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.

 

The most difficult thing for me is to take pictures from far away.

 

Yeah, in terms of a constant flux of photographs — being shot from every corner of your eye it seems.
I see there has been a lot of debate in America about street photography and things like that. It’s not that big of a deal in Europe but, I think it has to do with how you approach your subjects. If you spot someone standing with a lens, 30 meters away, and you can see he is photographing you, that is kind of strange. 

It feels creepy.
Yeah, it feels creepy. But if I walk up to you and say,"‘I think you look interesting, can I take a picture of you?" then it’s something completely different. 

There’s an approach. How does that approach change once you go inside someone’s house? Are these people you know? Are they people you spend the day with, before you ask them to take their picture?
It’s very different. I photograph some people in their homes and others I meet in the street or in the park. In Tokyo, I spent two years in the streets and parks. I had time to meet people and engage with them. When you're on a trip with time limitations, you use your connections to find people who you can visit and photograph in their homes.

All of us want to take pictures that are really intimate and gorgeous. How do you do it?
To me, it’s not the most difficult thing actually. The most difficult thing for me is to take pictures from far away. 

Because there’s not a connection.
Yeah.

I would love for you to break down one of your favorite images. One of my favorites is the man in the rain-soaked window. It looks as if he’s on a bus. You strip away a lot of softness in your photographs when you work with contrast on that level. There’s something very hard about it, because of the blacks and the way that the skin and strands of hair look. 
I don’t think I have a favorite.

Do you want to tell me the story behind one of the harder ones you took, that was maybe more of an involved process in landing the photograph?
I work a lot, so every day I spend in the street from early morning to late evening. I don’t know exactly when the image is there. There is a snapshot I took of a young woman’s leg walking up a stairway, and I don’t know where that picture will work until I start editing. It’s just a feeling I have, but working like this, in a very intimate situation, is always very difficult. They are inviting you inside; they are trusting you. To me, it’s a very volatile situation that I have to be careful in, but I can immediately feel both the subject's limit and my own limit, informing what I want to photograph or not photograph. I always listen to that.

At this point, had the couple you photographed forgotten about you? Had they stopped paying attention to you?
Maybe, maybe not. 

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