order to get a good shot.
Regarding social media trends… Where do you think street photography is aiming for ? Do you think the documentalist and story tellining aspects of street photography are getting lost in favour of more aesthetics aspects ?
Currently there is a big hype about it. I’m not sure if this will remain over time. Most of the photos out there are not very appealing to the eye as the photographers are not really working hard enough or there are too many beginners. Regarding the story telling I can say that even myself is loosing this genre towards the aesthetics. For me aesthetics got much more interesting that telling a story. The reason is probably the change in my mind to capture more creative images rather than having a story in every photograph. I have seen a lot on the street and my interest is now more in art than documentation.
Do you have any new projects incoming ? And, what does Thomas Leuthard expect from street photography ?
I have always some projects on my mind. I started a selfie project called “The Umbrella Man” (https://goo.gl/pLQNP1). I bought a normal IKEA chair which I want to shoot in one hundert perspectives to show how creative one can be when he has to. I also have drone now (which I use for real estate photography), which I might use for some creative photography from the air.
I don’t expect anything from street photography. I will kind of shoot out in the street doing different styles of photos with different aspects of art and creativity. Probably I will get away from the real hard core street photography over time into something different which doesn’t have a name yet.
Viewing the way you transmit and teach to others, What advice you’d give to a novel street photographer ?
There is only one advice. Go out and shoot as often as you can. You will not learn street photography by just reading books and watching YouTube videos. You have to practice and awful lot of time to master this genre. You can find some buddies to meet on the streets to shoot together. This helps to motivate yourself shooting often. Also some projects help you to focus on the relevant things you want to capture.
On Thomas’ personal site (https://thomas.leuthard.photography/) you can find several ebooks and other very interesting stuff like photoshop presets.
Translation by Fabian Spura