Louis Foubare was born in Tennessee during WWII. His first memories of using a camera come from his grandmother’s old Kodak rangefinder camera. During college, he broke his leg while training for the national skiing team and had to pursue other avenues so photography fit right into his life then. Louis worked in International Finance for over 35 years across the world. He raced German sports cars for many years and that passion was suddenly snuffed out once his eye sight failed. Photography, once again, fit right into his life at the right time again. He currently is working on a fictional novel about the trials and tribulations families endured on both sides of the Atlantic during and after WWII. Below is his heartfelt journey of photography giving him a new lease on life after some serious medical issues and his experiences with the Leica Akademie.
Q: What camera equipment do you use?
A: I mainly use Leica M cameras and the Monochrom. I own other systems, but the M-System is my favorite.
Q: What qualities or characteristics do you find make it suitable for your work? Any specific technical qualities?
A: Since I have recently taken to street photography, any M is a natural for that genre in my opinion. The size and weight of the M suits my needs for landscape as well as street and portraiture. I find Leica M lenses and also R lenses offer wonderful rendering and contrast that make me keep coming back for more.
Q: How would you describe your photography?
A: First and foremost, fun-filled and then persistent. I started out shooting landscapes and of late have gradually shifted into street and portraiture while still shooting landscapes. The Monochrom has brought me back to my photographic roots and that has been very rewarding.
Photography is frankly a one person sport, which means that you spend many long hours by yourself in the hopes of capturing something appealing. Earlier this year while alone on a trail at the North end of Arches National Park in Utah, I hiked over five hours often over six foot high boulders and through deep sand dunes in search of a remote natural arch I had heard about. I only saw two people during that hike and they were half my age. I asked them if they saw an arch today and they said, “Yes, over there on the far side of the next mountain”, which was on the other side of a deep valley with a dried up riverbed and many, many miles in the distance. Nevertheless, I found the arch with my 25 pound backpack plus tripod, but did not like the composition it offered. However, on the way back I found a different, hidden arch which was beautifully lit and offered some interesting shadows for composition. I strive to have strong composition in my photography with interesting and compelling lighting. That image made my day and so persistence paid off handsomely.
Q: When did you first become interested in photography?
A: Nearly 50 years ago while on a European summer study trip, another student on the trip told me she was the editor of our university newspaper. She said she had noticed how carefully I was trying to compose my Ektachrome images and offered me a position on the staff upon our return to the U.S. Little did she know that I was low on funds so that forced me to compose and budget my shots very carefully since I could not afford to buy rolls upon rolls of color slide film and develop them. While shooting at university, I shot only B&W Tri-X and had many interesting assignments including shooting hockey players destined for the NHL and John Glenn along with his capsule when he visited the campus, to name a few.
Q: Was there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you? Do you have any mentors?
A: Ansel Adams was a landscape photographer I admired very much and that is perhaps why when I started back into photography I shot landscapes. Today, I often take workshops that Alain Briot teaches mostly in the American Southwest. He started his photography shooting with a Leica in France and still owns Leica cameras today. Alain has shown me how to create better landscapes than I ever thought possible and also got me started using Photoshop and Lightroom. He continually challenges me to go to another level. He discusses a ten step pyramid, but when I started with him I told him I needed a twelve step pyramid since I was so bad. Since Alain graduated from L’Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, he approaches his photography from a painter’s perspective. I will never forget my first workshop with Alain and Natalie, his wife, who kindly escorted me over rocks and near ledges when my vision was all but gone so that I could capture images that at the time I thought could be my very last in image making.
Last year a fellow Leica shooter, who I met while on a Briot workshop, and I decided to go to NYC to take a street course by Peter Turnley. That course changed my life and opened my eyes up to new adventure. I shot for one week with only my Monochrome M and a 35 mm lens. I worked in NYC over 45 years ago and forgot how much electricity is pumping through those streets day and night. Peter’s inspiration put fuel in my tank and raised my octane level to new heights. After NY, I started to buy and read photo books that many famous Magnum photographers and others have published. This summer I took Peter’s course in Paris and found him to be even more engaged than ever since his career really took off years ago while he was living and working in Paris. We were also very lucky to see the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit at the Centre Pompidou. What a treat!
Q: What genre are your photos?
A: When I print my landscapes I strive to create fine art. It’s easier said than done. My street work and portraiture are more human interest stories to me.
Q: How did you first become interested in Leica?
A: After nearly losing my complete eyesight, in January 2011 I decided to get a digital camera and record images until blindness might set in. I purchased a Leica M9. So far so good after 50 months with one eye remaining normal and other eye a write off. I have had to move on.
At first I took a few images around the neighborhood with the M9, but yearned for travel so set out for Death Valley, CA in pursuit of different images. It was such a drastic change from Florida, I did not know where to point the camera next. I was getting up at 4 A.M. just to catch first light and beautiful sunrises. After that I would be starving and have a big Western cowboy style breakfast, and then head off again in search of more scenery for the next day. I would often end the day by staying up late for sunsets and then collapse in bed before another early wake up for the next sunrise. What a trip. Afterwards, I knew we had to go to more Southwest locations. And that we did. I have also been back to Death Valley three more times.
Q: What approach do you take with your photography?
A: I approach photography like life–enjoy every day and made every minute count. Nowadays when I am back at home from the recent trip and even before reviewing my latest images and shaking the sand out of my hiking boots, I am dreaming of capturing more of life and what it has to offer. This means I am planning another photo trip. So photography is my life today since it brought me back from the abyss and now I feel a real purpose in life and look forward to capturing each and every image. So far I have booked nearly all of 2015 with various trips and workshops. For 2016, I have a plan shaping up.
Q: Can you tell us about the award at FOTOfusion you won in January, 2014?
A: It was a real honor to receive the 2014 Jay Colton Student Portfolio Award. I submitted in 2013 and came up short. This year I compiled street photographs mainly from France and NYC to submit to the judges. They request 10 images and, if accepted for exhibition, they then select seven images for 13×19’ printing from each entrant. When I won I was totally exuberant about it since the judges were made up of over 50 professionals in the photo editing and photojournalism arena.
Then, to top it off, Leica had a single shot shoot-off with just one image to be submitted from one afternoon during FOTOfusion. I just happened upon this beautiful young woman relaxing before going to work and asked her if I could take her image for a contest. She agreed and I submitted her image and won a Leica C, which my wife immediately claimed. The images she has captured with that camera are just stunning. That was a week to remember.
Q: You’ve taken several Leica Akademie courses. How did you find out about the Leica Akademie and what interested you to try it out?
A: I knew my early M9 images needed some help. Leica had just opened up a Washington DC store and the manager, Eric Oberg, mentioned that Tom Smith of Leica Akademie was holding classes in DC. I always loved the nation’s capitol and since I went to graduate school in DC going to a workshop there held high interest for me. I signed up for Available Light and Street Photography courses back to back over three days. Tom showed me how and why to shoot in Manual Mode for more control and I have never looked back. What a difference a day course can make. I have also shown other Leica users this technique that have been using Leica digital cameras since the first M8 era on how and why to use Manual mode instead of A mode. They report that now their images have more sole to them. Maybe it’s just because they have now slowed down and smelled the roses.
Q: How has your photography progressed since taking the Leica Akademie workshops?
A: Those first Leica Akademie workshops have shaped my image making ever since attending. I see Tom every year at FOTOfusion and remind him every time I see him how important his one-on-one instruction was for me and that it was his instruction that got me moving forward with better image capture.
Q: For anyone who is interested in the Leica Akademie but hasn’t taken a course, what should they expect or look forward to during a workshop?
A: First and foremost, all participants are photo enthusiasts. So right away you feel an affinity with the group which gels very quickly. About 90% are current Leica owners who want to get more out of their shooting experiences and image capturing techniques. This means you can take your Leica shooting as far and as fast as you want to go. Tom is most generous with his time, even during meals and after workshops, and for me, he made the Leica Akademie experience one of the things I can point to that got me going in the right direction with my M9. As a bonus Leica often gives certificates for a small discount when purchasing Leica serial numbered items up to a year after the participating in an Akademie class. That can make the course nearly free for a participant who buys a Leica serial numbered item within the next year.
Q: How do you see your photography evolving in the next three years or so?
A: The good thing about life is that there are surprises are around every corner. I have had so many corners opened up to me in just four short years and have no idea what the next corner will bring. However, I do find myself continually trying different genre from time to time just to see if I am missing something. Just recently I found out about nodal points and how solving parallax can improve my landscape photography just to mention one small item. Since I do enjoy taking wide vistas and merging them together for extremely wide views, this new approach to wide landscape capture will greatly help and hopefully improve my landscape capturing techniques. That is a work in progress as is life.
As for street and portraiture, I could find myself concentrating in that area more and more since I am a people person. Also this genre lends itself well to B&W capture with my Monochrom. This camera created a surprise for me especially when out West while concentrating on sunrises and sunsets. Often the middle of the day is a write-off in terms of color photography. So I now head out with my Monochrom during the bright daytime hours and go to the same areas I shot at sunrise to look for luminance and often find some very compelling daytime images. My philosophy on this point is, since I have flown many hours round trip on a photo journey to get to a new venue, I want to maximize every hour of every day on a photo trip. I find I am able to capture more and different images during the day with a B&W eye in mind.
In the future, making photo books of my favorite images for family and friends will be at the forefront. The first book I did featured an artisan bread maker from the Bordeaux region of France. I got up at 3am to be with him while he made his bread from scratch and his wife later got up to sell the fresh bread to the line of waiting customers. Then, I sent him his own book for posterity purposes and as a thank you to him for letting me come into his life for a few short hours. My second book was rather long and expensive to make, but was a compilation of my favorite images from the first 3 years of shooting digital images. I have had a very steep learning curve when it comes to post processing, but at least Lightroom helps me keep my images well organized. I began printing my own images only a little over 18 months ago and of course that can be a challenge all by itself. My next book will be a B&W compilation of street and portraiture. I will also compile a book containing my favorite B&W landscape images. I have many images taken during one day when I was fortunate enough to be able to photograph three different vendange in very small French vineyards. I will eventually compile a short book of the best of those images.
Q: Do you have any upcoming projects, exhibitions, etc. that you’d like to share?
A: Very soon I will go on a small group workshop to seldom traveled areas in the Navajo Nation. I have been many times to shoot with the Navajo and have even slept under the stars with them on more than one occasion. This will be a 4×4 excursion into back country. Needless to say I will clean up my wide angle lenses for this journey and maybe sneak in an R lens or two.
In early 2015, after FOTOfusion, I have plans for a Cuba trip with Peter Turnley. Then, a trip to Iceland is planned where we will camp out far from tourists in back country in order to capture remote vistas. Another small group workshop is planned to seldom known reaches of the Grand Canyon including the North Rim which I have not yet shot. After that, off to Yellowstone, the Tetons and Glacier National Park where I hope to capture images when the leaves are turning color.
As far as portraiture goes, I just recently acquired a studio lighting setup and have a few individuals lined up with whom to do photo studies. This is a real departure from anything else I have undertaken, but I am always up for a good photo capture challenge. In fact, the M 240 has increased my desire to try this since with the SCA adapter attached to the MF grip it allows me to use the EVF with my one good eye all while syncing the strobes using a Pocket Wizard on the SCA hot shoe. So here goes another adventure.
I have had a few requests to do exhibitions, but so far have declined doing that until I get old. Isn’t it fun being young again!
Thank you for your time, Louis!
– Leica Internet Team