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He is one of Portugal's most important photographers. Born in 1953, Alfredo Cunha's photo-journalistic work represents a lively chronicle covering half a century. Today, the photographer can look back over a career spanning five decades. In addition to following the history of his home country, Cunha has also photographed in over 100 countries worldwide. With courage and a humanistic eye, he brought together a multi-faceted, moving and exiting body of work. We spoke with him about his passion for photography and for Leica cameras.

LFI: You have used a variety of cameras over your long career. What is it you appreciate about Leica?
Alfredo Cunha: I have indeed worked with countless cameras, but I always had one or two Leicas. The first was a Leica M3, in 1972. I've worked with the M3, M2, M6, and M7. I've also worked with the Leicaflex SL, because of its long focal length. Leica cameras are sturdy and they have fantastic optic quality - they are a work tool, but, at the same time, they have also become an extension of my eye. Of course, the lightness and discretion of the M cameras, and now of the Q2 Monochrome, weigh a lot in my preference for these cameras. Besides the Q2 Monochrome, I nowadays use a micro 4/3 camera with Leica Prime lenses - e.g. Summilux 12mm 1.4, Nocticron 42.5 1.2, and also a 100/400 zoom. I love extreme focal lengths - wide lenses and long focal lengths.

What is your opinion of digital photography?
I don't distinguish between analogue and digital; they're becoming closer. The technique is not important; the resulting image is what matters. I appreciate the democratisation brought on by digital photography. It has allowed the emergence of many new young photographers.

What advice do you have for young photographers today?
Work, never give up, fight for your photos, and have your own identity. This generation of photographers is probably the most well-prepared of all times. But it is also the most poorly-treated.

What is your greatest photography-related wish?
I wish to continue photographing. And I hope that photojournalism survives. We are living terrible times, especially in Portugal - the economy is suffering a lot. Despite this, I hope that the new generation of photographers is as happy in their career as I am.

Your new book, 'Leica Years', offers fabulous insight into your life's work. Do you have plans for your huge archive?
I've donated sizeable collections to the Portuguese National Photography Collection (in CPF - Centro Português de Fotografia,) and to the photo archive in Lisbon's Municipal Archive. I also have a fund in Maia, with about 1000 photos in several exhibitions circulating around the country.

Even though you have been retired from active photojournalism for some years, there is no sign of retirement...
Yes, I take photos every day. I work every day.

We look forward to further photo books and exhibitions! Thank you very much for your time.
(Interview: Ulrich Rüter)

Issue 5/2021 of LFI Magazine includes a longer interview and comprehensive portfolio.

The Leica Blog recently presented Cunha's Hope series, from spring 2020.
© Alfredo Cunha

Alfredo Cunha

was born in Celorico da Beira, Portugal, on October 8, 1953. His career as a professional photographer began in 1970 with advertising; he started working as a photojournalist at the newspaper Notícias da Amadora. Subsequently, he worked for many newspapers, magazines and news agencies. He was the official photographer for two Portuguese Presidents: Ramalho Eanes and Mário Soares. He has produced over 30 photo books since 1972, and to this day continues to work on free and editorial projects. He has received numerous recognitions, including the Order of the Infante Don Henrique in 1995. Today he lives with his family in Vila Verde, near Braga.
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