For a long time, I had wanted to interview Thomas Menk for our show, The State Of Mirrorless, but when I finally contacted him, he told me he was not comfortable doing a video interview, so we settled for an e-mail one and here it is.
Thomas Menk defines himself as a fine art photographer, a designer, a philosopher, a composer, a father, a learner and a human being. He is undoubtedly all of those, but he’s also an official Fujifilm X-Photographer and the curator of a growing and popular collection of links to blog posts and web pages about the Fuji X series of cameras. Based on my interaction with him, he seems to me a soft-spoken, humble gentleman that is not going to be changed by his popularity. If you read his answers, I am sure you will agree with me.
F Stop Lounge: Tell us a bit about you and your photography.
Thomas Menk: I am an entrepreneur with different sectors of activity and companies. Photography was and is my passion since more than 20 years. Through various exhibitions in galleries and in my own gallery my photography work became a lucrative sideline in recent years, so now I need a new hobby :) My focus is in landscape and travel photography. However, I also love street photography – but without people ;-) As a landscape and nature photographer, I think that people even disturb the peace and harmony of the composition. Nevertheless, I find it very nice to find places in towns without people and hold them. Sometimes quite a challenge. Photography is a nice balance to my other activities and I love the luxury of not having to earn my living with this.
FSL: What is in your camera bag?
TM: At present, a lot. I photograph mainly with Fuji X-Pro 1, X100S and Leica M Monochrom. Of course I use various lense with focal lengths varying between 15 and 50 mm. I have all kinds of filters, flashes and tripods. However, I usually try with as little equipment as possible to be on the road and so most of the stuff is gathering dust in my home :)
FSL: What camera/lenses do you prefer?
TM: I find it very pleasant to use one lens on one body and so the 10-24 mm F4 is always on my Fuji X-Pro 1 and the Leica 50mm F1. 4 tightly screwed. But most of all I love the X100S, because it is the most straightforward, whether color or black-and-white. Good quality and easy to handle. EVF and OVF, great high ISO results and just small size and light weight speaks for it.
FSL: What is so great about mirrorless systems?
TM: The size and the current performance. The image quality does not lag behind a DLSR and the size and handling is just amazing. I will no longer move with more than 10 kg of luggage on my back into the nature and get back pain. I will not always be conspicuous because I own a monster camera. I think it’s nice when people ask: “Can you use such a small camera and make professional photos too?”
FSL: What do you miss, if you miss anything, of your DSLR?
TM: I photograph mainly manually. I do it always with the Leica system and with the Fuji X-Pro 1, because its autofocus is unreliable. I’m faster shooting in manual mode faster and lose hardly few moments. I find DSLRs still have the edge on autofocus, but I personally don’t need much autofocus speed for my kind of photography and so this is not really a crucial point for me.
FSL: Where do you think the future lies?
TM: Probably, neither in the one nor the other. Photography will continue to change. The difference between professionals and amateurs will be barely visible in the next few years. Today, the young generation makes great photos with an iPhone or other smartphones. You can quickly convey a sense of life and deliver this feeling to everybody. Who in the future will look at a long exposure image, made with an expensive camera and with much effort? Who will pay much money for a studio session made with expensive studio equipment when a smartphone perfectly reflects just my mood with a selfie? Only a small number. Light, fast, uncomplicated and still great quality, this is what the future will be.
FSL: What does it mean to be an official Fujifilm X-Photographer?
TM: Fujifilm X-Photographers are a selection of currently around 200 photographers worldwide who use Fuji X systems and represent an adequate level or quality. Many famous photographers are represented in this field and some of them provided in advance with new hardware for testing and review. Mainly we are talking of course from the perspective of Fuji marketing and the spread of their systems. The more well-known photographers use the X-based systems, the more will be sold ultimately. In Germany, unfortunately, this is just a marketing gimmick of Fuji without content. The person who is responsible of the marketing department are not aware of the the potential of this state and shun novel ideas. But that’s another topic ;)
FSL: Tell us a bit about your curation website. How did you come up with the idea? Does it take a lot of work to maintain it?
TM: I started two and a half years ago to collect articles about the Fuji X-Pro 1 and share them on Scoop.it. While I didn’t anticipate this, within a short time I had a large number of followers who were eager to read news about this system. So this has exploded and over time it has become a fixture in the Fuji X community. Because more and more people use this system and write about it, curating is of course always time-consuming. As more and more people get to know the X System, curating in the near future will also be increasingly unimportant (hoping on X-Pro2 ;) ) Since I have a major distribution force with this page I can support unknown photographers well and provide them with platform.
FSL: Can you recommend some photographer that you admire that is using mirrorless cameras?
TM: All great Magnum Photographers have already used mirrorless cameras and I admire them. However, no photographer in the mirrorless scene surprised me with something new or with his own style which has touched me. Of course there are always individual images which I think are great, but photographers that have the quality of Ansel Adams or Henri Cartier-Bresson over a period of time, I haven’t found yet. And with a crucial overtone, please ask your 4th questions again: What is so great about mirrorless systems? The range of average quality will be greater and the real experts will be fewer :)