Interview: Jacob Aue Sobol Talks The Leica M-Monochrom And The Art Of Photography

Interview: Jacob Aue Sobol Talks The Leica M-Monochrom And The Art Of PhotographyPhoto of Jacob Aue Sobol by Jonathan Lees.

 

 

It is what I communicate with people that makes me feel alive.

 

So when it came to the process, did it take you a lot time to get used to the digital format in order to replicate your film work? How much experimentation happened before you figured out exactly what you wanted to do?
It was a long process. When I was at school, each week we had a new guest teacher, and I would try different things. It was really when I went to do my first project in Greenland — that’s when I started developing my own style. When I was there, I fell in love with a local woman and ended up living there for two and a half years. I wasn't first and foremost a photographer, but being I was her boyfriend and lived with her family, training as a hunter and fisherman. For half a year, I didn’t take any pictures, but when I picked up the camera again, it was on a morning when my girlfriend was dancing around and lifting up her dress. I took my first picture in half a year, because all of a sudden, there was a different reason for taking a picture. It was no longer to make dramatic images or to prove anything, it was because I wanted to photograph her, as I was in love with her. It was an emotion or a moment that I wanted to remember and keep with me. I started using the small pocket cameras instead, which was before I had the large Canon equipment. I started using them more as a diary.  

I’m interested in the fact that you said romance brought out the photograph again. That’s very romantic, and you definitely have relationships with your subjects in each picture. You were also a hunter and fisherman, as you said. There is sort of a hunt when you photograph, so when do you switch between "the hunt" and embracing your subject?
[Laughs] That’s a good one — embracing my subject and the hunt. I think I work in those two different ways. One is when I photograph in the street; it’s maybe more the hunger. Sometimes in Greenland, you can sit for eight hours in a boat and wait for a seal to show up, and you have to be ready. When I walk the streets, I’m very intuitive, and I’m just trying to experience things with the camera. I try to block out my mind, to be emotional, and to be open by any influence.

What do you gravitate towards when you’re on the street? What are you looking for?
I use my senses a lot. It can be anything from a smell to a color. It sounds strange to say color, because I shoot black and white. For a person, I have to be attracted to that person somehow to find them interesting. I never photograph anything or anyone that I find unappealing, because it’s not interesting to look at. If I was supposed to photograph someone I didn’t like, it wouldn’t work for me.

You’re just immediately disinterested in the energy?
I think so. When I walk the streets sometimes, it takes two hours to get from one end to the other, because I can be attracted to a shadow or a just someone passing by. Like if I meet some boys playing basketball, I tend to want to play first and then take pictures afterward.

You don’t shoot first and ask later? 
It depends. Sometimes I do, it depends how I feel. Sometimes I take pictures all the time, sometimes I need to communicate — that’s the most important thing to me. It is what I communicate with people that makes me feel alive. 

How do you feel about modern photography? We’ve never seen such a boom like this, with companies such as Leica and other manufacturers like Instagram. People take pictures with their phones all the time. There’s almost this wall broken down since everyone expects to be photographed. At the same time, a lot of people are getting more paranoid about being photographed, too. Do you experience that on your travels?
Not really. I think that's an American issue. I’m not sure.

Tags: interviews, photography, jacob-aue-sobol, leica, monochrom, cameras
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