The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts in partnership with Leica Camera present a new series of “Destination Stories”: Exceptional images which capture the unique treasures and hidden gems of a destination. Through the images of one of Leica’s carefully selected local photographers, guests of The Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Francisco are invited to uncover the city through the Leica lens and discover how The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts are more than just hotels, but intrinsic parts of the destination. Enjoy the perspectives of Cindy Loughridge, a dedicated Leica photographer.
What is your background as a photographer and your influences in the craft?
I’m self-taught, and community-taught. I shoot every day, and have for many, many years. In the early days of flickr, maybe 2006-2007, I did a 365 project where I posted a photo a day for a year. Through that project and general activity in the flickr community, I met photographers from all over the world, and locally we organized and did photowalks and print swaps where photography was the focal point, although in reality it was basically a social club. A really fun one. But we did begin to push each other photographically, and my photography grew a great deal from that.
I will forever love and be inspired by Saul Leiter and Uta Barth. Both use color and blur creatively, both have a knack for delightful and original compositions that still manage to surprise my eye today. I also like Lartigue’s beautiful portrayal of the life of leisure and privilege in France. Really, when I’m looking for inspiration, I prefer looking at photos from the early to mid twentieth century in America. For one, we all dressed better then. Maybe it’s colored by nostalgia, but even portraits of impoverished people, like Dorothea Lange’s, have such dignity. Plus the design of cars, homes, so many things just seemed more considered. Gary Winogrand, Vivian Maier, Richard Avedon, William Eggleston all come to mind as photographers I admire from that period.
How did you first become interested in Leica?
I think I saw some Noctilux photos on flickr, and I’ve wanted to shoot with one ever since. In fact, the Noct is at or near the top of my gear wish list – hopefully we can make that happen soon! I had some flickr contacts who shot with Leicas, so I got to try one or two during photo walks, and then I met my husband-to-be and the first time I met him he had his Leica CL with him, so I suppose it was all meant to be.
How did this project with Luxury Collection come to fruition and what were your goals?
I made a point of hitting the streets as often as possible over the course of several weeks. Usually I went alone, and travelled relatively light, with a single Leica body and at most two lenses. I tackled one or two neighborhoods with each outing, and made a point to walk not only the main thoroughfares, but to get off the beaten path a bit. San Francisco has beautiful alleyways and staircases, often narrow and historical ones, and a lot of quaint shops, and sometimes funky ones, tucked away on backstreets. While I sometimes had one or two places I really wanted to shoot, I really let the city, and the day, dictate most of what I shot. Whatever spoke to me, whatever really seemed to represent the neighborhood that day, I tried to capture.
San Francisco is a city well-known for its bustling streets, diversity, open-mindedness, and its beautiful surroundings, mostly associated with the Golden Gate Bridge. How was the process of choosing what to depict for this project?
San Francisco is only 7 square miles, so for a relatively big city, it’s quite walkable. Given that, each time I went out, and I probably went out 8-10 times, I decided to make my way to an area of the city and then just walk. I did choose neighborhoods I knew to some degree, but walking the city so much did help reacquaint me with places I don’t get to so much anymore, and I also discovered a bunch of great new places. In that sense, particularly, it was a wonderful project. And a conversation starter. Several people asked me what I was working on, or about the camera I was carrying, and in turn gave me a few tips of places to check out or that sort of thing.
What Leica equipment did you use to document this project and what do you think of its performance?
I used the Leica M (Typ 240) and a 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH, primarily. I also shot with the 35mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH FLE and the Summicron-C 40mm f/2. I sort of know what to expect from all of those lenses, since I shoot with them a lot. The 50mm is my go to, but it was useful to have the 35mm (or the 40mm if I was going really light) for interiors and other places where I needed to go a little wider. I found shooting with the setup quite quick and unobtrusive, it was not difficult at all to get the shots I wanted, and I could control all aspects of exposure and focus. Once you get used to focusing a Leica rangefinder, it becomes second nature and the M has a nice, bright view. And really the most beautiful thing about a Leica M system is the immediacy. There’s no delay. You shoot when you’re ready and there’s no fuss. Boom, it’s instant, no weird autofocus lag or anything like that. So you don’t miss shots if you’re ready. And I did try to get at least a few that had that fleeting something that depended on a quick release.
As seen in your previous work, you usually capture moments of everyday life, and with a strong focus on food and drink photography – is this something you are constantly pursuing and interested in?
I absolutely am and do often seek out a well-made espresso drink, or meal, or cocktail, although for this project I was very neighborhood and location-focused, and only some of that was interior. It was a nice mix of interior and exterior, this project. Certainly, though, when I’m inside, I’m in my element, and I love to shoot in well-lit restaurants, cafes and bars. So I did a little of that, as you’ll see.
What would you say is your favorite area of San Francisco and why?
That is a very difficult question to answer. Every time I went to a new neighborhood for this project, I remembered why I loved it, and often found new things to love about it. I would say, though, that I’m partial to the Outer Sunset and Ocean Beach, and I will always love walking Chinatown and North Beach, and also Mission street from 18th Street out to Bernal Heights – that’s a really cool stretch where there is a lot happening right now, food and drink wise.
Differing from your portraiture style photography, you show a more raw side of San Francisco, showing the diverse neighborhoods it has, along with its historic landmarks, was this also a way of trying to understand the city you live in from a different perspective?
Yeah I think that’s well put, I sort of challenged myself to see it on foot, as a tourist might, with a bit of insider knowledge that allowed me to pack in as many interesting spots as possible. I had an agenda, but I didn’t. I was allowing myself to see old neighborhoods from new angles, even streets I’d never walked. It was a great way understand the city. I was really just trying to recapture the love I had for these neighborhoods the first time I walked them. I highlighted some must-sees and should-sees, true, but there were a bunch that I didn’t know were must-sees … and then there they were.
For an outsider, how would you describe the city of San Francisco in a single sentence?
San Francisco still has a gold-rush mentality, maybe a little too much so, but is also a city of acceptance, adventure, and surprising beauty.
Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers and are there any other projects you’d like to mention?
I’m doing quite a bit of interior photography lately, working with a great local architect both on styling and shooting interiors. I have several personal projects ongoing, to do with coffee and cocktails, as well as some SF diptychs and triptychs I do for my own amusement.
Thank you Cindy!
The Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Francisco and Leica have partnered to offer guests a unique package featuring all the ingredients for a memorable stay, including access to a Leica Camera and a photography destination guide curated by Cindy. For more information, please visit this website.