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FujiFilm X-Photographer Talks With David Hobby, Tomasz Lazar, And Zack Arias

To commemorate the 5th anniversary of FujiFilm’s X camera series FujiFilm hosted a small photography festival at their head office and showroom in Tokyo’s swish Midtown complex. Since the x100 hit the market, FujiFilm have, in quick succession, released an impressive array of cameras. The latest of these is the much anticipated X-Pro2, which was available for photographers to try out, and yes, I had a play with it myself.

FujiFilm also organised an impressive exhibit of photos from 100 photographers who use the X series cameras as part of the X-Photographer programme. It was great to see work from my friends Matt Brandon and Piet Van den Eydne in the exhibit. There was also a booth where you could take you X series camera for a free inspection and clean. And, finally a series of talks, from Japanese and international photographers and FujiFilm’s own engineers and marketers.

Unfortunately the weekend was a busy one for me – the only full weekend at home for my family this month – so I had to pick and choose which sessions to attend. As it happened, I made it to the three foreign speakers, which really wasn’t by design, but did mean I got to hear some very different perspectives on creative photography.

David Hobby – Mixing Travel Photography With Family Holidays

Hobby is a photojournalist and the author of strobist.com, one of the best known, and most successful photography blogs. His talk was on travel photography, in particular, how to do travel photography when you are on holiday with your family.

As Hobby started his talk, my mind instantly filled with memories of my family holidays, trips where I had managed to come away with some decent images, others where it had been a struggle to get anything more than a handful of shots. Over the years, I’ve shared some of those stories with other photographers, most of whom admit it can be hard to balance the desire to spend time with your loved ones, over and against the urge to photograph the place you’ve travelled to see.

Hobby emphasised the importance of focussing first on the family holiday experience, one being really there for your loved ones and enjoying their company. As a photographer you can still make compelling images by documenting the family experience. And, it’s still possible to organise the family’s itinerary, so that photogenic locations and vistas are explored at ideal times of the day, especially around sunset. The key is earning the right to take time to photograph by also being engaged with the family at other times in the holiday.

Pro Tip from David Hobbyat family dinners during your holiday, take your camera with you when going to the toilet, so you can look back and and candidly photograph the family at the table.

Tomasz Lazar – Training The Photographic Imagination

As Tomasz Lazar started his presentation I had the feeling some of his images looked familiar. The pieces fell into place when he said he had covered the major European fashion weeks for one of my favourite periodicals, New York Magazine. Lazar’s fashion photography manages to look beyond the surface beauty of fashion events and capture the human emotion and rich texture of the clothes in a very photojournalistic style, that blends documentary realism with a sense of the unexpected.

Again and again, Lazar spoke about the “moment” in his images which meant the distinctive, fleeting, usually unexpected element in each photo that made in unique and captivating. Sometimes this was as simple as a touch, look or other human gesture, sometimes it was the way light and shadow framed a subject, sometimes it was something unexpected or surreal that gave the photo a distinctly arty feel.

Perhaps most inspiring, was the way Lazar spoke about training the eye, learning to see beyond the obvious, beyond the cliche in any scene that presents itself. Lazar actively draws inspiration form cinema, paintings, writing and sculpture and tries to play with those influences in the images he creates. he said the eye was like a muscle and we had to consciously train it see what is unique and special around us.

Pro Tip from Tomasz Lazaruse the inbuilt electronic ND filter on X series cameras for long exposure street shots during the day to create evocative, motion filled photographs.

Zack Arias – Facing The Issues In Street Photography

Arias is an editorial and portrait photographer, though his talk was centred on street photography, a passion he has increasingly focussed on since he got into using X-series cameras, starting with the original x100.

Arias explained some aspects of his approach to street photography. He likes to include some human element in his photos, often finding a good location, composing an image based on forms and colours, then waiting for someone to walk into the frame. He also like to capture the way people react to interesting or unusual activity on the street.

In the question time, the issue came up of respecting privacy in street photography, something I’ve blogged extensively about in the past. Arias admitted it is a struggle for him at times, while also pointing out that the social contract is different, from country to country. In parts of Europe it is becoming hard to make candid street images, while in the US there is no presumption of privacy for people walking in public.

Pro Tip from Zack Ariasby taking the time to say hello and talk to people on the street and in your travels, you can uncover fascinating stories and make more compelling street portraits.

FujiFilm’s X Agenda

There were certainly some common themes in each of the three talks that will be familiar to anyone who has seen FujiFilm’s marketing for their X-series cameras. None of the three photographers mentioned sensor sizes or megapixels, not that either really is a decisive factor in camera choice, if our focus is purely on image quality.

All three photographers talked about how good the X-series cameras where at rendering colours and creating dramatic black and white images. All talked about the way FujiFilm has improved the autofocus capabilities in recent cameras. But, the theme they came back to again and again was the size, weight and portability of the cameras and how that impacted their street and travel photography.

“When I move without my camera it’s like I’m missing an arm.” – Thomasz Lazar

All three photographers talked about the way the smaller size of X series cameras meant they always had a camera close by, instead of just relying on a smartphone, or even missing photo opportunities. Each photographer saw this as a chance to get more into street and travel photography. And, all three emphasised how little gear they travel with these days and how the X series camera systems can pack into a very small travel load.

“I’ve always loved street photography, but I was intimidated by the equipment, by having a big loud dSLR.” – Zack Arias

In particular, the small size and quiet operation of the X series cameras made it easier for each photographer to blend into the street as they worked. Not only did they draw less attention to themselves, they also tended to evoke less reactions from people as they took street images, since the smaller cameras were less imposing.

“I don’t impress people with these cameras, I disappear with these cameras.” – David Hobby

Hobby and Arias in particular emphasised the way these cameras make users look less like “professional” photographers. Arias even told some funny stories about pretending to be a dumb amateur fumbling with this camera as a way to get out of situations where people might be unhappy with him taking photos.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the X series anniversary event was quite impressive. I was certainly taken with the new FujiFilm X-Pro2 camera and the quality of images in the exhibition. And, it was a treat to have such good quality talks so close to home. It’s impressive to see how open FujiFilm are being about the development of their technology and the close relationships they are trying to develop with professional photographers.

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In his Tokyo studio Fernando combines his life-long passions for art and technology. On the road, he is always looking to take the next wrong turn, just to see what kind of images and stories might unfold. A photographer and writer, with a background in music, Fernando has lived in Chile, Australia, the UK, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan. Read More.

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