“It is a Privilege of this Profession That You Are Allowed to Immerse Yourself in Different Worlds.” – Leonhard Simon.

“It is a Privilege of this Profession That You Are Allowed to Immerse Yourself in Different Worlds.” – Leonhard Simon.

Driven by the notion of identity and connection, new IMAGO partner, Leonhard Simon’s photographs create impact, empower personalities and capture enigmatic environments.

New to IMAGO and German based photographer Leonhard Simon talks to us about how his photography is a tool to always take on new perspectives, powerfully connect to people and the impact this has had on him personally and creatively. Engaging in different worlds, communities and causes, he explains why his photographs always contain a raw human aspect and how despite how many people he photographs, it is never twice the same.

 

Read his full interview with IMAGO here:

IMAGO / Leonhard Simon
Photo: IMAGO / Leonhard Simon

What was your first experience with photography?

As my dad is a professional press photographer, I often accompanied him to his appointments when I was a little kid. So probably my first memories are of smoky, dark pubs of the local sports clubs. And definitely – because I found those trips very exciting – taking photos of the annual floods in the region too. There was always a lot of excitement and we were allowed to enter closed -off areas with rubber boots or even get on boats and float between houses to get the best angle.

What do you think the role of photography is the current global environment?

Images are inspiring, touching and stimulating to think about. Despite so many people able to take photos today, the hunger and need for them is unlimited. Pictures are unambiguous and yet they are a multi-layered medium like no other. Pictures are like soccer: It doesn’t take much, it goes everywhere and everyone understands it.

So for me, photography is a medium that makes it possible, despite everything, to always take on new perspectives and always has the power to connect people.

IMAGO / Leonhard Simon
Photo: IMAGO / Leonhard Simon

Are you driven by the notion of identity and connecting with the subjects that feature in your photos?

Definitely, I believe that without connection to the subjects it is not possible to photograph well.

 

How do you select the narratives documented in your work or do they choose you?

It depends on the situation how the narrative will develop. Sometimes it is necessary to break away from the predefined story line and adapt to the situation. But that’s the exciting thing about photography, you always have to keep your eyes open and analyze your surroundings.

IMAGO / Leonhard Simon
Photo: IMAGO / Leonhard Simon
IMAGO / Leonhard Simon
Photo: IMAGO / Leonhard Simon

You have previously said that you specialise in portrait photography. What drew you to this medium and style?

It’s amazing, there are several billion people and they are all unique – and there are hundreds of ways to tell the stories of each one. It just never gets boring to portray people.

How do you formulate your ideas and get inspired?

To be completely honest, I find it very difficult to inspire myself. But I read a lot, try to observe my surroundings carefully and make contacts. And then I follow the path that interests me the most. And I look a lot at what other photographers are doing and think about what I like or what I would do differently.

IMAGO / Leonhard Simon
Photo: IMAGO / Leonhard Simon
IMAGO / Leonhard Simon
Photo: IMAGO / Leonhard Simon

Your “Stories” series contain some of my personal favorite images. Can you tell us a little about why you decided to create these bodies of work?

Thank you. Well, for me personally, these works mean a lot. Especially my series from the refugee camp in Idomeni means a lot to me, because it influenced me in many ways. On the one hand, there is of course the human aspect, the personal encounters I had when I set up my tent there and lived with the people. But also the personal experience that sometimes you just have to do the one thing. It will be good when I do it. 

What do you enjoy most about meeting the people you photograph? Have they taught you anything along the way?

I really enjoy meeting so many different people. It is a privilege of this profession that you are allowed to immerse yourself in different worlds. Something that I was able to take away from these encounters is that we people are very similar in many ways: with similar worries, desires and joys. To me, that often seems to get lost.

IMAGO / Leonhard Simon
Photo: IMAGO / Leonhard Simon

The demonstrations and their protesters collections are striking. What do you look for and what’s your creative process onsite? 

When people take to the streets, join forces and publicly display their beliefs an indescribable power emerges. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for one’s opinion so uncompromisingly. This force almost always generates a counterforce – usually in the form of security bodies and I’m interested in the interplay between these two opposites. How both sides interact – just like on stage of a dramatic play –  and condition each other.

IMAGO / Leonhard Simon
Photo: IMAGO / Leonhard Simon

What do you want for your photography in the future?

I’m definitely at the very beginning, I’m not fooling myself.  There are many things, both technically and creatively, that I can, want and need to improve. I try to work on that every day. I also want to work more on long-term projects and would like to extend my work to other countries as well. My dream would be to follow the most important events of the world with my camera – be it political events or stories of interesting people around the globe.

To see all the latest images and updates from Leonhard Simon, visit our IMAGO site.

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