Scott Morvay is originally from New Jersey and now lives in Florida. He graduated from Temple University where he studied broadcasting. After college, he started his own production company and has worked with TV networks, corporate clients and voice talent all around the world. He now works as an international fashion photographer and spends his free time racing Porsches on race tracks, boating, traveling and playing the guitar. Scott shares how his background as an artist has influenced his photography and his use of both the Leica M-System and Leica S-System.
Q: When did you first become interested in photography as a mode of expression, an art form?
A: About two years ago I began to take photography very seriously. I am an abstract artist and I also have a passion for playing and recording music. Photography is the perfect outlet for me to express my art. I really enjoy the synergy of the technical and creative aspects of photography.
Q: How do you think your background as an abstract artist has influenced your style and creative vision as a photographer? And what are some important things you learned from your mentors that you find especially useful in your present work?
A: Being an artist and having an appreciation for the arts in general has opened up my mind to approach shooting in a different way. I want to fit as much as I can into the frame and make complex compositions, while having a good exposure and focus. I do my best to merge my creative eye with the technical aspects in every photo I take. Years ago when I wanted to learn how to really shoot, I approached a professional photographer, Alex Anton, who had everything from print ads to billboards. I was fortunate enough that he took me on as a student. One of the main things I have learned from him is to approach things at a different angle and to look around your subject 360 degrees.
The first time I attended the Leica Akademie was for a Monochrom workshop. Not only did I learn a tremendous amount about the M-System, it was my first time shooting the Noctilux. Tom is an amazing instructor and it doesn’t matter if someone is a beginner or advanced, there is a lot you can learn. I have to give a hat tip to my friend Josh Lehrer who really got me started with the M9 as well.
Q: Your self-portrait is fascinating because it is an image of the photographer as seeker. The most striking aspect is the intense eyes, and the fact that the photographer is looking out at the world rather than through the camera, but with the camera at the ready. What were you trying to convey with this image, and how did you achieve that gorgeous out-of-focus background?
A: I knew I needed a self-portrait and I really wanted to do something different. I came up with the idea to use a mirror and tape it to a tripod. I wanted to create an image to show who I am as an artist and photographer. In person I’m not nearly as serious, but smiling just didn’t seem fitting to the photo. I used my M and Noctilux at a shallow depth of field and it took the background to the next level.
Q: What camera and equipment do you use?
A: I’m currently shooting with the Leica M and S2 cameras. Between these two cameras whatever the shooting situation is, I will be able to get great photographs. I also use various strobes and light modifiers, even when I shoot the M. I like to have that flexibility. I have to say I absolutely love shooting CS lenses on the S-System. The amount of control you have over your exposure is amazing.
Q: I assume that has something to do with their ability to provide flash sync at high shutter speeds. Is that correct, and can you give us any specific examples of how that fits in with your shooting methods?
A: Yes, exactly. When you have the ability to flash sync at higher shutter speeds you can still retain the Leica look when shooting flash outside. I love shooting on location and prior to using CS lenses my choice was to either blow out the background or shoot at f/11. With CS you can turn day into night if you want, shallow depth of field, makes things a lot more interesting. I have to mention just how cool the central shutter sound is; it adds to the experience.
Q: How would you describe your photography?
A: I like to combine interesting locations that are appropriate to my subject. I put as many elements as possible into my photographs to create images people want to view for longer than just a glance. I use the Noctilux and CS lenses to my advantage to help add another dimension to the images.
Q: What is it about the rendition of these lenses that gives you this enhanced sense of dimensionality and which particular CS lenses do you favor? Also, do you feel, that Leica lenses have an identifiable quality of image capture?
A: I use the Leica 50 mm f/0.95 Noctilux Lens on my M. The way the Noctilux renders is absolutely breathtaking. How it transitions the in focus to out of focus area and handles color is magical. I’m going to go out on a limb here and even confess the magic is still there even when stopped down a little. I have a few S lenses (35, 70, 120) but only one CS which is my 70.
Leica lenses do indeed have a signature look to them. There is no mistaking it. The quality of the bokeh that Leica lenses produce is like a very smooth wine or a gearbox that shifts with precision. It’s more than just aesthetically pleasing; it’s coveted by all photographers. In the Leica Akademie you are taught that the Leica look can easily been seen in apertures f/4 and larger. That’s the first part of the look; the second part of it is minimum distortion and sharpness.
Q: What are some of the elements that go into your decision on whether to use your Leica M or your Leica S2 for a specific shot or assignment, and what characteristics of these cameras, aside from their excellent imaging performance and lens quality, do you find especially conducive to your work?
A: This is an interesting question and I’m glad you asked! Whenever I go on a photo shoot and I’m working with a model I have my M on my side and my S2 around my neck. On fashion/portraiture shoots the S2 will be the main camera during the day and the M at night. The 120 mm lens for the S2 is stunning on portraits and so is the Noctilux. Photo shoots for me are like making music, if the tempo is good and everyone is feeling it, I just go for it and shoot it all.
Q: There is something surreal and even grotesque about this image shot with the S2 of a model who looks almost childlike except for her heavily made-up eyes and distinctive high-heeled shoes. Even her pose is contorted, and the industrial playground setting gives it a kind of creepy quality. Was this intentional, and what were you thinking when you pressed the shutter release?
A: This was my first time meeting the model Liz Escobar. It all started with a basic concept and just evolved. The location was a construction yard we got permission to shoot in. I suggested she go inside there and look like a broken doll and she brought it to life. The light was gorgeous that day. I have a few portfolio-worthy images from this shoot and it was definitely a special day.
Q: Masterful lighting and composition is what takes this image to another level. Where did you shoot this? Also, do you generally direct your models and if so, do you give them very specific instructions or just ask them to create a mood or concept and go with their flow?
A: This photograph was completely unplanned! We were driving to a location in Coral Gables and I asked the model AJ Knapp what she thought of the bridge. Next thing I knew she was hanging from it and I was shooting it. She’s the kind of adventurous model I love to work with. My assistant at the time lit her with a continuous LED ring light.
Q: Your impressive picture of the Louvre is monochromatic, almost resembling an infrared black-and-white image. What inspired you to shoot this image and how did you create this crystalline effect? Also, the image quality is exquisite; can you tell us which camera, lens, aperture, and ISO you used?
A: This is a very special photo to me. I was staying at the Hotel Du Louvre right there and just went out at about 1 a.m. so there would be no people around. I shot it with the Leica Monochrom and 35 mm f/2 Summicron ASPH. It was a 12 second exposure, at ISO 320, and f11 or f16. The image has very little post done to it. Right after I took the shot I was kicked out.
Q: This is certainly an arresting image. The whip, red mask, and eyes of the model are quite sharp, but the russet background is beautifully soft. Evidently you shot this with the Leica M and 50 mm Noctilux set at a wide aperture. Can you tell us more about how you shot it and what your intentions were in creating it?
A: I brought a few unique masks back from Venice and this was one of them. I was shooting in a studio and wanted an interesting background. I really do not like shooting in the studio and have a hard time getting into it. Nothing was working until I shifted gears, put down the S, put on the modeling light, and started shooting my M. The model Nika started to get much more into it and that was when the timing was right to hand her a whip.
Q: This is a really beautiful image that has a very painterly quality and gorgeous lighting, and gives you a vertiginous feeling because the model is apparently precariously posed on what looks like a window ledge on a tall building. What’s actually going on here, and how did you achieve lighting that is such a felicitous combination of directionality and softness?
A: I shot the photo in a park in Miami. The window is much lower than it appears. The model, Naomi Grace, was a Cirque performer so hanging out on ledges is no big deal to her. I know countless photographers have shot in this park and I wanted to create images that were different. I’m very proud of this one. The lighting effect was achieved with a single reflector. Shortly after I took this shot, I got a ticket for shooting without a permit in a park!
Q: Do you have any projects in the works for 2014, and what do you plan to do with the images in this portfolio? For example, are you currently shooting for fashion or other commercial clients, and do you plan to exhibit these images in galleries or publish them as a book?
A: I have some planned travels this summer and can’t wait to get to create images. As far as fashion goes, I’m shooting for a few agencies now but prefer doing my own work and building my book. Once it’s ready I will work on getting some more tear sheets and going after the big fish. I’m also building my landscape book and will get those works being sold in galleries.
I was just on two billboards off of Interstate 95 for an advertisement shot I took; that was really cool. I have no plans to publish a book as of right now but you never know! I am considering teaching the occasional workshop here and there as well.
Thank you for your time, Scott!
– Leica Internet Team
Connect with Scott on his blog and website.