Max Leitner: Smelling. Hearing. Walking Through Cultured Places. Unfamiliarity Fuels My Inspiration.

Growing up in Germany, Max Leitner developed a love for photography. Throughout the past decade he traveled throughout the United States, living for several years in Chicago, where he predominately focused on trends in urban-exploring and lifestyle.

Photography is such a complex occupation that “shooting” is not the best way to describe it. I have been taking some sort of photographs since my early teenage years. The turning point for me was about 6 years ago when I started seeing and understanding what makes a bad photograph. This is when I really took a true interest in making the best image that I could. Personal satisfaction is the main motivator to continue reading light and capturing compositions.

Photography is about two things: 1) Light and 2) Composition. The way you utilize technology is just an execution. Sure, expensive well–made gear can get the job done easier, but it is not the defining factor of creativity. Personally I happened to invest a lot into Nikon, but that does not stop me from getting excited about an image shot on a phone or a medium format camera.

Through my time in Chicago, I started to become very interested in the way urban infrastructure functions outside of its intended purpose. My interest is in the lesser visited places. Through approaches in post-production I try to give my images a feel rather than letting them represent what is true. 

Rooftops? The sandwiches in jail are awfully dry… I think I learned my lesson.

Chicago has a very specific light. At night, a huge amount of light pollution creates a very picture-friendly glow, especially with fog. During the day the sunlight becomes a mixture between sun filled yellow tones and reflected gray tones. This mixture is unlike anywhere else. The greatest part about Chicago is the density, especially when focusing on architecture. The narrow streets through the Loop really allow for many facets within a short distance.

Chicago was the first place where I started to make a point of shooting daily. In addition to having attended school there, I was able to really spend a lot of time looking at things. Chicago, for that matter, has so much to explore and see time and time again. Perhaps noticing the changes is what inspires me the most. 

I have a strong opinion regarding the term “filter.” Filters, in my understanding, are physical attachments to your lenses. Whereas everything that happens on the computer I consider “treatment.” The way shadows and highlights are toned as well as contrast and such is where a certain attitude happens. With dedicated photographers this soon can define a “style.” As for my editing, I always approach the RAW file with Lightroom and then Photoshop. 

Instagram has two huge benefits: connection to others (especially creatives) and social pressure to constantly create. The medium is so short-lived, that unless you publish constantly, the relevancy drops. Instagram really has shaped my opinion about what has been done before and has made me much more progressive in the way I approach personal projects.

Originally I am from Germany, where I am based out of now. I made my way to the States for school. I attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where in 2016, I received my Bachelors of Fine Arts degree. Now I am working full-time as a photographer.

Smelling. Hearing. Walking through cultured places. Unfamiliarity fuels my inspiration. In terms of others, I try to not look at much work these days. I would rather produce images and understand their relevancy to myself rather than comparing it. 

 A perfect assignment? Assignments are never perfect.