A quick note about being an X-Photographer

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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.

A September Newsbrief

So how have you all been? It feels like ages since I’ve spoken in a voice that was purely conversational—as opposed to the Story (capital S) inner monologue. I feel the need for a mea culpa: man did I let the blog fall by the wayside. I still have several essays to publish from the UK series as well as other more mundane episodes, stolen, as usual, from our everyday lives. Some of these have made their way to KAGE’s Chronicle 90 journaling project; others still sit on an external hard drive, waiting. It’s a common byproduct of summer months, to be scattered this way, but it seems to have been more intense this year: part fatigue, part busyness, part imposed secrecy. At some point it all blended together to create a—paradoxically—frantic standstill. Don’t even try imagining ;)

But Fall is here. On cue, the air is cooler and we can finally sleep under the covers again. And I can also share some bits of news I’d been keeping for myself.

PHOTOKINA

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Stoked about this: I’ll be leaving for Germany (via a short detour to Brussels) in a couple of weeks: I’m scheduled to speak at Photokina, on the Fujifilm Studio stage. This will be part talk, part live shoot. Very much looking forward to seeing friends out there again: it’s a really cool lineup and three of my KAGE buddies will be there as well so...beer? Perhaps a few.

If you’re planning to visit be sure to come and say hi if you get the chance.

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KAGE+DOMINIQUE SHAW

We have a new KAGE member too! Dominique Shaw has joined our ranks. We’re very excited to see her work in the months ahead. We’ve added her profile to the website and she’ll start publishing right after we end the Chronicle 90 project I just mentioned. 

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MEDIUM FORMAT MAGAZINE

Admittedly, the GFX has caused a minor seismic shift in my small corner of the universe: what began as a tentative experiment has since impacted much more of my photography than I initially thought it would. Medium Format is a new digital publication and website where, every two months, I’ll be exploring the topic through a column entitled Frailties.

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FFOTON.WALES

While in the UK last June for Kevin Mullin’s brilliant X-Weddings conference, I had the great pleasure of sitting down for an in-depth interview with Brian from Ffoton—a website and podcast based in Wales and dedicated to photography. Most interviews tend to happen through Skype these days—for obvious reasons—and there’s such a different dynamic to a casual, face to face conversation. Ideas and topics bounce off each other so much more naturally. A highly enjoyable encounter. Plus: if you’re looking to spend a few hours listening to photographers, this site will have you covered for days.

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BREATHE PICTURES

Oh and speaking of X-Weddings: that was an absolute blast. The events were a blast, the folks attending the conference and those on my workshop were a blast—and the invited photographers were...well yes, a blast. And crazy talented. This is where I met Dominique (and her brother Liam) but also Marianne Chua, Facundo Santana and Neale James. You’ll see more of these last two compadres when I get around to posting the Brighton pics...I will, promised. But I especially want to mention Neale’s new podcast: Breathe Pictures. Neale is a documentary wedding photographer, but he was once a BBC DJ. He sounds like a BBC DJ. He’s also a storyteller who has a hell of a knack for packaging shows that completely draw you in. Episode 1 is a wrap up of X-Weddings—complete with a few funny car conversations on our way to Brighton. But believe me, you’ll absolutely want to dig into the next episodes. Notably, episode 3 is with the late great Steve Shipman, who we sadly lost a few months ago.

I believe that’s it for the roundup.
Later guys

P.S We have a dog now. And a cat. Discuss...;)

In Britannia, Awake & Adrift | Bath, street level.

I seem to be finding my way again but clearly, winter and a cold spring have taken their toll. The gang is out, everyone shooting on their own this afternoon. I record a few bits of audio, jot down a couple of words...tentative steps. Experimenting.  

“Crowds & electric saws
sunbeams
 & wind.”
 


Shot with the X100F


Dignity & republics

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Labour Day
as summer exhales
its faint breath of wilting leaves
 & sorrow.
A final gasp
before the rush
of winds.

The kids went back to school this week, as they usually do. Life returned to its clockwork normalcy and we all settled once again into the grooves we know so well. But on Saturday I turned on the television, a little before 9:00 AM, grabbed a coffee and found a spot on the couch in our living room. I sat there for the better part of the morning, alone at times, answering questions from the girls at others—who is this daddy? What’s going on?. Jacob was playing video games. Cynthia joined me for a bit, then moved in and out.

I couldn’t budge.

I watched a nation remember its soul. I watched as the ghosts of honour, duty and dignity descended and stormed in through soft abandon, the halls echoing from voices possessed, pushing assembled men and women towards some semblance of recollection, of honesty. I watched and hoped for rebirth. How could anyone go back to business as usual after these solemn moments had passed? How could anyone justify inaction in the face of renewed cruelty and lies? Or stand-by as an abyss threatened to swallow the foundational core of their republic? I watched and hoped.

Then during a pause I loaded the cesspool that is Twitter: the vile coward hadn’t even stopped spewing hate as the rest of the world mourned. Not surprising of course. But still another drop of poison in the bloodstream.

I took these images to reconnect—with the things we‘ve lost and those we still have.
As summer exhaled.

Impressions, Route 132.

And after we are in the new house, when memories of other places we have lived in come back to us, we travel to the land of Motionless Childhood, motionless the way all Immemorial things are
— Excerpt from: The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard.

like moving inside a gallery
new paintings at every short mile we cross.
I'm so rarely the passenger...


Shot with the X100F