Leica Blog II

End of Lonely Street

End of Lonely Street – Leica Blog II

Photo-Bio Article BYBRETT


‘Articulate and thoughtful, he brings a street shooter’s sensibility to the demanding genre of wedding photography. He also teaches other Leica users how to transcend their mindset and get into Leica think.
— The Leica Camera Blog —

Rather than paraphrase his biography, let’s let Brett do it himself and then go on to give the Leica Blog fascinating and thought-provoking answers to our follow-up questions in his own inimitable style.

BRETT Leica Photographer

My lifelong passion for photography started with a plastic camera and darkroom kit ...

I would spend hours developing prints in the bathroom at home. After leaving school I got the break that put me on the path to achieving my ambition, a career as a photographer – I was offered an apprenticeship at principal newspaper, the Birmingham Post.

I saved up to buy a Leica M2 and Summilux 50mm f/1.4, and this became my personal camera.

I went on to set up my own wedding and portrait studio in the West Midlands, at the age of twenty-one. I now work as an independent photographer, with a thriving wedding photography business.

Alongside my documentary wedding photography, my practice also encompasses Leica workshops and bespoke commissions. Since purchasing that M2, I have been a lifelong Leica enthusiast. I now act as a consultant for Leica Camera, leading Leica workshops at the Leica Akademie in London.

I'm passionate about passing on the knowledge of how to get the best from these unique cameras and I have developed bespoke Leica workshops for both my peers and Leica enthusiasts.

‘You mention that you are currently using a Leica M with 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M lens. What is your general impression of this outfit and do you use the ultra-speed 50mm for low-light shooting or primarily because of its very shallow depth of field and beautiful bokeh?’

BRETT Leica Photographer: My general impression is near perfection - full-frame capability, signature bokeh, low light capability and consistent image quality when stopped down. The 1-metre minimum focus distance can be limiting, but then details in the images are a little overdone so I prefer to shoot in context. The f/0.95 aperture allows me to work with available light to a maximum of 1600 ISO in most situations; however, I shoot wide open wherever possible simply for the bokeh. A year ago I had never handled a Noctilux - now it’s my style provider.

Wedding Portfolio Documentary Horse Carriage By Brett Leica Photographer
Workshop Portfolio Street Art Director London Brett Leica Photographer

‘Have you ever pursued your innate potential in art or architecture in your photography, either in terms of subject matter or your general approach to composition, etc.?’

BRETT Leica Photographer: For many years I was shooting commercial & industrial photography, working with UK property developers and architects nationwide. As an architectural enthusiast, when commissioned to shoot architecture for architects ... my style was formulaic rather than art.
If I ever hang up my cameras I intend to paint and draw!

‘What is it about the 50mm lens that you find so congenial for your work? Many photographers who pursue a photojournalistic approach to weddings or documentary coverage say that they favour a 35mm or 28mm as their favourite lens. Have you ever considered this and if not what are your reasons?’

BRETT Leica Photographer: Out of my peripheral vision the 50mm angle of view is what my mind’s eye selectively isolates from a scene. The rangefinder viewfinder also provides me with an extra field of view (the 50mm bright lines, in particular, sitting comfortably within the finder area).
I feel that the 50mm equates to what I look at rather than what I see. My standard lens (and most often sole lens) is, therefore, the 50mm - you could call it ‘single-lens rangefinder’.

‘Why do you think the Leica D-Lux is an ideal walk-around pocket camera and have you ever captured images with it that are worthy of your portfolio?’

BRETT Leica Photographer: The D-Lux gives me all the things that are unavailable in my minimalistic 50mm M set-up: wide-angle, video, close-up, flash(!) so it is either my M companion or M alternative. With this camera, I am already coasting (and probably shooting on P!) so the pictures act in a supportive role rather than being worthy in their own right.

‘Can you tell us some of the tips and suggestions you have given in your workshops that you have found to be particularly effective for enthusiast and professional Leica M users? As a corollary, what are a few of the most common mistakes people make when moving from, say a DSLR to a Leica M?’

BRETT Leica Photographer: My favourite tips are: Shoot and think in B/W. And, read the image, not the histogram. Some common traits of DSLR users are: shooting portrait format with the shutter release at the top, using exposure compensation to adjust exposure, and trying to compose images entirely in the viewfinder ... without surveying the wider scene.

‘Can you tell us something about any recent commissions you have executed, particularly those you found especially fulfilling or that enhanced your creative process?’

BRETT Leica Photographer: I’ve recently had the (commissioned) privilege to shoot for the prospectus and contribute to the 256-page book: The Timeline History of Harrow School. There is an illustrious past of Old Harrovian photographers - William Fox Talbot, Lord Lichfield, Cecil Beaton. The ongoing shoot is, wherever possible, to portray by reportage a real-life look at school life.

‘Your statement about using your Leica to ‘crop the real world’ is very interesting. It certainly distills the essence of using a rangefinder camera as differentiated from other cameras where you look at the image formed by the lens rather than through a separate optical viewfinder. Can you say something more about how this experience feels to you and why you find it so fulfilling?’

BRETT Leica Photographer: Going back to ‘trying to compose images entirely in the viewfinder’, rangefinder shooting for me is more about pre-visualisation. I try to compose the image in my (50mm) mind’s eye and position myself to frame the picture before I raise the camera to my eye. This is what I mean by using the Leica to crop the real world. After focusing and recomposing the image to match the one I’ve pre-visualised, the bright lines and extra field of view are confirmation of the success of the process. Be a pedestrian for a longer and a street photographer for less - and you’ll become a better observer. I apply this philosophy to all my photography.

‘How do you see your photography evolving going forward? Do you have any special projects in mind, any different approaches you like to take either creatively or in terms of subject matter?’

BRETT Leica Photographer: I’ve always wanted to visit Cuba; I’ve seen so many portfolios of Cuba that have inspired me. However, I would want to achieve something creatively different. There’s a challenge. Also, I do enjoy mounting a body cap pinhole lens to my M camera every now and again. Other than that, I would like to venture to Antarctica, and I'm fascinated with outer space ...

you began your Leica M odyssey with an M2 ... how do you feel-full frame digital M is distinctive from 35mm film Leicas and the M8, both operationally and in terms of its capabilities? Are you at all interested in trying out the Leica S2 which mates Leica’s superlative lenses with a rugged, compact medium-format DSLR system body?’

BRETT Leica Photographer: Many of my wedding peers moved, in haste, from Leica to DSLRs and are equally successful. I’ve never used a DSLR or S2 and I think it would be counter creative. I waited for the M8, having shot M2, M6 and M7 since I didn’t want to lose my hard-earned rangefinder style. It makes you shoot differently; I feel oddly exposed and liberated at the same time. I try to capture and teach M photography with a film mentality, using the M as a rangefinder with a ‘Polaroid’ back loaded with transparency film - it develops B/W images and captures digital positives!

Thank you, Brett!

An abridged version first published by - The Leica Camera Blog

SUBSCRIBE to fresh Wayfinder photography articles


Wayfinder Articles