Portraits that catch the eye, and also create a lasting impression: with works from four series now on display at the Ernst Leitz Museum (26 June 2024 – 22 September 2024), it is clear how brilliantly Bryan Adams masters photographic communication with his subjects, as well as with the general public. Born in Canada in 1959 and currently living in London, the artist has, since the nineties, pursued a rapid and very self-confident career as a photographer, in parallel to his successes as a singer, songwriter and producer. His interest in photography, which he developed as a teenager and initially pursued as a hobby, has long since become an intense passion that has led to international success.

The current exhibition in Wetzlar is an impressive demonstration of the photographer’s versatility. The well-known series Exposed, supplemented by the In Colour group, shows the staging of famous colleagues, actors, models and celebrities. Gripping portraits in exciting dialogues with surprising insights. Adams, however, has photographed more than just celebrities, as revealed in two other series in the exhibition: taken in 2011, Wounded: The Legacy of War portrays British soldiers wounded in action during deployment to Afghanistan or Iraq. Despite all the shocking limitations, the young men and women face the photographer’s camera with confidence and dignity. In the Homeless selection, Adams approached people in London selling The Big Issue homeless magazine, with just as much empathy. Here, too, each portrait represents an individual story. We spoke to the photographer about the art of portraiture.

What do you consider a good portrait?
A good photo is one you can remember. It’s that simple.

What is the relationship between spontaneity and staging in your portraits?
Whenever you lift a camera to someone, their expression and body language changes. The secret is how to not make people uncomfortable, so sometimes the best photos are the photos between the photos.

Do you have any tips for photographers on how best to get beneath the surface of the people portrayed?
I don’t really have any tips. I remember watching a clip on Garry Winogrand and how he fumbles with cameras while taking photos. That was clever. I also remember working with Andrew Catlin, and watching his technique of working with his Rolleiflex camera, which, because they were fitted with interchangeable waist level viewfinders, you could basically take photos without any sound and any real necessity to look at the camera at all.

Is it easier to take portraits of friends and colleagues or strangers?
People are mostly the same, unless you’re photographing professionals who know how to work the camera, such as models or actors.

Are there any portraits that have a special place in your rich oeuvre and should therefore not be missing in any exhibition?
I think that’s completely subjective: one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor. Everyone likes different things. I once had 5 minutes with Queen Elizabeth; that was rather special.

HM The Queen, Wellington Boots, Buckingham Palace, London 2001

The Wounded series was created in 2011, but has lost none of its impact and significance. How do you look back on the series today and how do you assess its contemporary relevance?
The Wounded series is forever, as it is a document to a period of time in history when soldiers were returning from the disastrous wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, we don’t learn from our mistakes, and governments use people as canon fodder to maintain the war industry and it’s profiteering.

What photographic projects are you currently working on?
I’m continuing to make portraits of people, shoot music videos and album covers for music, and occasionally create books.

If you could wish for another Leica camera, which one would it be? Digital or analogue?
I wish that Leica would make a medium-format, digital camera to compete with Fuji, Hasseblad and Phase One. It’s only a dream.

Thank you for the interview. We’re all excited to see what the new developments of the Leica S system will look like.

Singer, songwriter, producer and photo artist Bryan Adams was born in Kingston, Ontario, Canada in 1959. His work has been published in British Vogue, American Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, British GQ, Esquire, Interview and i-D, among others. In 2003, he co-founded the art fashion magazine Zoo. His advertising campaigns include brands such as Hugo Boss, Guess Jeans, Converse, Montblanc, Fred Perry and Escada, as well as car manufacturers such as Jaguar and Opel. In 2022, he photographed the Pirelli calendar. He has also published five photo books: American Women (2004), Exposed (2012), Wounded: The Legacy of War (2013), Untitled (2015) and Homeless (2019). Find out more about the photographer on his website.

The exhibition at the Ernst Leitz Museum in Wetzlar was produced in close collaboration with Crossover, Anke Degenhard.