I’ve been a brand ambassador for Fujifilm Canada for quite awhile now. Was it 2012? I think it was. Those early days were the Wild West, just a handful of us chatting on the phone, sharing our thoughts with Billy Luong about cameras, the lenses we wanted to see in the pipeline, testing stuff in the field and providing feedback. I miss those early years of camaraderie between just a few Canadian photographers. Most of all, I miss the feeling of contributing to something that was new and bold and full of promise. We were there at the creation—it’s a feeling we’ll never get back.
Over the years I’ve had my doubts at times, about the way the program was managed—or rather, not managed. Guidelines weren’t always clear. At some point it felt more about numbers, about adding as many photographers as possible. I felt this was diluting the whole point of the project—regardless of my place in it. But in the end this was all background noise: I was shooting these cameras because I liked them, because they were the right tool for me. Period. The program itself was never the goal.
Certain things have changed over the past year or so. Unlike those early years when the system wasn’t yet complete, the company now requires X-Photographers to shoot all their work exclusively with Fujifilm cameras. I do it already, so selfishly this doesn’t affect me one bit. I can certainly understand how it could affect others and I respect the dilemma it may pose. But I don’t consider my Freedom being infringed upon here: if at some point I’m not happy, I’ll walk away. No one’s tying me to a chair. I’m here because I want to be here. Because I enjoy the gear, because I’ve made friends within this company and community. And yes, because I’ve benefited from this collaboration in all sorts of ways, big and small. Heck, I’m headed to Photokina next week—that’s a hell of a perk and I’m perfectly aware of how lucky I am. Stressed, but lucky...;)
But I want to make one detail very, very clear in light of recent...let’s call them allegations: I have NEVER said or posted anything at the request of Fujifilm or as part of some sort of contractual engagement. No one at Fujifilm Canada has EVER forced me to write a review, to push this or that piece of gear. Ever. Even when I’ve had exclusive access and it would’ve made perfect sense for them to ask something in return: sometimes I did and sometimes I didn’t; it’s always been up to me. It’s been this way from day one and nothing has changed through any new requirements that I know of. When I give talks sponsored by the company, I get carte blanche on content. In fact, they’ve always encouraged me to make these about photography, not products. I don’t receive a set of talking points.
I’m under no obligation to use the X-photographers logo as part of my business identity, or to share and redistribute Fujifilm content through social media. Do I sometimes do any of this on my own? Sure. Are we encouraged to do it when we can? Yes. The same way I’m encouraged to share about say...the SNAP Photo Festival in the UK next year (it should be quite a bit of fun). But it’s always on my own terms and nothing has changed in this regard. There’s no coercion. I’ve done corporate and promotional work for Fujifilm, seen images appear in various ads—all things for which I’ve been compensated. I’ve also purchased quite a bit of gear from them as well. Yes, I did say purchased.
Now, am I tainted in any way? Do I have a positive bias towards the company’s products because of my relationship with them? Of course I do. I’d never pretend otherwise. We’re all human here. I get to see the work that goes into creating these products, to share concerns and ideas. I get to glimpse behind the wizard’s curtain and peek into the future. I’ve had (too much) beer with managers, designers and engineers...there’s a personal aspect to this relationship at this point in my life. But 1) I’ve never hidden this fact from anyone and 2) I’m not a product reviewer, so who cares? I’m a guy who takes pictures for a living and takes pictures in his off-time and takes pictures when everyone else has pretty much stopped taking pictures. I enjoy sharing, so I do. I was sharing back in my Nikon days—and I sure as hell wasn’t a Nikon Ambassador.
The day I start singing the praises of a system I don’t actually use? That’s the day I should quit altogether. I won’t be a photographer at that point—I’ll be a promoter and a fake. Until then...life goes on.