I recently came to some very important decisions regarding the future of my photographic work.
I have tried many different cameras and a few different systems. Analogue and digital. Over the course of this summer I have thought long and hard about what best suits me and my creative vision. This has also entailed a shift away from regarding photography as a way to make money. I am now more interested in advancing as an artist. If money follows then that’s great but I am not going to compromise my intentions in order to make my work more profitable.
Choosing a path that would involve doing paid gigs like event photography would have had a big impact on the gear choices. Nonetheless I had started to think differently about it already. For example, only shooting primes and working with a simple two camera, two prime set up. I also learned the vital importance of consistency of look.
As I’ve explored the history of photography more and more I have come to see what I like. What really moves me and what doesn’t. I have also explored in depth the effects of certain focal lengths, using digital versus analogue and to find the best tool for the job in every way from size to colour rendition. I have also looked back at my minor achievements in photography and have been examining what made them work when they did. This has also involved looking again at what brought me to photography in the first place and whether I feel like my original expectations have been met even as far as reconnecting with the guy who took pictures when I knew nothing about the technique or history of the medium.
All this has led to some clear arrival points best shown in the choice of gear. I am the first to argue for photography not being all about gear but nonetheless the medium effects the outcome so for simplicity sake I think it is useful to connect my set up with my artistic intentions. Even if you are not into gear I think there isn’t much problem at least following my line of thought.
My main camera is now a Fuji X-T1. I am going to put a 50mm equivalent lens on it and use this simple set up for almost all my portrait and documentary photography. I am not yet sure what kind of documentary photography I am going to do but I do know that in my portraits I am seeking something more personal, natural and intimate with elements of environment or context in order to tell a story. Not just pretty pictures, you might say. I dabbled in fashion photography and I am not abandoning this completing but rather if fashion elements creep into my approach then so be it. Labels mean very little anyway. I am eager to find someone to collaborate with rather than photographing many different people since I do that in my street photography. The search for what might be called ”a muse” is not easy but I’m hopeful I’ll find one or more suitable people.
The Fuji X-T1 camera replaces the full frame DSLR camera and an 85mm lens combo I had. I have come to realise that this set up is too obtrusive, intrusive and impersonal both in terms of the size of the kit and the distance from the subject imposed by that lens. The Fuji is less ”in your face” and 50mm (equiv) will result in closer working distance leading itself to an intimacy and naturalness of look. I will shoot in colour and black and white. I will decide on a single look for both. For example, always employing a yellow filter on the black and white.
My back up camera does not really need to exist. The truth is that I could sell it and buy a 35mm (equiv) lens for the X-T1. However, having a separate camera which is smaller has the advantage of being portable and at least if anything happens to it, it is not the main camera. I am referring to my Fuji X100. This is a camera that I am eager to put to full use in street photography. Over the last year I have gained confidence as a street photographer and I believe it will only improve. The 35mm field of view is perfect. Not only for street but also for documentary, travel and environmental portraits. I have tried a few focal lengths for the environmental portraits and feel most comfortable with 35mm. It can thus serve more than one purpose. I plan to shoot everything on this camera in black and white. If the workflow of using two cameras at a shoot becomes a hindrance, I will invest in a 35mm equiv lens for the X-T1. My particular style or approach to street photography is something I am working on. Time will give me a clearer voice.
So, as you can see, all my digital pictures will either be at 35 or 50. At 35 I will shoot stopped down so the whole scene is in focus. At 50, I will alternate between shooting wide open and stopped down.
There is a third camera in this set up. A very inexpensive analogue camera. Right now it is the Olympus Trip 35 but can perhaps easily be replaced by another small point and shoot. Having used a number of SLRs for all kinds of photography including portrait shoots, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t want to do my ”heavy work” in this format. There are a number of reasons for this that I won’t get into here that relate to time, convenience and motivation. Instead, I now want to use a little point and shoot to simply document my life. Almost like I am taking pictures for a family album but making use of those techniques I have learned in order to hopefully produce pictures of some lasting merit. At best, they will be little works of art in themselves or when taken as a whole. At the least, they will simply be a visual diary of my life which is just fine with me. I am not yet sure what precise details I will photograph. I guess I will know when the moment comes. The Trip has a 40mm lens which is very close to 35 and even closer to what the human eye sees so it is ideal for this purpose. Why analogue for this? Couldn’t you use your mobile phone? Well, the look and feel of film offers a kind of distancing from the experience, a kind of timelessness as well as a link to my own past experiences that make it really attractive to me. I plan to shoot with only one film to maintain consistency and have decided it will be colour.
As well as not doing any conventional portraits or events for money. I am also not going to take any landscape pictures. They have sort of become a pet hate of mine. For me, not being a landscape photographer, I find it all too easy to take a lazy landscape. This does not mean I would never explore the idea of spaces outside or inside. That’s different. I would also consider using a mobile phone for a specific photographic project. I think it is important to have projects. This is where the documentary photography would emerge from. If someone also asks me to photograph them. If I get some request, I will always consider doing it but this work will not feature on my website or pages.
This website is going to change quite dramatically over the coming months and years. Many pictures will disappear and be replaced by new ones. Most of my pictures will never be seen again under my name on the internet.
All this might sound a bit contrived. This level of limitation. Well, limitation has always helped me with creativity. The choices are also very well worked out. If you narrow down the parameters and become very skilled in them, I believe you can do a lot more. Not only that but it really helps to create a consistent voice and style.
Of course there are many elements not mentioned here regarding my style. From specific subjects in street photography to favored angles in portraiture. I do already have a style in some ways too, which can’t all be reduced to words, which will hopefully continue to come through in my work.
I am very much looking forward to the challenges of this transition and hope some really good pictures emerge from this. I also want to thank everyone for their support of what I do and have been doing in photography.