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Road to the Abbey

Road to the Abbey – The Leica Blog

Photo-Bio Article BYBRETT


‘Brett brings a street shooter's eye and lightning reflexes to the demanding genre of wedding
photography and when he's not shooting he's teaching other Leica photographers how to do it.’

— The Leica Camera Blog —

Here, in his insightful, straightforward words is his remarkable story.

BRETT Leica Photographer

Brett's lifelong passion for photography started with a plastic camera and darkroom kit ... speaking to the Leica Blog, he recalls spending hours developing prints in the family bathroom!

After leaving school he got the break that put him on the path to achieving his ambition, a career as a photographer – he was offered an apprenticeship at principal newspaper, the Birmingham Post.

He now operates as an independent photographer with a thriving documentary wedding photography business, and also works on shooting travel images, and bespoke commissions.

A lifelong Leica enthusiast ever since purchasing his first M2 decades ago, he is also a consultant for Leica Camera and leads Leica workshops at the Leica Akademie in London.

Passionate about passing on the knowledge of how to get the most out of these magnificent cameras to his peers and to Leica enthusiasts, he has developed targeted workshops created around the individual photographer’s needs, to improve their techniqe and expand their capability.

What camera and equipment do you use?

BRETT Leica Photographer: I shoot exclusively Leica M for both my professional and personal work. In my position as Consultant Photographer and Workshop Leader for Leica UK, I get to test drive most cameras and lenses. I like to challenge perceptions and set myself personal challenges. For a year I was shooting with a Leica M and 50mm Elmar-M f2.8. People said I couldn’t shoot a wedding with one lens - wide open - but that’s exactly what I did. Currently in my hand is a Leica M with a 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux; this equates to three whole stops ‘wider’ open! I use available light and handhold the camera - there’s never a tripod or flash present.

Wayfinder Photo Bio Leica Blog Noctilux 50Mm By Brett Photographer
Wayfinder Photo Bio Leica Blog Elmar 50Mm By Brett Photographer

How would you describe your photography? What is your motivation or what are you trying to achieve in general terms with your photography?

BRETT Leica Photographer: The motivation in my current photographic style is to embrace the synergy between street and wedding photography - capturing the everyday within the special day, and the extra in the ordinary. I practise my craft of wedding photography whilst on the street and during workshops, honing my skills as a reportage photographer, and vice versa. I’m looking to capture the more unusual moments in a wedding day, made possible by anticipating the usual occurrences on our streets. Both are real-life; both are documentary photography. My other motivation is to be able one day to completely master the rangefinder system!

‘Were you a serious enthusiast before going professional? What made you decide to go pro?’

BRETT Leica Photographer: As an amatuer teenage photographer I used my camera to record my other interests - mountaineering, holidays, and transport. Coincidentally, my academic strength lay in art, maths, and physics ... the core fundamentals of photography. My friend’s father was an architectural photographer and he made a presentation to our school Photographic Society ... I always remember him saying that photographers only ever go out and work when the sun shines! A couple of years on I applied for a position as black-and-white printer at a local provincial newspaper. On seeing my work (the B/W prints of my photographs) the studio manager created a new position just for me - ‘Trainee Operator’ - a camera operator being, of course, a photographer! The chap who got the black-and-white job became and remains my best friend.

Wayfinder Photo Bio Jaws Borrowdale Lake District Cumbria By Brett Leica Photographer
Wayfinder Photo Bio About Portrait M9 By Brett Leica Photographer

When did you first become interested in photography as a mode of expression, an art form/profession?

BRETT Leica Photographer: Photography has, for many years, been a job - it’s my profession. My role has been to deliver photography to the customer, typically an art director, managing director or wedding couple. As a mode of expression, it has become apparent only recently, maybe as a result of the advent of the digital Leica M. Now I’m expressing my style as part of a professional package with the confidence that I can create something different and more personal.

‘Did you have any formal education in photography, with a mentor, or were you self-taught. Was there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?’

BRETT Leica Photographer: I was self-taught up to the point of getting my permanent job at the Birmingham Post ... and poring over Amateur Photographer magazine and Photography Year Books - borrowed from the library, was my staple diet as a young aspiring pre-internet photographer. As a studio apprentice operator, I acquired my craft and grounding in many photographic formats and disciplines with my mentor, a GP (General Practice) photographer. I used Rollei TLRs, Hasselblads and Sinars. My influences were in name, Norman Parkinson, and by genre, the classic French street photographers including Bresson, Doisneau. For me, there is a connection between their classic ‘street photography’ and that of Parkinson, a ‘fashion photographer’.

‘To follow up on that, how would you classify your photographic genre(s)? Are most of your images fine art, photojournalism, portrait, street photography, etc.?’

BRETT Leica Photographer: My work is split between weddings, workshops and worldwide commissions. I apply the same philosophy to all three. The common thread and inspiration is the rangefinder camera and that defines my approach. My shooting style is self-defined: ‘observational’.

Wayfinder Photo Bio Flower Girl Bridesmaids Wedding By Brett Leica Photographer
Wayfinder Photo Bio Boys Angkor Wat Cambodia World By Brett Leica Photographer

‘How did you first become interested in Leica? What special characteristics do the Leica cameras and lenses you use, assist in executing your kind of work?’

BRETT Leica Photographer: The pictures that inspired me from the beginning, on reading the captions, all turned out to be taken with Leica cameras. So I saved up to buy a Leica M2 and Summilux 50mm f/1.4, with my first wage packets, and this became my personal camera. Indeed, I have now come full circle to one camera with a 50mm lens. I'm as much interested in the out-of-focus areas of the image as the in-focus areas and that’s where Leica cameras, more specifically Leica lenses, excel. Behind every great image, there is an out-of-focus backdrop. Shooting Leica is also about being an incognito professional. Those who know the brand respect it, and those who don’t ignore it. As a photographer, both aspects provide an advantage for the Leica shooter.

What approach do you take with your photography or what does photography mean to you?

BRETT Leica Photographer: I am very much a one camera, one lens photographer. The 50mm is my lens of choice. My favourite aperture is ‘wide open’. My approach is to pre-visualise - to look and see, to position myself and mentally create the composition in my mind’s eye before raising the camera to my real eye. Ideally, I'm an eyewitness who uses the camera simply to crop the real world. All the settings are set, ISO, WB, focal length, and aperture. The shutter speed is the method of exposure control. Focus, recompose, capture - that’s the process. Photography for me is the privilege to document someone’s special day, the ability to share my knowledge with other Leica photographers, and freedom to document life around me by choice, or by chance.

Wayfinder Photo Bio Elmar Summicron Summilux Noctilux Lenses By Brett Leica Blog Photographer
Wayfinder Photo Bio M9P 50Mm Noctilux Lens By Brett Leica Photographer

Do you have a website and if so, what is the theme?

BRETT Leica Photographer: My work is split between weddings, workshops and worldwide commissions, my new website theme is - Wedding | Workshop | World. It’s due to go live next year.

Thank you, Brett!

An abridged version first published by - The Leica Camera Blog

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