Seclusion//Sincerety

by Jonas Rask

Narration is linear. Narration starts and ends. 

Set intro. 
Set exit. 

All thoughts and actions in between are fluid. Up for grabs. Interpretable.

In the greatest narrative of all, some seek companionship. Some seek to share their path. To reflect and receive. To give way for others to shape the interpretable.

But not all. Some confine or expand to seclusion. They administer stories in solitude and expel excess. 
Parallel are the entities and parallel are the narratives, but the frame is set

Set intro
Set exit

Eduard

By BERT STEPHANI

He kills animals for a living almost daily, he's loud and outspoken without the ability to be politically correct or be tamed. Those traits earned Eduard a couple of minutes every week on a national television show and made him into a bit of a celebrity in Holland. He has gotten more time on air and, became one of the protagonists on a theatrical released documentary and reaches a lot of people through his Facebook page and YouTube channel. The camera loves his rugged appearance and the microphone hangs on to every one-liner. The media likes him to be controversial, wild and weird. Make no mistake, he is all that but there's more. His words and actions come from a deep place in which the media has little interest but I do.

Eduard and I don't agree on everything but we both enjoy the conversation anyway, wether it's laughter around a campfire or whispers in a makeshift blind.  He is the prototype of the rugged outdoorsman, you know, the kind they don't make anymore. He kills geese with his bare hands without flinching, lights a fire in seconds and doesn't use a fork if his hands can do the job. At the same time he is a renaissance man, a philosopher, a student, a professor and a gentle soul. The word "paradox" suits him very well.

I've always been attracted to people who have more layers than just a superficial shell. I believe most people have more layers but unfortunately not everyone is comfortable showing what's under their skin, although that's where I believe the truth lies. I'm thinking about doing more of these photo stories on remarkable people. Let me know if you think if that's a good plan. (Shot with a preproduction X100F and the GFX50S with the 63mm)

MATIERE GRISE

By Vincent Baldensperger

Gommer son image et ses signatures individuelles, changer de peau. Ne subsiste que l'enveloppe brute sans artifices. Tête, cœur, fond, derrière la matière grise sommes-nous encore à l'image d'un parfum, complexités intérieures aux apparences parfois trompeuses ?   

The Gentle Breeze Of The Blast

Photography & Text by Derek Clark

I had planned to follow-up my H2O post with another elements based piece about Air and decided to shoot something at Whitelee Windfarm on the 23rd of May. But that morning I woke up to the news that a suicide bomber had killed 19 people and injured many more at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester (UK). More details found their way into each news bulletin as the morning progressed and the death total rose to 22.

I eventually got to the windfarm around 1:30pm and decided to listen to Ryuichi Sakamoto's latest album ‘Async’ as I began to photograph my subject. Ryuichi is in the middle of a battle with cancer and this album is heavily influenced by life and death. A perfect choice of music for this place and time. The mixture of vast open space with the eerie sounds of Async, mixed with the noise of the turbines that crept past my earphones. Then track 8 'Fullmoon' started to play and the voice of American author Paul Bowles spoke these words...

"Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really! How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood? Some afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it. Perhaps four or five times more, perhaps not even that.
How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty, yet it all seems limitless."

Some of the victims of the Manchester bombing were children, the youngest being just eight years old. They'll never get the chance to look back on a special afternoon of their childhood. Likewise the countless others that have felt the wrath of western drones. It's all too easy after a devastating event like this, to see everything as good or bad, black or white. But there is no black and there is no white, only grey.

All pictures were shot with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and the Lensbaby Composer Pro with Edge 80 optic. I used the Acros+R film simulation and applied a tone curve (S Curve), plus Clarity in Lightroom to the JPEG's. I also applied a vignette to some of the pictures. I shot RAW files too, but didn't use them.

Books & Memories

By Kevin Mullins

Books are an incredibly important part of my own personal documentary making.

Simple snaps of the children, the family, my everyday life.  Stuff.

The photography is the beginning of the story that, I believe, should always end up in a tactile print.

It's easy for us to become encumbered by new technology.  Megabytes and Megapixels.

I'm living in an industry where the next big thing is always around the corner.  Yet, to me at least, the next best thing is the next picture I print.

When was the last time you made an heirloom (for that is what these are) for your children?  And your children's children? Or perhaps, even..... just for yourself.

Love people, and use things - because the opposite never works.
— Minimalism Movement

GFX 50S: Three Views

The Hush

by Patrick LA ROQUE

It's been two months since I purchased my GFX kit: a GFX 50S, the GF 63mm f2.8 and two batteries. The bare essentials. In this time I've been puzzled, astonished, dazzled and left wanting. I've equally questioned my skills and felt I could do no wrong—sometimes within minutes. Needless to say: it's been a ride.

My two partners here are likely answering this same question in their own way: why, after extolling the virtues of a smaller, quieter system for the past 5 years, did I invest in this camera? The answer is one I still struggle with, because it has complicated my life to a certain extent. Now, before every single shoot, I find myself evaluating a GFX vs X-series equation: which one fits the job? Which is the best tool? Do I need that GFX resolution/look or is it overkill? Do I bring one or both? The truth is no one has ever criticized my X-series images in terms of resolution or IQ. I've never had a client raise an eyebrow at my tools of choice either—quite the opposite, actually. So why? Short answer: because when the stars align with this kit...I get chills.

The first image I shot with my own GFX 50S was a quick grab of my daughter Anaïs in our home studio: one cheap speedlight in a softbox, nothing fancy. And when I loaded the file I just couldn't stop staring at the screen: the results had a quality I'd never achieved before. I don't mean technical quality or resolution or sharpness...I'm talking about character. A perfectly subjective and undefinable set of various elements, coming together in one frame. Keywords started bouncing around in my head—fluid, organic, filmic...A quiet transcendence.

And that, right there, is the reason.

The GFX 50S and GF 63mm resolve a crazy amount of detail—without question. I'm sure landscape photographers will drool over what they can achieve. But for me the appeal lies at the other end of the spectrum, in the wide open territory of subject isolation and how those specific transitions are rendered. Because it's not just sharp vs blurry but the dissolution of one into the other...almost like brush strokes. It's also the way textures appear, the grain and structure of skin and hair when shooting portraits. I'm still smitten every time I pick up my X-series cameras. I still love how the lenses look. But the GFX pulls me in because it's different. Because—as I've written elsewhere—there's a hush over these pictures.

This kit was a business investment and I feel extremely fortunate that it's already paid for itself. But this is a long term approach, one I'll be evaluating on a case by case basis with every job that comes along—because it's a new point of view, not just equipment. I've always believed that our tools guide us as much as we guide them. That we're shaped by what we use and how we use it—software, hardware, cameras, lenses; all of it. It's all building blocks.

So this is another brick in the wall—to paraphrase a few rock and roll legends. A means of expression, a new path to walk.
A reason to explore and forge ahead.


Calm

by bert stephani

I like to think I was in the meeting where the idea of a digital medium format Fujifilm camera for under 10K with a standard lens was first mentioned. I'll never know if it really was the first mention but judging by the surprised look on some Japanese faces, it wasn't something they were considering at that point. A couple of years and lots of rumours later, I held a prototype of the GFX50S in my hand at Photokina 2016. The gearhead in me was excited but as a photographer I wasn't sure it was for me. After all, the small and light X-series cameras and lenses have been the perfect fit for my work, and they still are. 

Everything that Patrick wrote above sounds very familiar to me and we've had lots of conversations before, during and after making the decision to invest in the GFX system. We even went for the exact same setup. It was also my initial gut reaction to the files I made with a prototype camera as a test, that made me want to investigate if the system would benefit my work. 

My approach was twofold, it has a business component and it's about subtlety. Let's start with the latter. I feel like my work is in a transitional phase at the moment. It's not that I want to do something completely different but I've noticed some substantial shifts lately. The subjects and the intent are the same but instead of making bold statements, I seem to be looking to tell more subtle stories. I believe in letting your vision dictate equipment choices. Get the tool that allows you to tell your story best. The GFX's big sensor gives me more resolution, sharpness, dynamic range and overall detail. If my camera captures more detail, I can tell a more detailed story. 

That's all very nice but I'm not some kind of rich dentist, I'm the prototype starving photographer who owns already way too many cameras and has way too little money in the bank. I'm not much of a businessman but even I know that an investment is only an investment if it makes you more money than you've spent on it. Last year I made the decision to start targeting higher end clients and try to get more jobs that require a small amount of great pictures rather than a bunch of reasonable pictures. I wouldn't mind if this transition went a bit faster but I'm slowly getting more of those jobs. And I feel that in many cases a digital medium format camera can provide my clients with more quality. The X-series cameras have never been a limiting factor but it may be worth for me to try something that gives me even better image quality. And the pressure of making that big investment back is a kick in the butt to go after those higher end jobs even more. 

I've rented digital medium format cameras before when the job required it. I could always make it work but never found it an enjoyable experience, particularly when you're not in a controlled environment. And that's where most of my shooting happens, that's where I want to be. A week with a test camera revealed that the GFX is without doubt the most user friendly medium format camera I've ever used. But it does require a slower, more methodical approach than my other cameras. I did a lot of testing and used the GFX on a few jobs since I bought it. In one of my conversations with Patrick I said something like "If the stars align, it's magic. I just have a hard time aligning those stars". I'm still figuring it out. Sometimes it feels like I have to learn photography from scratch, but more and more I get the hang of it. I'm also learning the limitation of this system and with that comes a renewed appreciation for the X-series cameras. They are really complimentary systems. 

I'm trying to incorporate the GFX in my way of working and in my style, but I'm also learning to adapt my workflow to get the most out of this camera. Sometimes it's a frustrating process but also an interesting one. I'm learning to work slower but better, use a tripod again, edit tighter, experiment with other software and new post processing techniques, ... So far the GFX has been an exciting force that pushes me to figure out ways to make me a better photographer.


Loud Subtleties

By Jonas Rask

I guess 3 separate sessions was what it took to convince me that the GFX was a camera for me after all.

I heard about the camera some months leading up to Photokina 2016. I was able to handle and briefly shoot the very early prototype GFX at that particular tradeshow for the first time. At that point in time, I was more than overly impressed by the technology of it all, but I held a firm belief that this was not a camera for me. Why would I ever need a digital medium format camera. The mere thought was insane to me.

Come december 2016 and I was given the task from Fujifilm Tokyo to shoot my usual packshots of their upcoming January launch spree of products. Of course this also included the GFX50s itself. I had it for about 2 weeks, all lenses and whistles in hand. And then I had to send it off. I used it to do some of the packshots, and that is definitely when I saw its potential. I still held my belief of not needing to buy one, but I had a weird feeling when I shipped it back.

A couple of months later I was tasked with testing out the GF23mm f/4 in Iceland. And this time around I really did not want to let this camera go when we came home. It had gotten to me. 

So I bought one!

And you know what? The decision wasn’t even hard. It was just something I really felt I needed to do. I was smitten! But I didn’t even know what I was so fond of. I couldn’t really express it in words at the time, and to be honest, I still have a hard time expressing why I needed to own the GFX. Putting my thoughts of this camera down in writing is even harder.  It seems superfluous for me, an enthusiast street and lifestyle photographer, to buy into a digital medium format system. Even more so because I have spent the last 5 years preaching to anyone who would listen, how fabulous the X-series is.
But that has not changed! The X-series cameras are the best cameras in the world if you ask me. They are perfect workhorses in small perfect packages, and having bought my own GFX has only made me appreciate these cameras even more. Obviously not because I dislike the GFX, but because it has given me a an appreciation of a wider palette of tools to work with.

I already wrote a review of the GFX back in January. It was even a very tech-ridden one. So I know all about the glorious high resolution sensor. I know about the insane sharpness. I know about the fantastic low light performance. I know about the superior tonality. But all those things don't even come close to describing why I bought this camera. Sure, its a neat party trick to zoom into a 100% crop of an image, but the novelty of this wears off rather quickly. As it very well should.

I think Bert and Patrick describe it so well. The GFX delivers something new and different. It gives way to subtleties. I get to dwell in details of images that I didn’t even know existed. Not resolution details, but transitional details. Details of color. Details of depth. 

When I look at images that I capture using the GFX it is very clear to me that there is something very different in the files. Showing these files online, compressed to death by horrendous algorithms, doesn’t always make much sense to me, but what does make sense are all the steps I take before uploading the finished image. Its a completely different spectrum of files to work with. And within this spectrum I find myself playing with completely new techniques as well as removing boundaries of what I feel I can achieve with my images.

I find myself going with more subtle toning and handling of the files from this camera. Maybe because I really don’t want to ruin all the little details. I really want to keep it pure, and keep it simple. I want to let the camera show its footprint rather than my post-processing software. I think the GFX is the next step for me. Not as a solitary system, but in parallel with my X-series cameras. They complement each other so well, and they play different roles in my photography.

It’s somewhat of a paradox. I invested in a camera that most consider to be all about loud and bold super-resolution, super-sharpness and super-IQ. I expected this. But what I have found is intimacy and subtlety. I have already felt and seen what it does to my images, and I’m super excited to explore this new expanded spectrum of photographic territory.

A city, vaguely.

By Patrick La Roque

It began as utopia, the vision of a prefabricated downtown merging art, urbanity and commercialism.  These "shopping centers"—a novel 1950s concept by american architect Victor Gruen—were to propel suburbia into a new age of cosmopolitan flair, creating the type of mixed environment only found in big cities. But while the original vision strived for community, retail soon took over and the mall—as we know it today—was born: a cookie cutter, climate-controlled monument to stores and food courts, surrounded by asphalt and cars.

Lifestyle centers are the most recent attempt at revisiting Gruen's original concept. Instead of an indoor labyrinth, the boutiques and restaurants line makeshift streets and pretend town squares. Hotels, movie theatres and concert venues are all here, striving to provide an anchor, a sense of place and purpose. 

Yet all I see are cardboard cutouts.

I grab a coffee at Starbucks and sit at the terrace. Through the buildings behind me I see an ocean of cars. In fact you can't walk from one "square" to another without breaking the spell and crossing an endless series of parking lots. In winter, at minus 5000 celsius...these become wind tunnels. Still, there's a certain beauty in the artificiality. An odd shine to the veneer and emptiness I find this morning. Like decor. If I squint my eyes and forget the fake palm trees, I can almost make myself believe.

I can almost hear the vague murmurs of a city.

Walk The Line

By Robert Catto

As cities grow, they evolve. But sometimes evolution is cyclical, it seems.

Sydney streets have been torn up before, many times, and for many reasons - this time, it's light rail, coming up the heart of the downtown and through the neighbourhood where I live; but it's not the first time trams have run through many of these streets. They're literally finding some of the old tracks when excavating to make the new ones.

It's just the first time in a generation or two; and, in the same way some people opposed the original trams and had them removed, some people are against the new ones coming back.

Meanwhile, these old buildings have seen it all before...

KONEKSI

By BERT STEPHANI

When I was 14, I went to the ballet for the first time ... and the last time. It was one of those modern things with a bunch of screaming skinny people rolling over the floor while taking their clothes off. That image has stuck to my retina for 28 years until I recently discovered that there are other kinds of ballet too.

My girlfriend has been following a ballet academy for a photo project for a while and asked me if I want to do some video during a performance by the academy in the refugee center where we shot portraits last year. 

The show is called "Koneksi" and it's about how important it is in these troubled times to connect to other people. The performance and the interaction with the refugees moved me to tears. What a great example of how art can build bridges. 

I'm incredibly proud that my video was used in the show and allowed me to make a tiny contribution to this initiative. 

I had other obligations on the dates that the final show was held but luckily I was able to attend the final rehearsal and take some pictures. 

The academy decided to so an extra show and donated all the proceeds to an organisation that helps refugees. Wow, just wow. 

Book Review | My Kennedy Years by Jacques Lowe

TEXT AND PICTURES BY DEREK CLARK

As we've just hit the JFK Centennial, I thought it would be a good time to do a book review of My Kennedy Years by photographer Jacques Lowe. Lowe was JFK's official photographer for five years after they met in 1958. He covered the campaign for the presidency and was Kennedy's personal photographer after he became president. Many of the pictures in this book are of the Kennedy family, real intimate pictures that show the amount of trust JFK had in Lowe. 

THE BOOK
The book comes in at just over 250 pages and has a royal blue cover with the publishers logo embossed on it. The spine has the authors name and the title embossed in silver. There is a black and white outer dust jacket with only the books subtitle 'A Memoir' printed in red, and on the rear of the dust jacket a selection of contact sheets. This is a book of black and white photographs, with the only colour inside the book being the wax pencil markings on the contact sheets (more on these later). Print quality is very high and the pictures are contrasty and dramatic. If, like me, you're a fan of film grain, you will not be disappointed here.

INTIMATE MOMENTS
The sort of access Lowe had with Kennedy is a documentary photographers dream! He would often be the only other person in the room with Jack and Bobby Kennedy, both of whom were assassinated. One such time was a conversation between the two Kennedy brothers about LBJ becoming vice president, which Bobby was against.  Then later it was just LBJ and JFK in the room.

“When it was all finally worked out and time to seal the deal, there were just the three of us in the room - LBJ, JFK and me. Johnson poured himself a healthy drink. Then Bobby came into the room and stood silently by, regarding Johnson with a look of deep suspicion.”

The book is filled with lots of these amazing moments in time - JFK with his brother, his wife and kids, with staff or even moments alone. One such moments was in 1961 when JFK was was being given the news on the telephone about the assassination of deposed Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo. JFK is clearly shocked, eyes closed and his hand clasped against his face. This is one of Lowe's favourite shots of JFK and he actually got the president to sign a print of it.

CONTACT SHEETS
My Kennedy Years is a book that should interest historians and photographers alike. There are many famous pictures that we know and love here, but quite often it shows a sequence, which reveals a bit more about the scene. There are also a great number of pages devoted to Lowe's contact sheets showing the photographers thought process as he marks and circles the best shots using red, yellow or blue wax pencil. The contact sheets are in both 35mm and medium format and show that Lowe wasn't just allowed in for a quick photo, he was there for the duration and shot some of the best candid photographs in the history of the US presidency. 

FIVE WORLD TRADE CENTRE
In 1999 Jacques Lowe put his archive of 40,000 Kennedy negatives in a safe-deposit box in a vault in Five World Trade Centre. They were destroyed in the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers, but fortunately contact sheets and several prints survive. Surely a photographers worst nightmare.

THE END
Lowe decided to go back to New York to re-establish his studio. On November 22nd 1963, he had just finished a commercial shoot in Central Park and was walking back to his studio to shoot a quartet of jazz musicians. He noticed that all the cars had stopped on 6th Avenue and asked one of the drivers what was going on. 

“The president has been shot.”
It didn’t register at first “Which President?”
“President Kennedy.”

Lowe returned to Washington that night. He walked part of the funeral presession with Jackie Kennedy and took his final JFK picture. Jacques Lowe died in 2001. My Kennedy Years was published in 2013 to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK.