Caroline Wagner started taking pictures as a child and then turned her hobby into a professional career, studying at the Ostkreuz School of Photography in Berlin. She works as a freelance photographer and cites portraiture as her preference. In addition, she works at the Museum of Photography in Berlin and teaches photography. She spent last summer with the Leica X Vario taking portraits for her project, “Among People”.
Q: “Among People” has a rather broad theme. How did you come up with it?
A: For about three months I took the camera with me nearly every day and just photographed people. I got into all kinds of situations. Some of the moments were very private and the intimacy in the pictures was intentional. Many shots were taken on the Baltic Sea coast, often of people I’d just met for the first time. Others were taken at festivals — in other words, wherever I happened to be that summer.
Q: Did you always plan to make it a black-and-white project?
A: No, not at all. I started out taking all the pictures in colour, then simply converted some into black-and-white, and realized that I actually preferred them like that. I don’t really need the colour information, because I like the graphic effect of black-and-white. It’s kind of abstract and simplified, which I like a lot. I’m also a great fan of analogue photography and do a lot of work in the laboratory. It’s simply what I do: I like to finish my own projects in the lab, because I am fascinated with doing everything myself – which may well be why I studied photography in the first place.
Q: Is digital not your usual medium?
A: Nowadays, when it comes to commissioned work there’s no other way but digital. It’s very rare that a client wants me to take a portrait using analogue film; but, I often work with film in medium format, which adds a certain amount of time to the process, but that’s the nice thing about it. You have a different approach to the materials, and you also give more thought to what you’re photographing, rather than simply firing away.
Q: So did you take more pictures with the X Vario than you would have normally done?
A: It’s practically an automatic reaction, though even with digital I try to only photograph the essential. Even so, it is a different way of working.
Q: If you normally work with medium format cameras, what did you think of the very small and inconspicuous X Vario?
A: If I use my rather clunky small format digital SLR camera I often get labelled as a professional photographer, and consequently people become more reserved. So, with the Leica it was very pleasant; for example, at the Baltic Sea I took pictures of people watching football — a situation where people are often very sensitive. I must say that everyone was very friendly, even the parents of kids, who often don’t like it so much. But, to be fair, I rarely have problems with my medium format camera either.
Q: One thing that stands out is that the children in your pictures appear somewhat thoughtful — you seem to take them more seriously.
A: I put myself at the same level as the children. Children are often photographed from other perspectives — from below or mostly from above, because it’s easier. I try to move to their level and to look straight at them.
Q: In addition to converting the pictures to black-and-white, did you try to give them an analogue look?
A: No, not at all. I really didn’t do much to the pictures and I’m not really a big friend of heavy post-production. I find that things become too homogeneous and I don’t like that. I want to be such a good photographer that I create the pictures with the camera when I take them — not afterwards. Even when I work in the photo lab, I don’t influence the pictures much, as I’m basically a purist … or maybe I’m just a little old-fashioned.
Thank you for your time, Caroline!
– Leica Internet Team
Click here to read Caroline’s interview in German.