Musician, actor, producer, designer – and photographer. Kravitz has been taking photographs for many years and has now put together a selection that will be presented for the first time in an exhibition at the Leica Gallery Wetzlar: Drifter will be on display as of 24 May 2019. And he is also introducing his latest design object –the “Drifter” set, a special edition based on the Leica M Monochrom with synthetic leather covering in imitation python.
We spoke about his father’s camera, the love for black and white and his life in transit.
Are you an intuitive photographer or do you have a specific idea before taking a picture? More feeling or more calculation?
My photography relies on intuition. It’s a gut instinct. When you’re looking through the viewfinder at what’s happening in the world, you see everything differently. You can’t necessarily calculate or prepare for the outcome. It’s necessary to adopt a new perspective through this prism in the moment. In that space of the camera’s eye, all you have is feeling. So, I’ll snap the photo when it feels right.
Black and white removes the reality context from a picture, makes it unbound, more timeless. What is it about black and white photography that appeals to you?
I believe reality thrives in black and white photography. I actually think it’s more realistic. My sight improves in black and white. The pretense is stripped away. You’re seeing shape and form without the distraction of color and the chromatic choices we make to impress others around us. To me, it’s raw beauty. I’ve always preferred black and white photography. I’ll forever be a black and white enthusiast.
Your most recent exhibition is titled Drifter. Why? Can you explain the idea behind it?
It’s who I am. Since the age of fifteen, I’ve spent the majority of my life in transit. I’m always in motion. I’m rarely in one place for too long. I spend much more time on the road than I do at home. Traveling is what I do. Being a drifter informs everything. It’s a big part of my photography as I’m taking pictures everywhere I go. It tells my story without words. I can’t wait for people to see it.
Does the desire, the tendency to take photographs have something to do with the fact that you’re always on the move, seeing new countries, places and people? Is photography like an assurance that something “was” or happened? Many photographers say that the fact that photography has the ability to document history, is the most important factor. Or do you think it’s more important to eternalize an atmosphere, the feeling in any given moment?
Being on the move is definitely a part of it. There are many factors though. The initial desire came from checking out my dad’s Leica when I was a kid after he got back from shooting the Vietnam War. I ended up in front of the camera for my career in my twenties, and eventually found my way behind it in 2012 when I decided to take up photography. It is an assurance to a degree, because it reminds me that something significant happened right in front of me. I enjoy this aspect of photography. I’m able to bottle a piece of time in a photo. It lives on afterwards. As a picture, it grows. People can share in this sliver of time in a book or an exhibit. So, it never dies. I love that.
Intimate portraits or people on the street, hotel rooms or idiosyncratic moments on the street – what do you prefer to photograph?
Intimate portraits are powerful, because you get the chance to write the narrative with your camera. You’re working with lighting, setting, shadows, and the environment becomes your palette. I enjoy all of these styles, but I love getting the chance to really focus in and shoot portraiture. You can really find truth in those moments when we’re just living, working, or doing what we do. I think street photos offer a palpable degree of honesty.
Can you remember your first photograph, or the first picture that moved, touched and influenced you long-term?
I’ll never forget it. My mom had an amazing black and white photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering a speech in Washington, D.C. It said so much. I can point to this photo as an early inspiration. Plus, my dad was shooting the Vietnam War. He would bring home all of his pictures. It was always in the background.
You’re always on the move, you’ve experienced a lot and have seen a lot of the world – where do you feel best and why?
It changes with the seasons of my life. I really love The Bahamas, of course. It will always be home. I feel my mom’s presence there. I’m always in Paris though. I’ve had a place there for a long time. Of course, I love New York. I grew up between New York and L.A. My daughter Zoë lives in New York now, so I try to go back as much as I can.
Do you have a place of longing you would like to visit with your camera?
I love shooting anywhere I go. Every place you visit is never the same twice. So, I’m always excited to take pictures, whether it’s a new destination or a locale I’ve visited many times.
Lenny Kravitz was born in Brooklyn, New York City, in 1964. The multi-instrumentalist wanted to be a musician since he was a child. Nowadays, his creativity reaches well beyond music. Thanks to his father, he has also been connected to photography since childhood. Kravitz’s father worked as a photojournalist for NBC News, reporting from the Vietnam War. Kravitz started playing around with his father’s camera when he was still a child. In 2015 he then developed his first camera for Leica – the “Correspondent” – in honour of his father. The same year also saw the appearance of his first photo book, Flash. With Drifter, he is presenting his second large exhibition – starting out at the Leica Gallery in Wetzlar, and then going on tour to other locations around the world.