Leica Looks Ahead

Interview by Anton D. Javier
Photos courtesy of Leica
27 Jul 2017

Jane Cui, President of Leica Asia, talks to us about the new Leica Galerie in Singapore and the importance of slowing down in this digital age

For Jane Cui, President of Leica Asia, building a close knit community, education, and ensuring that digital and analog can peacefully exist within the same sphere are just some of the things she has her eye on. And in Singapore, this all begins at the recently opened Leica Galerie at The Fullerton Hotel. In this exclusive interview, Jane candidly opens up about the unique features of the Galerie to the company's position in this social media-driven world.

Could you tell us a bit about the new Leica Galerie in Singapore? Does it have any features that distinguishes it from the others around the world?

The Galerie in Singapore is probably our 16th or 17th one. The Galerie is an important part of continually building our brand, as it is not only about the hardware. The camera is just one component of our brand. Photography, art, and our photographers are also important parts of the brand. Through the Galerie, we can really showcase all of these artworks and we would like to continue to grow the network of galleries that we have thus far.

We picked the Fullerton Hotel for the Singapore Galerie since it is such a great location. As a brand, the Fullerton has built itself a lot of prestige within Singapore, so it is a good match for us. Each Galerie has a different format, as we try to integrate local elements. So if you go around the world and visit the different Galeries, you will see heritage elements used throughout. The one in Singapore also has that. If you look at the content of the Galeries, we showcase globally known photographers and their works, but also local artists and their photography.

Secondly, we also have some vintage hardware pieces at the Singapore Galerie. In a sense, it is like a little museum. Right now, only Singapore has this feature.

As the President of Leica Asia, can you talk to us about your plans for the region within the next couple of years?

The Galerie was part of these plans. And for the next couple of years, what is important in my eyes is to continue developing, building, and enriching the brand further. We would like to get our Asian customers to understand the brand and become part of the brand experience. This is something we have been tackling with the Galeries. They offer the brand experience, thus, we want to establish this project within several other places.

Furthermore, we want to build a strong Leica community to really connect with our fans and users. In the next few years, we want to continue building this community and within this community, there will be different segments that we will be working with. On one hand, there are a lot of young users that contrast with the more classic older users. We will have different programs to be able to address all kinds of different target groups.

We also want to work with amateur photographers and share with them experiences from the rest of our photographer network in order to teach and inspire them. We will offer more programs within the Leica Academy, such as photo master classes and photo journeys.

How are you attracting a younger group of Leica users?

If you think about our partnership with Huawei, that is definitely a strong way of reaching the smartphone generation. Today, most people learn to take photographs using their smartphones and that is definitely one of the areas we want to continue working on through our collaboration with Huawei in order to reach a broader range of customers.

Secondly, I was surprised when I took this job because I found that the Asian user base is much younger compared to the European user base. In terms of people loving photography, I have seen the younger generation showing great interest. If you think about building up the Galeries and working with the Leica Academy, this is also part of establishing a connection to younger customers.

Our outreach on social media is another way we enhance this connection further, as we try to fit into the younger user’s lifestyle, as opposed to having them to adapt to our lifestyle.

Jumping off from your statement about social media. Can you tell me where the brand sees itself in this era of social media?

We live in a very interesting period of time. We now have a generation growing up with digitalization. My son, for example, does not know what some of the devices are that were modern to my generation. However, I believe that when everything is so digital, people will be looking for ways slow down. Photography is one of those ways to slow down.

We offer the possibilities to enjoy instant gratification, because our newer models all have connections to Wi-Fi, so that you can post and share with your friends immediately. But the process of taking the picture takes time. It is more than just point and shoot! Of course you can do that, but I believe that most of the people that pick up a Leica camera go through a specific process before they press that button. That said, we try to find good balance between digitalization and slowing down.

The M7 and the MP are still being produced as film cameras. Who are the customers for this range of products?

The analogue cameras are meant for professional photography, but can be used by amateur photographers who have a deeper passion for the craft. Just like magazines, viewers have the choice to read it online, but will also want print versions. It is the same thing for photographers. They don’t only want digital images, but also want to experience the beauty and artistry of film and the intricate process of using analogue cameras.

Secondly, the resulting print out of the photos can bring back memories. They have an element of surprise and is definitely not something that can be replaced completely by digital photography.

"The process of taking the picture takes time. It is more than just point and shoot! Of course you can do that, but I believe that most of the people that pick up a Leica camera go through a specific process before they press that button."

What Leica camera do you use and are there any particular subjects that you are fond of ****?

I am actually quite new to using a camera from the M-series. My experience with the camera so far was based on point-shoot cameras and smartphones. People ask me whether I have learned how to use my camera and I tell them that since I have my camera with me all the time, I don’t use my smartphone to take pictures anymore. It's so different and you can’t compare the two.

Currently, I am developing my own photography style. I am working on taking better landscape shots, but I also enjoy street photography and taking photos of people. People have to be part of my photography.

For more information on the new Leica Galerie in Singapore, click here