Miguel Ruiz Jimenez was born in Granada in 1980. He focuses exclusively on analog photography and processes all of his own work in the darkroom. Below, Alex Coghe interviews him about his process.
Q: Miguel, how did you begin your story with photography?
A: Everything was by chance. One morning in 2007, my brother was browsing the Leica website, checking the characteristics of the Leica M8. I had never seen such a beautiful camera. I began to learn the history of Leica and the great photographers who worked with their cameras. Soon after that I bought my first Leica.
Q: Are you a self-taught photographer or have you had any formal training?
A: I am self-taught, from the beginning. My first camera was a Leica D-Lux 4. This camera helped me a lot in simplifying my technique and focusing on the essentials. To learn, you must understand the pictures of the great masters of photography and many new young photographers — reading their photographs. Perhaps the best lesson is to walk — grab a pair of comfortable shoes and see with photographic vision.
Q: I think your street photography is very European, with marked traits from classic documentary photography. Do you agree?
A: Yes, I fully agree. I like classical photography and I took inspiration from my favourite photographers: Cartier-Bresson, Josef Koudelka, and many others. I look for a new vision, a humanistic photography, between the interest in composing and interest in the subject — simple but different. I try to organize my visual experiences, focusing on the image with an engaged look.
Q: I ask you this because there is also a style of street photography focused on visual jokes and complex compositions, but usually I prefer a style like yours, truly documenting the human condition, which is maybe less spectacular and looking for the wow. How much of your documentary approach comes into your street photography?
A: I like photography that places its value in the image itself, away from stereotypes or shocking images. I try to see with new eyes what surrounds me, those new experiences, my daily life, my travels, the new cultures. Photography is the medium for imaging; look for more than just memories. We can travel the world and photograph thousands of memories, but not get a good picture. The creative eye is essential.
Q: Reading your resume, we know there is a story of total love: you discovered a totally manual film Leica and since then you’ve been faithful to this camera, processing your own photos. How important is having total control in your creative process?
A: My history with Leica is total love. I bought a Leica MP and had to learn to process and make my own silverprints. I control everything from the shutter to enlarging the copy, essentially in B&W. It is very important to go slowly and enjoy the process. The quality of a 35 mm negative exposed with a Leica simplifies the work — small negatives for large prints.
Q: What do you think is the reason many photographers decided not to give up film in your opinion?
A: The digital age offers great quality. New digital cameras approach the process and have more control over it. The darkroom needs a lot of time and dedication, plus space, but there are many alternatives to the photographic enlargement.
Q: Do you think that film is superior or just different?
A: It is different. Film offers a very natural response. I like its respect for the lights and shadows, but we cannot forget the new digital cameras. The Leica Monochrom is a delight. We must join hands and not split film and digital. All is photography.
Q: What do you think about the new film camera from Leica, the M-A?
A: I was glad to know that Leica still believed in film. Leica has written many pages of the history of photography with its legendary rangefinders and to me it is excellent news that ensures life to film photography.
Q: You had a chance to try it, is that correct? Would you like to work with the Leica M-A?
A: Yes, I’ve tried it. It is an excellent camera. It feels amazing, with excellent construction and focusing on the essentials: speed, aperture, and focus. That’s all. It has everything you need and nothing more.
Q: What do you prefer about a rangefinder camera?
A: Simplicity. You can measure light around the scene, choosing a hyperfocal where everything is in focus and only have to worry about what happens in front of you. With one eye you can see the final image and use the other to see what happens around, without distraction. It’s perfect.
Q: How important is imperfection in photography?
A: The photograph depicts an unreal world, more in black-and-white. Often one spends too much time looking at exposure and other technical aspects. Meanwhile, our image has escaped. Sometimes the best shot is out of focus.
Q: What are your next goals for photography?
A: I would like to start a monograph work to give a more accurate and humane approach. The photograph, at the end of the day, is a means to understand your life and that of others. I have several options in mind but all I know is that it will be done with a Leica.
Thank you for your time, Miguel!
– Leica Internet Team
Connect with Miguel on Twitter. To see more of his work, check out his website and Flickr.
Alex Coghe is an Italian photojournalist currently based in Mexico City whose professional activity ranges from editorial photography to events. Learn more about Alex’s nasty project on his website, Tumblr, YouTube and download his book “THE ART OF SEEING” here and other publications on iTunes. He is also a member of the international photography collective, noise. Check out their work on Facebook and Blurb.