In the heart of bustling London, amidst the concrete and steel, there lies a small world of serene beauty that often escapes our hurried gaze – the ancient trees and newly planted saplings that scatter themselves across the city.
We caught up with Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist and Leica Women Foto Project juror, Marissa Roth to delve deeper into the artistic process behind her latest captivating series shot on the Leica Q2 Monochrom.
Over the years, I’ve photographed with a Leica M6 and a small Leica CM point-and-shoot film camera, which I used in Tibet so I could be unobtrusive. More recently, I bought a Leica Q. I also used a Q2 Monochrom last year when I was on an assignment to photograph a ball at Versailles. I wanted to try it out and pair it with my Q to photograph the event in both colour and black and white.
What compelled you to create this series?
My first decision was to photograph in London, and thinking further about the assignment I recognised the fact that I typically don’t photograph classic street scenes but have been drawn to photographing trees here for many years.
I researched the trees in London and learnt that it is considered to be the world’s largest urban forest with over 8.3 million trees. Some of these trees are newly planted saplings, while others are hundreds of years old survivors from ancient woodlands. About 900,000 trees are street trees that provide an often-overlooked backdrop to everyday life.
I chose this as my theme as it dovetails with my ongoing interest in this subject. In setting the parameters for this project I gave myself the challenge of visiting numerous London boroughs while photographing a different kind of tree for each image — my only duplicate is the ubiquitous London Plane Tree.
Why did you choose the Leica Q2 Monochrom to capture this series?
After my experience photographing with the Q2 Monochrom at the ball, I wanted to use it again as I loved photographing with it and I was pleased with the results. I chose this camera from the selection on offer as it is also a ‘tool’ that is very comfortable in my hands and feels intuitive. I like to work fast and not be bogged down by anything. I use a thumb grip for my Leica Q and switched it to the Q2 Monochrom for this assignment.
What was it like shooting with the fixed 28mm Summilux lens?
I typically use a 28mm lens on my film cameras for the majority of my photographs and the fixed 28mm Summilux lens was a perfect choice for this subject matter. I knew that it would allow me to make the types of images that I anticipated, from seeing the full height of some trees to coming in close for detailed shots.
What did your post-production process look like?
I’m still rather simplistic in my post-production process. I use Photo Mechanic as my editing program and Adobe Photoshop. I have found that the subtlety and exceptional range of the tones captured with the Q2 Monochrom are calibrated perfectly and that the images typically require very little digital darkroom.
From a photographic perspective, what do you look for when you photograph in London?
London is one of the most interesting cities in the world, where history is visible at every turn and architecture, street life and nature come together in layers of visual information. Plus, it’s atmospheric, where the sky and clouds provide an ever-changing palette of light and drama. I am always looking for and responding to nuance and context within these layers when I photograph and find the scale of London to be sympathetic to achieving engaging and informative images.
Do you have any exciting projects/opportunities coming up?
Yes, I am a Juror on the 5th Annual Leica Women Foto Project Award and am looking forward to seeing the images that are submitted.