Philipp Weinmann was one of the first photographers given the chance to try out the Leica Q2 Monochrom on the streets of Zurich. The results speak for themselves: the passionate advocate of black and white photography captured the poetry of everyday life, in razor-sharp, detail-rich images.
How did you get into photography?
I became enthusiastic about photography early on. Not consciously, but subconsciously. So, I remember certain moments of my childhood/youth when I had a camera in my hand and was giving thought to how best to photograph what I was seeing. At the time, I already had the feeling that there was a lot that I didn’t want to have in a picture; in other words, I had a clear idea of what I want to show, and what I don’t want to show.
However, I never had my own camera, nor did I ever go out to specifically take photographs. I got my first digital camera in my twenties, for a trip to Hawaii. I had fun taking pictures, and took a lot of souvenir shots; I also remember, however, that there were certain motifs and scenarios where I somehow forgot everything that was around me. A few years later I purchased a camera system with interchangeable lenses, and I wanted to photograph landscapes. It was fun, but after a certain time I no longer found it interesting.
How did you eventually discover your own style, as well as the world of Leica?
About three years ago I injured my ankle while doing sports, so that there wasn’t much I could do for a while. Quite intuitively, I got a camera and began to take an interest in street photography. At the same time, I decided to set the camera on black and white. That hasn’t changed to this day.
I was delighted by black and white street photography, I bought another camera and tried out a number of lenses. The hope that this meant that I would be able to produce better pictures more quickly, wasn’t fulfilled. On the contrary, in fact. I felt overwhelmed and restricted by all the possibilities. Then, about two and a half years ago I discovered the Leica Q. Up until then I’d only ever heard of the name Leica. So I began to take an interest in the company and the story behind it, and I was quite simply delighted. So I decided to sell all my photography equipment and get myself a Leica Q.
How was it to take pictures with the new Q2 Monochrom? Were there tangible difference to the other Qs?
It was a great pleasure! My experience of the Q2 Monochrom is that it was even simpler and more reduced. It starts with the design. At a first glance there’s nothing that indicates the manufacturer; the matt casing is very unassuming (while also being lovely to hold). On the other hand, there’s the sensor, of course, which only sees monochrome. I found this reduction very enriching. I know that sounds like a paradox, but when you enjoy photographing in black and white as much as I do, working with it simply feels so free and unencumbered. While with the Q/Q2 I always had the colours in the back of my mind (at the latest when I opened up the RAW files), those thoughts were soon blown away and I could focus 100% on black and white photography.
What kind of situations lead you to pressing the shutter button?
I enjoy being able to photograph freely and whenever I’m in the mood. There’s a certain sense of freedom when I’m out and about with the camera. When I’m taking pictures I don’t think about it much; I simply press the shutter button as a result of carefully observing my surroundings. I think a lot happens at the subconscious level, because I find that afterwards I often ask myself why it happened that way. Many of the pictures came about because I found myself somewhere, and some kind of voice told me to keep going, and then suddenly a scene appeared that delighted me, so I instinctively took the shot. If I had come but a moment later, I would have missed the moment. This continuously fascinates me.
What was the post-processing like? How did you find the DNG files as far as contrast, dynamic range, noise, and so on, are concerned?
DNG files have the property that at first they are relatively poor in contrast, and they don’t seem very lively. However, they offer a lot of scope when it comes to post-processing. In this regard I didn’t have the feeling of any kind of limitations; rather I was able to give my pictures the necessary “polish” according to my taste. The fact that the DNG files are only available in black and white was a blessing, because, in my case, this meant that the processing went significantly quicker. Compared to colour DNG files, I can no longer “play around” with the colour controls to influence the colours: I have to consciously do all that before taking the picture. I also see this as a great opportunity if you want to develop further in monochrome photography.
I was also impressed by the camera’s noise behaviour. After all, we’re talking about a 47 megapixel sensor, that still manages to deliver very beautiful and detailed pictures at up to ISO 6400/12500. The higher ISO levels can still be used, and in my mind the richness of detail despite the strong noise is impressive.
Is there something specific that you want the viewer to feel when looking at your pictures?
First of all, I focus on what it triggers in me, and I’m happy if a picture also triggers emotions in others. It’s important for me to allow room for all feelings and emotions – that’s exactly what I want to convey through the pictures. I find it fascinating that a picture can trigger something completely different in me compared to another person. As a result, I have the chance to experience another perspective, and to feel what another person perceives at that moment. I really do like putting feelings and perceptions at the forefront.
How would you evaluate the pictures taken with the Q Mono in general? How did you feel about it?
It was always a pleasure to photograph with the Q2 Monochrom. It simply felt “free and pure”. Personally, I feel more when I look at black and white photographs, so the camera was able to complement me wonderfully when I was taking pictures. That’s also how I see the camera; as a tool that gives me the freedom to capture certain moments, through the reduced and powerful form of black and white photography. No colours to distract you, just the brightness gradations, that I find incredibly calming as both a viewer and a photographer. We live in a colourful world, which I’m happy about every day; but I also think that’s why I find black and white photography so fascinating. It stands in contrast to what we see every day. So, each time you take a photograph, you find a visual change of perspective and you see your surroundings in a very different light. In a black and white world, I would hope that Leica would bring a colour camera onto the market.
Were you satisfied with the results? Is there something you missed; something you’d still like to see?
I didn’t miss anything; but I realised once again that faster, higher, further, doesn’t necessarily lead to more pleasure, happiness and satisfaction (this applies to photography as much as life). To be able to simply pause and become aware of the moment as it is, is a beautiful and poignant feeling. As far as I’m concerned, colour is no longer an option!
Philipp Weinmann is 31 years old and was born in Germany. When he was around ten, his family moved to Lichtenstein, where he graduated from high-school. After that he moved to Zurich to train as a primary teacher. Working with people is always at the heart of his professional work. When not actually taking photographs, a large part of his free time is filled with all kinds of sports activities, social interactions and books. Find out more about his photography on his website and Instagram channel.