Customer Gallery | Hans Van Leeuwen's "Curacao" March 12 2014

We're excited to have Hans Van Leeuwen's as our next customer gallery artist. Hans is originally from the Netherlands, however, he currently lives in Curacao, an island in the southern Caribbean Sea a few miles from Miami. With his Monochrom and 35mm Summilux in hand, Hans documents island life in beautiful black and white images.

Q:   What was your first Leica?

 A:   My first Leica was an M6, about 15 years ago. 


Q:   How do you like using the Leica M Monochrom?

A:   It is a fantastic camera. Using black and white only - not even able to shoot color should I want to - keeps you focused on the end result in black and white. This creates a different look with more attention for compositions, patterns, structures etc.   


Q:   Some photographers are lifelong users of a particular focal length, such as the 28mm, 35mm, or 50mm. You photographed this project entirely with the 35mm Summilux-M, is that how you “see” the world as you photograph it?

A:   For street photography I hardly use other lenses than the 35mm. When travelling for work, I just take the 35mm along. The 35mm has the most natural angle. When photographing at events, I may use other lenses, like 24mm or 50mm depending on the circumstance and the desired result. 

Q:   How is it to live and photograph in Curacao, instead of being a tourist on vacation there? Do you get to know the locals better and become more a part of the place you are photographing?

 A:   Curacao is not an open air museum, like Cuba or India - it takes time to make good pictures. I do often return without any picture at all. You will need time as well to communicate with the people from Curacao.


Q:   How did you go about selecting subject matter to photograph and what draws you to a specific scene? What grabs your attention as you walk around?

A:   I am selecting random themes on Curacao for this project. Themes are important to create the interactions between the pictures. The themes are street life and the use of light in Otrabanda, the old part of Willemstad, listed as Unesco world heritage site. Leisure and weekend life at Boka Sint Michiel, a local beach and fisherman’s village. Finally, Base Ball in Curacao. Baseball is the national sport, each year a few Curacao youngsters earn lucrative contracts in the US. Other non-selected themes are Pasofino (horse) tournaments and the Curacao carnival. 

Q:   Do you find that the Leica M system allows you to travel light, without compromising on image quality?

A:   The M camera is light in size, but not in weight. It does allow you to communicate more easily with the people you would like photograph. It feels more polite to use an M camera than offending people with a large DSLR with huge lens and even larger hood. 


Q:   Is your approach to photography more technical or artistic?

A:   I would say more artistic, but nevertheless, in order to get the best result, it does require proper use of equipment, including processing in Lightroom and Silver Efex. The files of a Monochrom are extremely detailed, especially in the blacks, but just out of camera they look disappointingly grey. Using a Monochrom forces you to spend time on post processing. 


Q:   What inspires you most in photography?

A:   Photography is different every day.  Even when the subjects are not very original, each picture may be extra ordinary. But the condition for me is that the pictures are great on its own. A fantastic story is not enough for an inspiring series. Best series have both.  

Q:   Why did you prefer black and white for these images? Is that your usual preference or was it specific to the photographs in this series?

A:   Since using the m6, 95% was black and white.  At the time digital photography was introduced, the quality of black and white was not good enough.  Processing and printing is great now, so I am definitely back at black and white. 


Q:   What is your newest project? What are you working on right now?

A:   The Curacao project will continue for a couple of years. At the end it should result in a larger exposition somewhere. In the meantime, I have to combine photography with work and will make time to enjoy photography, for instance by a visit to Cuba later this year.  Not very originally, but it does provide photography fun.


Hans' images will be up in the Leica Store Miami starting next Monday, March 17th. Make sure to stop by and see this beautiful Monochrom work!



Upcoming later this year, other winners of the customer gallery submissions will include: Maria García, Dirk Raffel, Oliver Preuss and Scott Morvay. Thanks to everybody who submitted and congrats to the winners!


Maria García


Dirk Raffel


Oliver Preuss


Scott Morvay