Thomas Leuthard is one of the best street photographers of our times and certainly the one to be inspired and learn from. His ability to capture fleeting moments and emotions on street is very impressive. His piercing gaze is master at looking for peculiarities and unusual elements waiting for a click and he pays a great attention to details, patterns, and symmetry in his shots. Thomas is very keen on expanding the framework of his photography and travels to other countries as well. He also undertakes workshops and creates free photography eBooks that you can download from his website. Rich with professional experience, his eBooks discuss theoretical and practical wisdom essential to understand various aspects of street photography. Thomas generously agreed to answer some questions about his methods and views on photography in the interview below:
My name is Thomas Leuthard. I’m a street photographer from Switzerland and I travel the world to witness and document life on the street. I work 60% in IT for the local government in order to fund my passion. I don’t have a creative background and discovered photography pretty late in my life. I like to watch documentaries and general movies at home and in the cinema.
I started photography in early 2008 when I bought the cheapest DSLR on the market at that time, a Nikon D40. I’m not a full time photographer and I never wanted to be. I like to have 60% job which gives me a lot of time for everything which is important in life. I cannot give a weekly rate as I shoot mainly when I’m traveling which is about once a month. The goal is to upload one photo a day, so I create about 500 photos a year which makes roughly 10 usable photos a week.
In the first year of photography I realized that posed stuff in the studio is not my genre. I have tried different things like architecture, close-up and portraits. I got bored or it was too much effort to get a good keepers rate. I was always interested in people, so I decided to go out to the street to shoot people in their natural environment without asking. Street photography is very versatile and therefore it has a wide range of disciplines. It’s easy to perform and free, that’s why a lot of people do it.
I didn’t choose the MFT camera because of the crop factor. The choice was mainly because of the body size, the auto-focus speed, the tilt-able display and the price. I strongly believe that in 5 years, more than 75% passionate photographers will be using mirrorless cameras.
I don’t like post processing and I believe that if you cannot post process a photo in 1 minute, you should delete it. If you cannot make it right in the camera, you cannot restore it on the PC. I use Lightroom to post process my photos.
My method is normally just walking through the street with my camera. I don’t have a plan and just follow my instinct. Sometimes I search for “<city name> Street Photography” on Google before my trip to see what people have already done and where the good spots are.
I like cities like Lisbon, Istanbul, Amsterdam, Berlin and so on. There are no good or bad cities, but there are certain cultures where people don’t like being photographed. When I was in Marrakesh, people were very reluctant towards my camera.
Most of the photos have a story to tell, sometimes it is just the story how it was created. One of my favourites is the one (see below) where a guy inside a window shows me the middle finger just in the moment when I pressed the release. The reflection of my body together with his eyes and hand makes it an exceptional shot. This reaction was not expected, but I’m happy that I was able to capture it.
Well, it’s difficult to say. For me the success of my first eBook “Going Candid” was probably the biggest achievement. Everything else was dependent on this successful eBook.
In my workshops I teach all my knowledge I have gathered during the last 5 years shooting in the streets of the big cities of this world.
The future of street photography depends on the amount of people doing it, the quality of the output and of course the law. There are too many people shooting in the street and the overall quality of the output is very bad. There is 99% of mediocre work out there and this makes it difficult to find the good ones. It might get difficult in certain countries when the law is changing. Currently it’s not that bad yet, but it might change soon. I see myself as one of many popular street photographers the Internet brought up during the last years. I was lucky and did some things right, especially in the area of marketing and social media.
Motivation is the biggest challenge after 5 years of intensive street photography. I try to do other things in photography (e.g. Instagram), meet with photographers to talk about new ideas and projects and I also think about quitting photography from time to time.
It’s nice to be an inspiration to a lot of people. But be sure that you practice a lot, that you take your camera with you all the time and that you are very selective with the work you publish. You cannot learn street photography by reading books or watching videos. You can only learn it by doing it. With every photo you take, you learn about camera technique and composition.