Stefan Huber is a professional photographer with a passion for travel. When he’s not shooting for commercial clients with the Leica S, Stefan loves to explore the world and tell the stories of the people he meets. One such recent trip led Stefan to Brazil and the tropical coastline of Bahia. It was in the state capital of Salvador that he connected with members of the local music scene, through whom he discovered the Casa Preta. As a cultural center for music and art, the Casa Preta serves as a beacon of cultural light in one of the city’s darkest neighborhoods. With his convenient travel companion, the Leica CL close at hand, Stefan was ideally equipped to document the local music scene and this one-of-a-kind venue.
How did you first discover your passion for photography?
I first discovered my passion for photography, at least from a technical point of view, while I was training as a lithographer. As a specialist I gained a deeper understanding of images, as well as the technical side to printing. Through organizing innumerable photo-shoots I also got a great insight into the world of photography. After converting from analogue to a completely digital workflow for professional jobs I was also able to implement my experience and expertise as a photographer. In 2006 I began working as a freelance photographer and then, in 2013, I cut all ties to other fields of work and concentrated exclusively on professional photography. On an emotional level however I am more driven by the new and ever-recurring relationships between the subject and the photographer. There’s a special interaction while shooting. You get a glimpse into another person’s soul.
Who or what would you say are your biggest influences and inspirations?
On the one hand I’m inspired by my adventures on the road, unplanned occurrences and coincidental encounters. While on the other hand there’s the work of such cool photographers as David LaChapelle, Terry Richardson, Bruce Davidson etc. I’m also influenced by the desire that everything I do should force me out of my comfort zone.
When did you start shooting with Leica and what does Leica mean to you?
From the very beginning I knew I wanted to become a “Leica photographer”. I love the brand image, the history and all of the world-famous photos that have been shot with Leica cameras. The design and quality of the cameras is what appeals to me as well. It was only in 2016 however that I first worked together with Leica. We were working on an extravagant cookbook for the celebrity restaurateur Ugo Crocamo from Munich. Shooting with the Leica S Typ 007, I was able not only to show the food in the best light possible but also several of Ugo’s famous friends, such as football stars from FC Bayern Munich. I really got the bug and only wanted to work with Leica cameras from that point on. It’s always a great honor for me, whenever I get to hold a Leica in my hands.
How did you come to shoot at the Casa Preta? What role did Peter Bielig, founder of Raggaplay play?
I was chatting to a German barman in a favela bar in Itapua, Bahia and told him about a photo job I was doing at the famous Campo Bahia resort in Porto Seguro. The hotel belongs to Dr. Christian Hirmer and was built to accommodate the German national football team during the World Cup in Brazil. The barman recommended that I meet up with “Doc B” aka Peter Bielig, who works as a music producer on video productions for the Hirmer family. While getting to know Peter I had the idea to shoot a portrait of Doc B, Raggaplay and several associated rappers with the Leica CL. The chilled-out courtyard of the Casa Preta seemed like the ideal location for a photo shoot. It’s the only place where such events happen during the day and I was very keen to use the available light.
Can you tell us a bit more about this cultural centre in historical heart of Salvador?
Casa Preta is a cultural space with 4 floors dating back to the 1930s. Over the years the walls of the house have turned black and the neighbors affectionately call it the “black house”. It’s now a multi-functional cultural centre with a focus on music, art and performance, attracting a diverse audience. The Casa Preta also provides office spaces for artist management and studios.
What were you hoping to capture with this series?
Pure joy – the essence of life itself.
You met a number of artists from the local music scene. Can you tell us more about their stories?
I met and photographed Donna Liu, who is the head of Casa Preta and organizes events, as well as singing herself. Then there were the founders of Raggaplay, Kaos MC and Doc B. Kaos MC is a rapper from Itinga and organizer of the biggest rap battle in Bahia. Doc B aka Peter Bielig is a music and video producer, who also works as the international manager of all the artists I photographed in this series. Duendy was another of the numerous rappers, singers, writers, activists and musicians I met. He is a member of Furia Consciente, which is one of the biggest and most influential rap groups in Bahia.
You shot these images with the Leica CL. How was it photographing with the compact camera in this kind of situation? How would you rate the Leica CL overall as a travel companion?
As a lightweight, compact and very easy-to-use camera the Leica CL is the perfect camera for traveling. On the way to Casa Preta we passed through some of the most shocking favelas in Salvador. The area around the “black house” is well-known as the “crack center” of the city and so I was really glad that I had such an inconspicuous and minimal set-up. The music and the unique vibe made the shoot itself really relaxed. It was all about the feeling and the authenticity of the place. With the help of the super fast and precise electronic viewfinder everything worked out well. Whether I was working manually or on automatic, I could shoot really casually and was able to enjoy the moment.
What else are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’m traveling in Chiang Mai together with a “healer” and the Leica Q-P. I’m really excited to see what comes out of this project.