Mr Sunil Kaul has been at Leica for over a decade, and in his time, he’s seen quite a bit of change. However, he insists the company has stayed true to its deep-seated photography roots. He shares with us a little more about Leica’s new Galerie at the Fullerton Hotel, and tells us more about Mysterious Happiness, the company’s latest social endeavor.
“Leica – an instrument for change.” I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about that.
So, Leica – an instrument for change – it fundamentally refers to our most iconic product line which is called the M-System. So the M was born in 1954. It’s over 60+ years now and it’s been a very iconic camera simply because it was discrete, it was robust, it was silent and it delivered outstanding picture quality. One of the most important things that this particular camera, compared to others that we have in the market or within our portfolios, is that it makes you think before you shoot. You don’t have to meddle with various functions to shoot. It’s an instrument that helps you deliver or create the photograph you have in your mind. So that’s where the word instrument comes from. We try to avoid calling our products “cameras”. So we call them tools or instruments because they are meant for artists. And the part regarding the change speaks about changing the way a person thinks about his craft. It makes you think. It’s an automatic sort of behaviour. That’s why the tagline.
You were talking about Leica instruments being made for the artist. So would you say casual photographers can consider themselves artists as well?
We have different types of product lines that cater to different types of consumers. For example, someone who is into casual fitness or fashion photography would be best served by the Leica TL Series. On the other hand, those who have an affinity for more serious photography would do better with the M Level System. At this particular level, you stop taking pictures, and start making pictures. And once you understand the difference between taking and making, you start to feel artistically inclined because you say, “No I did this because I wanted the backlight like that and I wanted a certain grain in my picture.” So you start defining your photograph yourself and I think that’s when you would potentially call yourself an artist.
Can you share with us a little bit more about the concept of the Leica gallery?
We have Leica stores, Leica academies and Leica galleries. These are the 3 pillars of our business because we feel we are not a box moving company. We are a photography company. And to be able to tell yourself that you are a photography company, you need to talk about photography. So we have about sixteen such galleries worldwide, and the purpose of these galleries is to be able to showcase works done by international artists. It gives the public a chance to appreciate these works that they wouldn’t be able to, under normal circumstances. A gallery is a great platform for local and regional artists to exhibit their work and once you exhibit your work in a Leica gallery, you can sort of say you made it. Because Leica is considered to be the epitome of the photography business and if your work is presented here, it’s definitely a very significant step in your photography life.
Is there a specific reason you chose Fullerton Hotel?
We were at Raffles Hotel until a few months ago, when they embarked on a renovation program for a year. Not wanting to deprive the society or potential consumers of a gallery, we started looking for an alternate venue. Fullerton is also a building with a lot of history, so we think it’s a great place for a Leica gallery. I don’t think it would have the same effect if we set up the gallery in a shopping centre. While we are here, we are also able to offer some academic programs where we teach people how to take pictures. So the surroundings here is appropriate for us to take our visitors out, to guide them through some photo tours.
Can you tell more about Mysterious Happiness?
Mysterious Happiness is the name of one of the books that is a part of our CSR initiative. It started almost 4 or 5 years ago when I was introduced to a gentleman called Father Matthew, a French guy who was basically a pastor who left all his belongings, his jobs, his career, his money, and he decided to move to Philippines. He did that because he wanted to help people in an area called “Smokey Mountains”, in the suburbs of Metro Manila, where he saw people living in very tough conditions.
Imagine you are eating at KFC. After you’re done, you take your tray and chuck the rubbish into the bin. Immediately, someone comes over and picks out whatever you just threw away, to bring it back to his family for a meal. It is heart-breaking. Many kids in this community end up in a life of crime and prostitution, so Father Matthew set out to provide them with some education. Mysterious Happiness showcases the lives of some of the people there, with incredible stories. Proceeds from the sales of this book will go towards helping these children.
Get your copy of Mysterious Happiness here.