This week on conversing camera we are excited to bring you a little insight into the photography and life of David Van Chu. David is a new friend of ours here at Camera West, and we couldn't be more excited to have him! David and I ran into each other over Instagram later last year and started talking about his next step in photography. David was extremely interested in taking the plunge into his first Leica M system. Of course, we love helping people get set up on a Leica system! At the time I did not know about David's 15-year journey to his "Grail" camera system, the Leica M10-R he had picked up from Camera West. After seeing his post on Instagram about his journey I knew we had to bring him here and share his story on conversing cameras. Without further ado... 

About David Van Chu:

Q: Your Camera Bag: What kind of gear can be found in your Camera bag today?

A: Leica M10-R with Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH (FLE). Previously and still have as a backup (and to take pictures of the Leica!): Nikon Z6 with an assortment of primes: 35mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.8, 105mm f/2.5.

Q: Tell us about yourself: Who are you, what is your background?

A: Today, I am a software engineer. Growing up, I was a kid with a curious mind and big personal aspirations. I suppose I am still all those things, especially a kid at heart. I've lived in the northeast my whole life, starting and ending with Maine, with a few years in and around Boston for college. I love photography (obviously), cars, and dad jokes.

Q: The Begining: What first sparked your interest in photography and Cameras?

A: I think I've always been interested in photography at some level. In elementary school I would ask my parents for disposable cameras and took pictures during field trips and such. In middle school, I got my first digital camera off eBay for $20. It was garbage, but that was when my interest in photography really took off. I loved taking pictures and sharing them. Other people had MySpace, but for me, it was Flickr. I was on Flickr constantly, posting and looking at photos, and socializing on discussion boards. Eventually I got my first DSLR, a Nikon D40, but I couldn't afford modern autofocus lenses, so I bought old manual focus F-Mount lenses that didn't even activate the meter on my camera. I learned a lot because of that limitation. This way of shooting lends itself really well to the Leica M ethos, and is one of the reasons I dreamed to one day get a Leica.

Q: Tell us about your work. What kind of photography do you do and enjoy?

A: Photography, to me, has always been about photographing things that catch my eye during everyday life. In high school, it would have been rare to catch me without a camera hanging around my shoulder. Since then, I've gone through periods of always having a proper camera with me, and other times where I only carry my iPhone as a camera. Inevitably, I always go back to carrying a proper camera with me. It's that kind of photography that I enjoy the most, especially when it inspires me to get out of the house and make my day a little less routine and a little more memorable.

Q: What's the most fascinating thing to you about photography?

A: The most fascinating thing about photography to me is the ability to look at photographs from days gone by and being able to relive memories that you'd otherwise forget, and to be able to see the world as it once was, before I was there to see it.

Q: Do you like to shoot film or digital?

A: I would love to shoot both, but digital has always been my go-to. I dabbled a bit with film in high school when I had access to a darkroom. Maybe one day I'll get a film setup again.

Q: Who is your favorite photographer?

A: If I had to pick one, I would say Jeff Mermelstein, in particular his older work. I have always enjoyed how he captured the unusual characters and situations of New York City. Honorable mentions: Joe McNally, Saul Leiter, and Vivian Maier.

Q: Do you have any favorite quotes about photography?

A: "Don’t pack up your camera until you’ve left the location." - Joe McNally, from his book, The Moment It Clicks. It's so easy to miss a photograph when your camera is packed away in a bag. I don't generally use a camera bag for this reason, the camera is usually around my shoulder, ready to shoot.

Q: Who are some of your favorite Instagram photographers?

A: @patrickhigginsphoto captures amazing landscapes and architecture.
@the_gtcar is a great automotive photographer, posting beautiful and exotic cars.
Also, as featured recently on Conversing Cameras, I've been enjoying @dannybligh's work too.

Q: What’s your favorite camera? Why?

A: My Leica M10-R, of course! It's my newest addition and the fulfillment of my 15-year-long dream. It is incredibly fun to shoot with, and inspires me to photograph more, which is exactly what I want in a camera. The rangefinder focusing and individual exposure dials are a lot like driving a manual transmission car, which I also deeply enjoy.

Q: You’re heading on an adventure for a week and can only take one camera & one lens. What is it? Tell us about your most minimal setup.

A: Easy. Leica M10-R and Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH. That's all I have so far!

Q: What next: If you could add anything to your camera bag what would it be?

A: Probably about two more batteries and an APO-Summicron-M 75mm f/2. I can't say I have an overwhelming desire for another lens right now, but I can see a 75mm being useful on occasion.