My total switch to the Fuji X System has reignited my love of making images. For quite some time I was questioning the work I was doing and in fact had become somewhat lethargic about photography. I concentrated purely on landscape photography often to the detriment of just picking up a camera to explore photographic alternatives. In many instances I would not shoot unless it was in the golden hours of sunrise or sunset and more often than not shirked the shoulder times associated with morning and evening light including the more contrast laden light of midday. Of course from a landscape photographers perspective harsh light is decidedly more difficult to manage in terms of shadows and highlights. This was certainly true in the film days, but today's modern sensors do an incredible job capturing the dynamic range of a scene. The point here is that I often did not shoot unless everything was perfect and I was going to come home with another trophy image. I could not work without a tripod or being obsessively focused on depth of field. I became mired in my own process.
I always viewed my landscape work as a process. There is a technical mastery that you have to overcome and much of that requires long hours of scouting, consideration of light, planning the composition, and in my early pre-digital days the processing of the film. Film in those days, especially the 4 x 5 Fuji Velvia Quickloads I used was expensive, so extensive planning was necessary to get it right. Once I moved to an all digital system my process was carried into the computer and the relative costs of making images decreased though the learning curve for digital was high. I went through multiple iterations of cameras, Nikon's and Sony's primarily, but grew tired of the weight, expense, and complexity. I did not want to admit it but the creative flame that always drove me was waning. After years behind a camera I was just losing interest. I was not making images as much as sitting behind a computer spending far too much time staring at pixels. What had always been fun, and what should have been fun and creative, was gone.
The truth is that change is necessary to move forward. I think that is just part of being human as much as it is part of a creative life. As artists it is important to grow and evolve in order to become more practiced, more thoughtful, more insightful perhaps to what "makes us tick". But when you reach the often deadly artists block it can be hard to move past it, hard to do anything but what you have already been doing. I have been in this mode for quite some time, making the effort but mostly clicking the shutter without emotional connection to the subject. When not shooting, I engaged in artistic discourse with my "photo-therapist" who often feels the same way I do. The discussion though has been good, ranging far and wide into art, image making, vision, processes, lenses, cameras, and other general explorations on how to shake it up so to speak. Sometimes it just takes one thing to generate a spark. So the door to change was wide open when Fuji came knocking.
To be clear, Fuji did not really come knocking, but the seed was planted in a podcast I watched from David DuChemin where he talked about his use of the Fuji X System. The take away for me was how the cameras "just got out of the way" in the image making process. I was intrigued by this idea though not exactly sure what that meant. I spent some months researching the Fuji System as well as looking at the work of other Fuji X Photographers including Ian McDonald, Andy Mumford, Patrick LaRoque, Bryan Minear, and Elia Locardi. I was still hung up in landscapes and not sure downsizing from a full-frame sensor to an APS-C was a solution I could except. But I could not get past the work I was seeing either. I loved the the way the Fuji files looked and was captivated by the depth of the subject matter. There was something rich, colorful, and film-like in these images that kept drawing me in like a Siren's call.
I ultimately determined that bigger was not necessarily better in regards to full-frame versus APS. In fact it is a silly argument and not a justification for choosing a camera system. I kept asking questions about what I wanted to shoot and what I wanted in a camera system. To be specific what camera system would give me the flexibility, control, and facile engagement to expand my vision. With the purchase of the X-Pro 2 and one lens, the beautiful 35mm f2.0, I took my tentative first steps towards Fuji. It did not take long for me to understand what David was talking about. The X-Pro 2 took me back in time to my first rangefinder and the simple, and accessible controls. Everything I needed was right on top of the camera leaving me free to to just shoot. And the more I shot with it the more I left my other cameras behind. I could engage the subject without consulting a menu and free to use my eyes to explore with the camera as an extension. There is so much incredible technology built in to the frame work as well - the joystick, the hybrid electronic/optical viewfinder, and oh those wonderful Fuji Film Emulations. This was a tool, a beautiful tool, that I just wanted to carry everywhere. David duChemin wrote in his book Within The Frame that "Vision is the beginning and the end of photography. It's the thing that moves you to pick up the camera, and it determines what you look at and what you see when you do".
I have always believed this about vision but I felt that I was losing my way to express it, and to grow with it. I felt locked in by heavy equipment, large files, expensive lenses, and an obsessive propensity to pixel peep. I photographed the same things, in the same way and what I really needed was to take a step back and simplify. What I needed was to expand my vision and Fuji led me to a different path. I began to look at subject matter, composition, and light differently, and with this came the challenges and fun of making images outside of landscapes. My vision has become decidedly more visually rich and engages more of the things that surround me. Suffice it to say that I am seeking other kinds of landscapes, those of the street, architecture, and people.
I want to tread lightly in suggesting that a change in camera systems is responsible for a change in vision. The vision comes from and through the artist, and the camera is only the tool to render the vision. To be exact any of these new images could have been made with my Nikon's and Sony's. But the fact is they were not and it is simply because I could not bear to haul all the stuff to do it. The baggage, like my vision, was too heavy to carry. The initial purchase of the X-Pro 2 introduced me to a system that I loved instantly. I loved the way it felt in my hands, the way it worked, and the way the world looked through it's viewfinder. It is system of simplicity in form and operation. It is a system of incredible lenses with files and film emulations that ignited something new in my vision. The best camera one can have is the one they will carry. And in that sense the camera as a tool becomes an extension of the artist and what artist would not want to have the very best tools in the creation of their art.
All the images in this post were shot on various trips to St Louis with the X-Pro 2 and one of two lenses - the Fujinon 10-24mm f3.5 or the most excellent Fujinon 16-55mm f2.8 WR. One body and two lenses. I did not carry a tripod or a backpack full of gear. There was nothing that could encumber the process of walking, looking, seeing, and making images. Everything in the city become a rich playground for my explorations. During my explorations I have met local street shooters who shared the same love of photographic exploration and introduced me to some amazing locations. I have even been joined on the city walk-abouts, we refer to them as "photo parkour", with some of my work colleagues. The junkets are collaborative efforts and contribute to new found notion of friendship, community, connection, and engagement.
Did my switch to Fuji change my vision? Probably not. Did it help? It most assuredly reignited the passion I have with photography, and as such helped me shift to a new way of seeing. With a Fuji X in my hands I think I see the world in a different way. RHC