Through a Photographer’s Eye: Joe Jongue

Through a photographer’s eye is the first in a series of interviews featuring Australian photographers. In each interview, we learn about the person behind the camera and how they use Fujifilm X Series cameras to photograph the world around them. Our tenth interview is with Melbourne based photographer, Joe Jongue.

Joe, can you tell us about yourself and what sparks your creativity and gets you out shooting?

 

Like some people, my hobbies and passion for things always change with the wind. However, photography was never on that list, even though my grandfather was a professional photographer in his time (I still have his vintage C.P. Goerz Berlin Dagor lens).

 

The first camera I purchased was the (then stylish) Sony Cybershot T1 back in 2001 when compact ‘happy-snaps’ were in. Fast forward to 2013 which was when my interest and passion for photography began. After briefly using a friend’s Canon 650D, I went out the next week and purchased my own, and the rest was history.

 

It took two years for me to identify and develop my shooting style, it was around this time when I also developed an interest in Street Photography. What sparks my creativity when I’m out shooting is my gut instinct, I go with the flow, if I feel it, then I’ll shoot it, if I only manage one keeper at the end of the day, it’s a good day.

 

What do you photograph with and what gear do you like to take with you when you’re out photographing? 

 

I enjoy shooting Street Photography, anything that is candid and raw. So when I’m out and about, I carry my Fujifilm X-T20 mounted with the XF35mmF2 everywhere I go. It’s a perfect little lens when combined with the smaller body of the X-T20 and the Auto-Focus speed on it is fast enough to capture candid moments while producing tack sharp images in the process. I never leave home without it.

 

 

Can you tell us about the Facebook community you orchestrate and explain why the community is important in the field of photography? 

 

After my transition from DSLR to Fujifilm Mirrorless, there weren’t many support communities around, many of the group’s on Facebook posed as a dumping ground for unboxing photos of other people’s gear, there was little interaction between members of the group. So my good friend, Antonio Colaiacovo (whom I shared the journey of transitioning from DSLR to Fujifilm with), decided to start our own community group, Fujifilm X Australia Photographers Facebook Group.

 

 

What do you look for in a photo and do you worry about composition, lighting or focus? 

 

I enjoy black & white photos, I’m a big fan of leading lines and will always try and incorporate these into my images as I compose for a shot. I find that having a leading line in the scene can sometimes help frame and compose the shot for you than not having one. In terms of lighting, as opposed to most photographers who will try and seek out the ‘Golden’ hour for natural lighting and avoid the harsh 12 o’clock sun, I, on the other hand, prefer this, it creates more defined shadows and can often help create leading lines in situations that would not normally allow.

 

 

If you have some advice for someone starting out in photography what would it be? 

 

Don’t be caught up in the gear, just go out and shoot. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone; chances are, you may be good in a particular genre than you may think. Join a local photography community, be open to advice and more importantly, interact with other photographers.

 

How did you find out about Fujifilm X Series cameras and what made you choose the model you shoot with? 

 

I first came across the Fujifilm X Series when I was searching for an alternative solution to my encumbering DSLR set up. Before making the full transition, I purchased the compact Fujifilm X30 as it had the same sensor and processor as the X-T1. I immediately fell in love with the colours and clarity of its JPEG quality; the film simulation was also a bonus; however, I was still on the fence and needed a little more convincing. About two years ago I participated in the Global 500px Photo Walk hosted by Fujifilm Australia, it was my opportunity to ask some questions around areas of concern, but more so I had the chance to try the X-T1.

The very next week I sold all my DSLR gear and made a full transition over to Fujifilm and am now fully invested. I now shoot with the X-T20, I chose this over the more popular X-T2 because of the small size and light weight body but mainly because it was almost identical to the X-T2, I was happy without the extra features offered by X-T2, and it suited my style of shooting.

 

Can you tell us the story behind your favourite photo you have captured using an X Series camera? 

 

One of my favourite photos was the one taken of a man walking in the middle of the tram tracks; the shot was taken on Bourke St Mall, Melbourne using the Fujifilm X30 during the busy afternoon rush hour. What makes this special is that this particular street is usually busy with pedestrians crossing from all directions while trams run up and down the street at regular intervals.

While I was framing this shot, the intention was to capture the tram tracks leading up the hill to the horizon. However, while standing in the middle of the tram tracks, I could hear a tram approaching from behind, I wanted to move out the way but my gut instinct convinced me otherwise, and that’s when I noticed a man walking into my frame. I paused a moment even though the tram behind was honking for me to move, once the man was in the centre of the frame I took the shot and moved out the way for the oncoming tram. The end result would not have been possible if I had moved and not listened to my gut instinct.

 

What’s one photography tip you have learned from someone else that you would like to pass on to the greater audience?

 

Just because you have a fast prime i.e. F1.2 doesn’t mean you must shoot wide open, each lens has a sweet spot, understanding the aperture range can mean the difference between a tack sharp image and a blurry one.

To view more of Joe’s work visit his site or visit any of his profile on Facebook or Instagram.

Editors Note: Fujifilm Australia does not endorse photographing while standing on train or tram tracks.

Other interviews in this series

Through A Photographer’s Eye: Drew Hopper

Through A Photographer’s Eye: Alamby Leung

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Ian Tan

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Dale Rogers

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Josselin Cornou

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Chris Hopkins

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Anirban Chatterjee

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Harmeet Gabha

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Benjamin Lee

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Anirban Chatterjee

through-a-photographers-eye

Through a photographer’s eye is the first in a series of interviews featuring Australian photographers. In each interview, we learn about the person behind the camera and how they use Fujifilm X Series cameras to photograph the world around them. Our seventh interview is with Melbourne based photographer Anirban Chatterjee.

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Anirban, can you tell us about your journey of becoming a visual storyteller and how you became involved in photography?

 

I was very curious about photography in childhood. Both my dad and granddad were amateur photographers. As far as I remember, we always had a camera or two in our house. But in India in the 80s and 90s, the time when I was growing up, owning a camera was not very common. The camera was more of a family treasure than a tool of the trade. So, my time with the camera was very limited. The norm was I got to take one frame during an entire family vacation. I don’t think my dad could have handled his anxiety more than that. So, yes, I was curious more in a forbidden fruit kind of way than anything else.

Actual photography happened a bit late in my life. My first camera was a Kodak point and shoot which I bought in 2005 when I was living in London. It was my first time outside India, and I wanted to preserve my memories. Then in 2007, I moved to Thailand. This was the time when prosumer DSLRs were getting more mainstream. All my friends had a DSLR. They were all talking about stuff my simple point and shoot could never do. So, one day I went and bought a Pentax K10D. Yes, in a way, I bought my first DSLR because of peer pressure. And that’s pretty much how I got started in photography.

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Between 2005 and 2012, I was living a nomadic life. Especially between 2007 and 2012, I lived in five countries and visited two more. When I started, my images were mostly of these new places, its culture, and people. I wanted to share stories about these new experiences with my parent back in India. I like to think of my Mom as my first editorial client. That’s how I started telling stories through my photography.

During this time, I was also fortunate to get published in a few global publications and was featured in the Pentax artist gallery. This led to a few actual client assignments which further pushed me to learn more about the craft, and to improve my skills.

In 2013 I moved to Australia. Soon after I became a dad, life took over, and photography moved to the bottom of the priority list. In hindsight, I think the time off was a great thing to happen. I got the time to think about where I wanted to be with my life, reset my priorities and what photography meant to me as a person.

My passion continues to be a visual storyteller and photography will always be my chosen medium. I think with time, and from experience, I have finally found the way.

Though I started doing photography almost 10 years back, it has only been a year or so that I feel I have become a photographer.

 

Having shot exclusively on the Fujifilm X-T1 and X100T since 2013, can you explain how X Series equipment has helped your photography style?

 

It may sound a bit odd, but I want my camera to do most of the heavy lifting for me. For me, that’s the reason technology exists. Carl Mydans once said that sophisticated equipment simply “frees all of us from the tyranny of technique and enables us to turn to what photography is all about – creating a picture”. And X Series cameras allow me to do just that.

The beauty of X-Series camera is the common design principles they all share. My main gear for my client work is X-T1, but I also use my X100T when required. For me, it is another body with XF23mmF2 lens. This is where the common design principle helps. Both the cameras work the same way, the menu options which I use are common, the dials and knobs are almost at the same place. I set up both the cameras in the same way, and the entire process feels very seamless.

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Not only are the cameras are similar, but the files they produce are also identical. I rely heavily on automation and like to trust my camera. I am always on Aperture Priority; I set WB to auto, the meter is set to Multi, ISO is always set to 6400, and I use the Chrome Film Simulation almost all the time. That’s what I meant by a camera doing the heavy lifting for me. They also react to post processing the same way and even looks the same when I convert them to monochrome. This makes the entire post-processing workflow very simple and fast.

I think to put it in simple terms; it has made my photographic process very simple and intuitive.

 

You recently travelled to Jakarta with Fujifilm X Series equipment, did you have a particular lens setup you preferred to photography with?

 

I prefer the 23mm focal length on a crop sensor. It gives a 35mm equivalent field of view which suits my street/documentary style of shooting. Being a wide angle lens, it also adds a sense of depth in the images, which I love.

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X100T gives all these in a very small form factor. Add to that a leaf shutter with an inbuilt ND filter. Though I have not used flash on my recent trip, but I have done it before. And it eliminates the need to carry multiple ND filters as well as the limitations of sync speed.
It checks all the boxes for me, and it is my go-to setup for travelling.

 

Did you find photographing in a foreign country to be different to photographing in Australia? If so, how?

 

Definitely. There is a huge difference.

The biggest difference is the way you compose. Photography is an art of elimination. You are always looking for elements to eliminate from the frame to make a stronger image. In places like India, China, Indonesia, and Japan it is very difficult to do that especially when you are used to photographing in a place like Australia.

In Australia, when you are on the streets you are dealing with limited variables. You focus on one or two things. You know the way people interact and behave so it is easier for you to predict and you can pre-visualise things, but in places like Tokyo, Shanghai or Jakarta, with a higher population density, it is very easy to get overwhelmed.

The population of greater Jakarta region itself is more than that of entire Australia. The first time I went out on the streets, I was simply overwhelmed. There were so many people within the frame. Add to that you have other visual elements to deal with. There are more colours on the street, the quality of light is different, just too many variables to consider which takes some time to get used to.

 

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I grew up in India and lived in the South East and East Asia region for almost 5 years. I knew what to expect but still got overwhelmed when I went. It takes a huge shift in the way you react to all those visual cues, to process the information, and make the image.

 

If you have some advice for someone starting out in photography what would it be?

 

Have fun and enjoy. You can be the most technically gifted photographer, but if you are not having fun or enjoying the process, your images will be boring.

And if you are starting to do photography on the street, please be respectful to others. In Australia, it is perfectly legal to do photography in public places, but that doesn’t give you a licence to be a nuisance. As much as we have the right to take photographs in public places, the other person also has a right to walk on the street minding their own business. We live in a community, and respect must be mutual. An image is not worth it if it ruins someone’s day. So please be respectful.

 

In a recent project featured on your website you explored the concept of identity among humans, can you explain the settings you used on your X100T to help portray the subject?

 

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F4 and ISO 6400. Shutter speed was between 1/6th and 1/10th of a second. I used aperture priority mode, so shutter speed was pretty much what the camera decided. Since, I was shooting at the exact same location, standing almost near the same spot and at about the same time of the day, I knew the shutter speed wouldn’t vary that much. Also, I wanted the camera to adjust to the random changes in light from vehicles passing by. Like I said, I want my cameras to do the heavy lifting for me.

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Overall based on your experience, how did you find travelling exclusively with the Fujifilm X100T to document all your travels? Were there any advantages or disadvantages?

 

For my style of shooting, I think it is as good as it can get. To me, the versatility of a 35mm equivalent lens in a small form factor is its biggest advantage.

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I don’t think there are any disadvantages as such. In the end, it comes down to individual preferences and style of shooting. For travelling, landscape photographers only having a fixed prime can be limiting. Also, different people see the world in a different way. If one sees things in ‘telephoto way’ i.e. prefers to isolate subjects or to include minimal elements within the frame, this camera may create some creative constraints. For beginners and people who are a generalist, I feel a camera with XF18-135mm lens is a much better option.

 

 

Do you have any more projects you are planning that we should look out for and where should people go to see more of your work?

 

I am very passionate about the concept of Human identity. So far, I feel I have just scratched the surface, so I will definitely be exploring the theme more in depth. I am also planning to do a few more projects specific to Australia. I think there are many stories in this country still being untold. It is my way of learning more about my adopted country and fellow people.

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I try to update my Instagram and Facebook feed regularly with my latest work and projects. And to see my current work, you can go to my website.

Other interviews in this series

Through A Photographer’s Eye: Drew Hopper

Through A Photographer’s Eye: Alamby Leung

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Ian Tan

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Dale Rogers

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Josselin Cornou

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Chris Hopkins

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Chris Hopkins

through-a-photographers-eye

Through a photographer’s eye is the first in a series of interviews featuring Australian photographers. In each interview, we learn about the person behind the camera and how they use Fujifilm X Series cameras to photograph the world around them. Our sixth interview is with Melbourne based photographer, Chris Hopkins.

Portrait of Chris Hopkins. Photograph by Michael Coyne © 2016
Portrait of Chris Hopkins. Photograph by Michael Coyne © 2016

Chris, can you tell us how you got started in photography and what the visual medium means to you?

 

I travelled a lot in my twenties. I spent 6 years travelling around the world, but Africa got to me visually. I decided (prematurely!) that I wanted to be a wildlife photographer and upon returning home to Melbourne with no career my partner encouraged me to enrol in a photography course. I was then accepted into Melbourne’s Photography Studies College. I did studio classes and learned about the history of photography but it was seeing the work of the masters of photojournalism like; Sebastiao Salgado, Henri Cartier Bresson, James Nachtwey and Marcus Bleasdale that hooked me.

The visual impact these guys images had, particularly their composition and ability to tell a story within a single frame resonated in me and my passion grew from there. In a society that is oversaturated with images, I still feel that quality photojournalism is the most powerful tool to convey a message whilst documenting history. As visual storytellers, I feel it is our duty, to use our skills to tell the story of those that otherwise couldn’t. The ability of an image to change policy and make the world a better, safer place is why I love photojournalism.

 

Recently you photographed a series of portraits of Melbourne’s homeless, tell us why did you find it important to document this and how did you go about crafting this visual story?

 

I photographed the series ‘Streeties’ after a small batch of homeless set up a makeshift protest camp in Melbourne’s City Square. They set up the camp in response to the tabloid media’s misrepresentation of the homeless; painting them as violent, drug users and a danger to society. This witch hunt led to the police ‘cleaning up’ the streets, leaving the genuine homeless with nowhere to go. I am a stringer for Getty Images and Fairfax Media and around that time I was on shift for The Age newspaper and felt it right to try to portray these people as the people they are, not the objects of derision they had been touted as. Initially, I introduced myself to a few of the guys in the camp and listened to their stories and explained what I wanted to do. They were keen to be shown in a positive light.

Melbourne, Australia. From "Streeties' a series on Melbournes homeless. The series aims to present Melbournes homeless as dignified, 'real' people as opposed to the generalised view that they are a stain on society. Some have mental issues some have been successful business people who have fallen on hard times. Some also have drug dependancy issues but all are human beings and deserving of a 'fair go'. Murray, 52 has been on the street for 11 months. Well aware of the drug and alcohol problems associated with the homeless and the public perceptions he takes refuge with others as there is strength in numbers. "The most important thing for us is that the public are made aware of our situation." Photograph by Chris Hopkins
Melbourne, Australia. From “Streeties’ a series on Melbournes homeless. The series aims to present Melbournes homeless as dignified, ‘real’ people as opposed to the generalised view that they are a stain on society. Some have mental issues some have been successful business people who have fallen on hard times. Some also have drug dependency issues but all are human beings and deserving of a ‘fair go’. Murray, 52 has been on the street for 11 months. Well aware of the drug and alcohol problems associated with the homeless and the public perceptions he takes refuge with others as there is strength in numbers. “The most important thing for us is that the public are made aware of our situation.” Photograph by Chris Hopkins

The winter sun in Melbourne comes in very low in the late afternoon but it is golden and warm and I wanted to use this to contrast against the blacks that form in the shadows of the city. I only had a ten-minute window before the sun dropped behind the high-rises so I would find the pocket of light and move the subject into position then let them pose as they wanted. Some would stare at the camera, some would smile others looked away but they all have a certain dignity to them, even after all they have been through and that is ultimately what I wanted to show.

Melbourne, Australia. From "Streeties' a series on Melbournes homeless. The series aims to present Melbournes homeless as dignified, 'real' people as opposed to the generalised view that they are a stain on society. Some have mental issues some have been successful business people who have fallen on hard times. Some also have drug dependancy issues but all are human beings and deserving of a 'fair go'. John, 40 has been on the streets off and on for 27 years. "Its time for the pollies to fulfill promises and make affordable housing for all of us." Photograph by Chris Hopkins
Melbourne, Australia. From “Streeties’ a series on Melbournes homeless. The series aims to present Melbournes homeless as dignified, ‘real’ people as opposed to the generalised view that they are a stain on society. Some have mental issues some have been successful business people who have fallen on hard times. Some also have drug dependency issues but all are human beings and deserving of a ‘fair go’. John, 40 has been on the streets off and on for 27 years. “It’s time for the pollies to fulfil promises and make affordable housing for all of us.” Photograph by Chris Hopkins

 

Did the size of the camera and lens combination put off your subjects at all? Were any shots arranged or did you take the portraits without any planning?

 

I think the size of the camera helps. In this situation, the homeless had long telephoto lens pointed at them from across the street, so immediately if I went into the camp with that sort of gear it would be met with apprehension. I know from experience that using a big press kit on intimate documentary work can have an adverse effect as the subject can feel objectified. The less myself and my camera compromise a situation the more ‘real’ the image will be. Obviously, it’s got a great deal to do with how you interact with the subject as to what picture you make but I feel the Fujifilm’s smaller, less conspicuous size helps put the subject at ease.

Melbourne, Australia. From "Streeties' a series on Melbournes homeless. The series aims to present Melbournes homeless as dignified, 'real' people as opposed to the generalised view that they are a stain on society. Some have mental issues some have been successful business people who have fallen on hard times. Some also have drug dependancy issues but all are human beings and deserving of a 'fair go'. Asha, 62 from Camperdown has been on the streets for 13 years. A writer and poet he sees his street life as a lifestyle always "living a nomadic life" He is worried that the recent attention on the homeless will overlook the bigger issues and he hopes that "the government see through the individuals and support worthwhile programs such as the soup kitchen". Photograph by Chris Hopkins
Melbourne, Australia. From “Streeties’ a series on Melbournes homeless. The series aims to present Melbournes homeless as dignified, ‘real’ people as opposed to the generalised view that they are a stain on society. Some have mental issues some have been successful business people who have fallen on hard times. Some also have drug dependancy issues but all are human beings and deserving of a ‘fair go’. Asha, 62 from Camperdown has been on the streets for 13 years. A writer and poet he sees his street life as a lifestyle always “living a nomadic life” He is worried that the recent attention on the homeless will overlook the bigger issues and he hopes that “the government see through the individuals and support worthwhile programs such as the soup kitchen”. Photograph by Chris Hopkins

For the series of portraits published in Fairfax Media, as mentioned earlier, I basically had the guys, 2 or 3 at a time follow me into pockets of light as it slowly fell away. We would chat and interact and I would make pictures as the sun dropped. I would return the next day at the same time to do more and because of the initial work I did getting to know them it was easy for me to organise people to photograph.

 

Is there a reason why you decided to photograph in black and white and can you elaborate on the lighting setup you used?

 

I wanted the portraits to have an ageless feel like they could be from the States during the depression or under Thatcher in the backstreets of London but I also wanted to give the subject a sense of dignity, despite their situation. I feel that by making the images Black and White it was easier to achieve this goal. The lighting was all natural. I just found the smallest shard of light possible and by exposing for the light it meant that the shadows deepened and made for the contrast I was looking for.

When engaging with the people, did you form any emotional ties with any of them, and how has this project affected your outlook on life?

 

Since meeting these guys I now know most of them to say G’day too and have a chat about how their day is going. I am in the city for the paper or Getty most days so I get to see them reasonably often. I always have had an open view regarding people and their circumstances, by that I mean not to judge a book by its cover, but I wasn’t aware of the wide variety of people who are homeless. While many are drug dependent and some are violent, most that I know are quite gentle and polite, often with some form of mental illness, but a quick chat and asking how they are can mean the world of difference to their day. One gentleman Asha, I have formed a bond with and subsequently, I have been documenting his life on the street.

 

You mentioned you were documenting Asha’s life on the street after one of his family members got in contact after seeing him in published photos online. How has the story unfolded since?

 

I received a message via social media, six months after the series was published, from his grand-daughter saying that she saw the images and was certain Asha was her missing grandfather. Her family hadn’t had any contact in thirteen years and had presumed he was dead. She asked, if possible, could I contact him or somehow get a message to him for her.

Image of Asha Lang from long term project by Chris Hopkins. Photograph by Chris Hopkins
Image of Asha Lang from long term project by Chris Hopkins. Photograph by Chris Hopkins

 

Image of Asha Lang from long term project by Chris Hopkins. Photograph by Chris Hopkins
Image of Asha Lang from long term project by Chris Hopkins. Photograph by Chris Hopkins

I wasn’t sure that he wanted to be found or have anything to do with his family as I was aware that his past, especially his family life, was quite chequered. After a couple of days searching I found him in a new camp that was set up on Flinders St and has since become infamous for its open visible drug use and recently disbanded by police. He was cleanly shaven unlike in his portrait where he sported a heavy beard.

Image of Asha Lang from long term project by Chris Hopkins. Photograph by Chris Hopkins
Image of Asha Lang from long term project by Chris Hopkins. Photograph by Chris Hopkins

When I told him about his granddaughter he was overcome with emotion and desperately wanted to make contact. I’m sure he rang from a payphone within 5 minutes of me giving him the number and I have been documenting his life on the street ever since. It has been an emotional and at times frustrating project, as it’s hard to find him as initially Asha didn’t carry a phone, but I guess knowing that because of my work he has made steps to reunite with his family and put plans in place to better his quality of life is rewarding personally. The full story, “Melbourne’s homeless: Photo tells the story of hope and renewal for Asha Lang” can be seen here.

 

Can you see yourself staying with Fujifilm X Series equipment for your future projects and how has the Fujifilm X-T1 helped you with your photography?

 

Oh definitely! I now use both the X-T1 and the X-T2 on all my projects. The nature of press photography is one of constant pressure and there is a great deal of emphasis on speed. Events happen quickly, you’ve got to be fast to get the shot and filing must be done so quickly that it seems the editor wants the pics before you make them! Using the Fujifilm gear allows me to get into a situation where I can dictate how long I need to make the shot. By giving myself that time I then can concentrate more effort on composition and really think about the story the image will portray. I am also in awe of the image quality that I get from the lens. I use the XF23mmF1.4 and the XF14mmF2.8 and the crispness of the image and focus speed are second to none in my mind.

Melbourne, Australia. From "Streeties' a series on Melbournes homeless. The series aims to present Melbournes homeless as dignified, 'real' people as opposed to the generalised view that they are a stain on society. Some have mental issues some have been successful business people who have fallen on hard times. Some also have drug dependancy issues but all are human beings and deserving of a 'fair go'. Andy, 47 has been homeless for thirty years. He is angry at the anti begging laws in Melbourne and feels that such a minor charge can send those with more serious criminal histories who are going straight backwards in their recovery. "Its like every time i get myself out of the gutter I get pushed back into it." he adds "I wouldnt change anything, theres more genuine, giving people on the streets than in general society." Photograph by Chris Hopkins
Melbourne, Australia. From “Streeties’ a series on Melbournes homeless. The series aims to present Melbournes homeless as dignified, ‘real’ people as opposed to the generalised view that they are a stain on society. Some have mental issues some have been successful business people who have fallen on hard times. Some also have drug dependancy issues but all are human beings and deserving of a ‘fair go’. Andy, 47 has been homeless for thirty years. He is angry at the anti begging laws in Melbourne and feels that such a minor charge can send those with more serious criminal histories who are going straight backwards in their recovery. “Its like every time i get myself out of the gutter I get pushed back into it.” he adds “I wouldnt change anything, theres more genuine, giving people on the streets than in general society.” Photograph by Chris Hopkins

 

Where can people find you online if they want to see more of your work and do you have any other projects coming up we should look out for?

 

My folio can be seen at www.chris-hopkins.com.au. My next project has already been shot, all with Fujifilm gear, and will be released as part of a documentary film release campaign in March. I spent time in the Mentawai, an archipelago off the coast of Sumatra, which is the home to a small indigenous tribe that is on the brink of extinction. A small band of natives led by their Sikerei (Shaman) are rebelling against the government’s forced assimilation program that strips them of their culture and traditional ways. It was an amazing experience and the images are particularly striking so I can’t wait for it to be published.

 

To view more of Chris’s work visit his Facebook Page or follow him on Instagram or Twitter.

Other interviews in this series

Through A Photographer’s Eye: Drew Hopper

Through A Photographer’s Eye: Alamby Leung

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Ian Tan

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Dale Rogers

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Josselin Cornou

 

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Ian Tan

through-a-photographers-eye

Through a photographer’s eye is the first in a series of interviews featuring Australian photographers. In each interview, we learn about the person behind the camera and how they use Fujifilm X Series cameras to photograph the world around them. Our third interview is with Melbourne based photographer, Ian Tan.

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Ian, can you tell us about yourself, how you became interested in photography and what sort of business you run?

 

I’m a semi-professional photographer with a growing interest in video also. I juggle a Monday to Thursday job as a systems accountant and I also run a corporate photography business with my wife Rena. I’ve been photographing for nearly 10 years, beginning with a Samsung i8510 8MP camera phone and then a Canon S90 point-and-shoot. I really started getting serious about photography around 6 years ago when I bought a Canon 600D. I didn’t use it much and the trusty iPhone was my main camera until I happened across the Fujifilm X100. Truth be told, it was initially the retro look of the camera that made me want to get one but after reading good reviews about it online I decided to take the plunge and bought one. I was totally blown away by how intuitive it was to use and the amazing image quality. It really made me want to take it everywhere and shoot with it.

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Beauchamp Falls: X-T2 – XF10-24mmF4 – ISO 200 – F8 – 15 seconds

I was consistently getting comments on how lovely the colours were (straight out of camera JPEGs). I was shooting mainly street photography and family occasions but when I graduated to the X-Pro1 and X-T1, I began to shoot more travel and landscape shots which evolved into a real passion of mine.

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Mountain & Fjord Reflections: X-T2 – XF23mmF1.4 –  ISO 200 –  F8 – 1/320 second (Acros+R filter)

I really enjoy being out and about, away from the crowds, where it’s early in the morning or late at night, and it’s just me and Rena with our cameras and God’s beautiful creation. I try not to restrict myself to any particular style of photography. I love Fujifilm’s vibrant punchy colours, but I also love their muted Classic Chrome and Acros black & white film simulations. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been running a corporate photography business with my wife, Rena, and shooting corporate headshots and business website photography, so portraiture has also become a big part of my photography.

 

 

After viewing your work online we noticed you are branching out into video, what are your thoughts on the Fujifilm X-T2 for video work? Have you found it easy to move into this field with this camera?

 

I’ve been shooting more video recently because it’s such a great communication medium, especially online. I find the X-T2 to be very capable of great video, able to shoot 4K and f-log. The Fujifilm image quality and colour is all there – sharp detail, punchy colours and good dynamic range. Having the whole lineup of Fujinon excellent lenses to choose from is also great. As I write this, I’ve just returned from a 3-week vacation in Malaysia videoing our family Chinese New Year celebrations and winter in Norway, using the X-T2 with the XF23mmF1.4 and the XF14mmF2.8 lenses. Everything went smoothly without a hitch.

 

From a photographer’s perspective, it’s really convenient to be able to shoot video with the same camera. Just flick the dial from stills to video and I’m good to go. The camera/lens combo is super-light, portable and easy to use and it suits a run-and-gun style of shooting. The X-T2’s EVF and tiltable LCD displays are also clear and sharp.

 

The X-T2 will record 4K, and the f-log picture profile maximises the dynamic range you can squeeze from your footage during post-processing. However, I still prefer working in HD (1080p) because it’s what my Macbook Pro can handle comfortably and all my footage ends up online anyway so 1080p is more than sufficient. Also, the higher frame rate (50 fps) is useful if you want to slow things down when editing.

 

With my recent shooting experiences with the X-T2, I know that I can get great results with minimal fussing around in post-processing which cuts down the time needed to get to a finished product. One minor quibble I do have is that I wish the X-T2 would allow me to record f-log direct to the SD card so that I have that ability to squeeze as much dynamic range from the footage as possible. Currently, it’s only possible recording f-log via HDMI out to an external recorder like an Atomos Shogun/Ninja which I don’t always bring along. I also do wish Fujifilm had some X-series cinema lenses with click-less aperture rings. The sound of the lens focusing and the clicks when changing apertures also gets captured in video as well which isn’t so good.

 

 

If you have some advice for someone starting out in photography what would it be?

 

Advice for new photographers? Don’t get hung up on the gear. I go a bit nuts about gear myself but at the end of the day, they are just tools. You use the right one for the job, and everyone has their preference for which tools they like to use. Cameras and lenses from any major brand these days are all very capable – heck, even the iPhone takes awesome images – provided you use them properly. So learning how to use your chosen camera (and editing software) well to translate the creative vision that you see in your mind into beautiful images is more important than staying up to date with the latest and greatest gear. Get out and shoot more. Learn to connect with others and draw inspiration from them, not intimidation. Having said that, I love Fujifilm, the way the cameras handle, the image quality, and the company’s philosophy in how they make cameras and support them through continuous firmware improvements (gotta love kaizen!).

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Astrup Fearnley Museum, Oslo: Fujifilm X-T2, XF23mmF1.4 – ISO 200 – F11 – 1/400 second

 

In your experience, how do you find the Fujinon line up lenses? Do you have a favourite photo that demonstrates your experience when using this equipment?

 

For me, Fujinon lenses are the best lenses for the Fujifilm camera system. The image quality (sharpness, bokeh, distortion, etc) is superb. The lenses are also well built, not too heavy, and very affordable, compared to lenses from full-frame systems. The native lenses also allow autofocus to work and pass on EXIF data which is also important. I have dabbled with a Lensbaby and a couple of Samyang/Rokinon lenses (and they’re mostly good) but I keep coming back to the Fujinon glass. They are consistently good and they get the job done well. One of my favourite lenses is the XF14mmF2.8 which is a tiny lens, around AUD $700-$800, and for me, is the perfect landscape lens.

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Norwegian Harpoon: X-T2 – XF14mmF2.8 – ISO 200 – F2.8 –  1/1250 second

I’ve shot with it in all sorts of conditions – ocean spray along Melbourne’s coastline, tropical Malaysia and Fiji, and sub-zero temperatures of the Alaskan winter shooting the aurora. One thing I’ve discovered that not many people may know is that the XF14mmF2.8 has a very close minimum focusing distance. I think the specs on the Fujifilm website says it’s 18cm but in reality, it’s a bit closer than that. I managed to capture a very close up shot of the patterns in the ice while I was in Norway and I was literally on my hands and knees with the camera right up to the ground as I took that shot.

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Ice Patterns: X-T2, XF14mmF2.8 – ISO 500 – F4 – 1/125 second

 

 

When photographing portraits what sort of lens and lighting do you use?

 

When photographing portraits, my go-to lens is the XF56mmF1.2 R APD. For something wider (environmental portraits) I’ll usually use the XF35mmF1.4 or the XF23mmF1.4. The XF56mm, in particular, is tack sharp with delicious bokeh. I use the Profoto B1 and B2 OCF system for lighting. They run on batteries so they are ‘wireless’ and portable. I love their colour consistency from shot to shot. While Profoto only has the standard Air Remote wireless trigger (no TTL and HSS), I usually manually dial in my settings anyway and once I lock that in for a studio shoot, it hardly ever changes for the shoot, except for the occasional tweak. I think there are 3rd party triggers that will work but I haven’t tried them out yet. However, I recently acquired the new Fujifilm EF-X500 flash which has TTL and HSS and I’m really keen to try that out on a studio shoot.

 

 

Your partner Rena Tan also photographs using Fujifilm X Series – how do you find working with your partner in the same portrait business? Do you have a different creative approach and a different way of seeing things even if the gear is the same?

 

I love it that we both share the same passion for photography! We discuss and plan everything together – our ideas, locations, gear, etc. It’s a real blessing. Rena and I have slightly different approaches to photography. We shot a wedding together once, and she seems to gravitate towards the wide-angle shots while I prefer to shoot closer in to capture details. Just a general observation of course. In the studio, she’ll take the time to nail down something that works and runs with that. I prefer to shoot from the hip a little more which can lead to some really great shots, but also some pretty bad ones!

 

 

Can you tell us the story behind your favourite photo you have captured using Fujifilm X Series equipment?

 

Apart from photography, I’m also a huge geek, and I’m into anime, sci-fi, fantasy, comics, etc. Recently I hooked up with some really hardcore cosplayers from the Geelong Cosplay Society who go to extreme amounts of effort and expense to pull together their outfits. The guy who leads the group has the most awesome Deathstroke outfit and we did a shoot on a carpark rooftop one evening and came away with some really awesome images. One image of him kneeling down looking for his next target did the rounds on Instagram and has been picked up to be featured on the cover of the March issue of Cosplayzine. Pretty stoked about that! I shot that with the X-T2 and the XF16-55mmF2.8 lens.

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Deathstroke: X-T2, XF16-55mmF2.8 – ISO 200 – F4 – 1/160 second (Model: Samm Williams)

 

The colours and the detail that the X-Trans sensors and X Series glass are able to produce never ceases to amaze me! There was also another image taken during the same shoot of another cosplayer in a Superman outfit. Again, punchy vibrant colours and tack-sharp detail.

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Superman: X-T2 – XF16-55mmF2.8 – ISO 200 – F2.8 – 1/800 second (Model: Sam Schubert)

 

 

Are there any creative people you know of who inspire you to experiment with your photography and take it to the next level?

 

Ah yes, my photography heroes… how much time do we have again? For landscape, I love the photography work of Varina Patel, Elia Locardi and Tony Hewitt (strongly artistic and compositional) all of whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the F Stop Lounge Fiji Workshop back in 2015. I also met Emily Lian Ji Wong there and her travel landscape images are also amazing. For street, I love Zack Arias’ work. Love his gritty style and he also shoots Fujifilm! For portrait work, I like Hope Taylor’s photography (bright and happy) and also Antonio Ramos, a relative of my sister-in-law, who takes the most awesome photos of his kids (perfect moments in perfect light). He’s not a pro, but he should be.

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Norwegian Sunset: X-T2 – XF23mmF1.4 – ISO 400 – F5.6 – 20 seconds

 

For video work, I’m really inspired by the work of Michael Fletcher and Lee Herbert. Their videos all have a real cinematic quality to them. Their colour grading is excellent and compositionally their videos are like watching exquisite photographs in motion (which is what video really is!).

 

To see more of Ian’s work visit his personal Instagram account @guitarpug, corporate headshots website or general photography and video site.

Other interviews in this series

Through A Photographer’s Eye: Drew Hopper

Through A Photographer’s Eye: Alamby Leung

Through a Photographer’s Eye: Alamby Leung

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Through a photographer’s eye is the first in a series of interviews featuring Australian photographers. In each interview, we learn about the person behind the camera and how they use Fujifilm X Series cameras to photograph the world around them. Our second interview is with Melbourne based photographer, Alamby Leung.

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Alamby, you are well known in photography circles online, but for those who may not have seen your work can you tell us about yourself and why you enjoy taking photos?

 

I’m a travel/lifestyle photographer, content creator and video producer. My video works are mostly produced for media and creative agencies that I work for, while photography is a passion of my own. I started photography the old school way, like using manual film cameras, developing my own negatives, and making prints in the darkroom. I’ve always liked art and creating things, and photography became my creative outlet as soon as I discovered it. It was a very natural process, and I find myself most creative when taking photos.

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF56mmF1.2 R – 56mm – ISO 400 – F4 – 1/7500 second

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF18mmF2 R – 18mm – ISO 400 – F4 – 1/7500 second

 

Recently you travelled to New Zealand with the Fujifilm X-Pro2, based on your experience what did you most like about the X Series system and did it assist your photography style?

 

I’ve been a Fujifilm user for the past few years. I own an X100S myself and loved its design and usability. As someone always travelling, I prefer my gear to be light, easy to access, and discreet. The X-Pro2 fits my criteria, and the lenses I brought along with gave me a lot of flexibility to achieve the images I had in mind. It does everything I would do with a DSLR, only it’s much lighter, and a lot more stylish!

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF18mmF2 R – 18mm – ISO 400 – F2.8 – 1/6000 second

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF35mmF2 R WR – 35mm – ISO 400 – F4 – 1/75 second

 

Can you name any females in the creative space who inspire you to keep on creating? What do you like most about them?

 

The first name that comes to mind is Annie Leibovitz. I remember meeting her in person once and was so starstruck! She’s one of the first female photographers I studied and admired since I started in photography, and her work continues to inspire me over the years. She’s always pushing boundaries and finding new ways to shoot, and her photos are beyond just capturing a beautiful person. Her photos tell stories. That’s something I strive to achieve, to create some sort of dialogue through my images.

 

 

 

When photographing with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 what lens did you use to capture your travels and did it perform how you expected it too?

 

I had three lenses with me over the trips – the XF18mmF2, XF35mmF2, and XF56mmF1.2. My main subjects were landscapes, portraits, and daily snaps, so the three lenses were a perfect combination for me. The focus is fast and on-point in most shooting situations, which helps to ensure my subjects are in focus. l loved the smooth and soft bokeh produced by the XF56mm in particular, it really helps to create some dreamy shots and to define my subject from the background.

 

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF18mmF2 R – 18mm – ISO 400 – F5.6 – 1/110 second

 

You regularly post photos to Instagram, do you have any hints or tricks to build a following and did the Fujifilm Camera Remote App assist you when you are travelling away from a computer?

 

Instagram is a platform for me to showcase my work and connect with my followers, so posting creative and relevant content is important for me. Keeping my content consistent is also a way to build a following and that’s why the Fujifilm Camera Remote App is useful as I can transfer images to my phone for quick edits and post them on the go. It’s especially handy when I’m travelling without my laptop.

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF35mmF2 R WR – 35mm – ISO 200 – F10 – 1/550 second

 

If you have some advice for someone starting out in photography what would it be?

 

Social media is a great place for inspiration and to receive feedback, but developing your personal style and be creative with your ideas are important too.

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF35mmF2 R WR – 35mm – ISO 640- F8 – 1/900 second

 

Having previously worked with well-known YouTubers Kaiman Wong and Lok Cheung, if you were to bump into them on the street, what advice would you give them about reviewing Fujifilm equipment?

 

I think they can’t review Fujifilm equipment without talking about the retro camera designs and the colours of the images, but they’re both experts in the camera and gear review world so no doubt they would have a lot more to say than I do.

 

 

Where can people see more of your work and do you have any current or future projects we should check out?

 

This year is going to be an exciting one as I’ll be spending the majority of my time in Australia, and producing work locally. I’m also aiming to pick up more travel related projects as travel is my main source of inspiration. For more of my work and personal projects please check out my website and Instagram for regular updates. Would love to hear your feedback!

 

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Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF56mmF1.2 R – 56mm – ISO 200 – F8 – 1/1500 second

 

All images copyright Alamby Leung and used with permission. To see more of Alamby’s work visit her website or follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Other interviews in this series

Through A Photographer’s Eye: Drew Hopper