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How does Stu Robertson capture such intimate photography without a camera?

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One of the most popular – if not the most popular – online photography project is ‘Humans of New York’. It has gained fans across the world for its candid and unedited accounts of the subjects.

Huawei’s most recent project brings the spirit of ‘HONY’ to the rest of the world. In order to showcase the stellar inclusion of a dual-lens Leica camera in the P10 and P10 Plus smartphones, Huawei recruited A-class photographers Stu Robertson, Simon Woolf and Michael Farr. Their brief was to tell the previously-untold stories of 100 people through portraiture.

Every photo in the project was shot and edited on the P10. Scrolling through the ‘100 Portrait Project’, it’s hard not to be blown away by the strides that have recently been made in accessible photography. A world-leading camera in an innovative phone.

Techly spoke to Stu Robertson, the photographer best known for the ‘Peace in 10,000 Hands’ project. He shed some light on his photography style, inspirations, and hopes for the future of technology.

The ‘Untold Stories’ project seeks to uncover the subject’s story through detail-oriented photography. How did you approach this project?

The majority of all the portraiture subjects for the 100 Portrait Project are people I met randomly wandering the streets at night, on trains or at underground events. I pushed myself to seek out the most interesting looking people and introduce myself and the project to these complete strangers.

I would talk with them and invite them to be part of the project and to let me take their picture. It can be stressful for sure. But I really find this is how you truly discover “untold stories” and also get some great portraits in those raw, unplanned and unscripted moments.

Young girl, close up

Isabel, as captured by Stu Robertson

Woman looking down to camera

Loretta, as captured by Stu Robertson

You mention that you have a “purist approach” to photography. In your words, what does this mean?

In the simplest terms for me, it means I shoot in camera. I like using available light, no tripods and always with the aim to include compositional elements and structure to enhance the beauty and proportions of the image when the picture is being taken.

I love black and white photography with plenty of pure blacks occupying the negative space balanced by clean, crisp whites in the image. I’m not a fan of mid-grey!

The ‘Untold Stories’ project was shot and edited on the Huawei P10. How did you approach the challenge of phone photography? Did you think differently about the process?

I approached the ‘Untold Stories’ challenge of the 100 Portrait Project with full force and very seriously. I wanted to see how far I could push the beauty and creativity from the Leica camera that is on the P10.

I was genuinely blown away by how much creative scope, flexibility and latitude the camera delivered despite pushing it to perform in some difficult environments. There was an ease and something wonderfully non-threatening about pulling out a phone. I could see the subjects were immediately relaxed and comfortable in front of the P10 and that allowed me to discover the full potential of using the phone and discovering the untold stories of people I would never normally interact with.

To take their portrait, to capture an expression of themselves they’d maybe never seen before. It is similar to how I approached portraiture for my project ‘Peace in 10,000 Hands’. I tried to take it to another level and really show what the P10 can do.

Man with hand covering face (black and white)

Mike, as captured by Stu Robertson

Did you uncover any unique tricks while editing on the P10?

Yes many! The filters, the beauty setting, .95 aperture effect and more. Every image you see that I have taken for the project has been taken and edited on the P10. I just find that incredible!

You’re a Leica ambassador. What’s so special about Leica cameras, and what can P10 users expect from their camera?

What’s so special about Leica. Where do I start!

Well, essentially Leica invented modern day full-frame photography. My grandfather photographed with Leica. Leica lenses are renowned for being some of the best glass available. When I take a picture with a Leica I feel the heritage and pedigree and feel it makes me better, more confident. Fits like a perfect glove and accompanies any situation like a rich single malt. I love Leica.

Which portrait was most evocative for you? What made it stand out?

The photograph of Leigh Robinson, a goth. It was taken early morning around 1 or 2 am by a graveyard. It’s honest and raw, an unguarded moment of humanity. I love that picture and was humbled to meet Leigh.

Woman looking away from camera nervously

Leigh, as captured by Stu Robertson

As a photographer, what tech innovations are you most excited about?

Apart from Leica and Huawei getting together, I think it’s the quality of images able to be produced. The amount of data aperture, medium format coming down in price, reduction in the size of photographic technology, editing software, online platforms for sharing, free websites for showing your work, better at home/studio printing, drones and 360 photography.

Levi Tapara, as captured by Stu Robertson

Levi Tapara, as captured by Stu Robertson

The Huawei P10’s powerful Leica Selfie Camera and Leica dual lens technology make every shot a cover shot. It’s more than a smartphone: it’s a pocket studio, built to inspire. Find out more here.

About the author

Larissa is Techly’s Assistant Editor. She watches so much Youtube that she’s narrowed down her favourite categories – goats, innocent dads getting pranked, and toddlers falling over.

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