Photographer Felix AAA has spent the past ten years touring the world with a variety of musicians, getting up close and personal with the artists to capture intimate, unseen, behind the scenes shots. In this article, he talks about some of his favourite images, and his experiences behind how he took them.
Think about it, it’s your dream job. You’re a Liverpool season ticket holder and supporter and as a professional photographer you are asked if you’re interested in photographing the portraits of a number of former and famous Liverpool FC captains for an upcoming book.
Of course I jumped at the chance!
My brief was pretty simple, make all the captains look good, but the harder part of the brief was to make all the pictures look like they had been shot in the same session at the same time ……. Of course this would mean shooting on location in ten different locations!
The first captain on our list was perhaps the hardest logistically to set up as when we arrived at Ron Yates’ home there was simply nowhere to set up my studio and Ron’s wife was not too pleased at the thought of moving everything around in her living room!
But we soon persuaded her that it was ok to shoot with a simple one-light set up and so photographed Ron on his sofa right there in the front room.
“One of the great advantages of shooting with my Fujifilm X-T1 camera system is that the camera is not overwhelming in size and this makes it easier to communicate with your client.”
I was not given a lot of time to take Ron’s portrait as he sadly suffers with Alzheimer’s so I needed to work quite quickly. This meant going for my trusty XF16-55mm f2.8 lens. This lens is amazing at times like these – it’s versatile in focal length from wide angle to zoom, sharp and very fast to focus.
From here I worked quickly, taking as many different portraits as I could in as short amount of time possible.
Over the next few captains that I photographed I was given more time and space to get what I had in mind for the book.
One location I was given was to shoot in was Jamie Redknapp’s garage at his home! It was a big space to set all my studio backdrop and lights in, plus I received refreshments from Jamie’s lovely wife Louise!
Also having the luxury of more time and a bigger working space is that I got to use my different Fujifilm prime lenses. And let’s not forget that with each different portrait sitting you have to come up with a variety of posed shots, I tend to shoot a full length sitting down shot, a ¾ length standing up shot and then a selection of close-up headshots. The lenses I use in my shoots are the XF16-55mm f2.8, XF23mm f1.4 and my XF56mm f1.2.
“I really love the 56mm as it’s pin sharp, fast to focus and gets a great headshot in a limited space.”
And the locations where quite varied too – from conference suites in Southampton Airport (amazing what access you can get in these places dropping Graeme Souness’ name) to removing furniture from Ronnie Whelan’s dining room so I could set my studio in there (Massive table and chairs out!).
There was also the time aspect to all this as each Captain was giving their time for free, so I was very conscious that my photoshoots didn’t drag on.
In my experience with these types of shoot I’ve come to know and trust the equipment that I use. From my portable studio set up to my Fujifilm camera and lenses, I know I’ll get great results each time.
One of the most common questions I get asked is which Captain was the most difficult to shoot.
It’s an easy answer really – Steven Gerrard.
On the day of the shoot Steven was very pushed for time as he had a big appointment in Milton Keynes for Adidas. To compound matters further the interview for the book ran over as well…… So in the end I was given just 60 seconds to get as many portraits out of the shoot as possible.
Lucky I had just enough time to set my studio up and was ready as he walked in. I used my Fujifilm X-T1 camera alongside my XF16-55mm lens to create the shot.
As I said before, in times like these you need equipment you can trust and that will simply get you a great result.
My work as a photographer has been characterized largely by my choice of subject matter and composition. Best known for photographing dancers against uncommon backdrops, I frequently get asked why and how I choose the backdrops that make it into the final frame. The truth is, when I travel (other than researching photography laws in each respective country), I don’t spend much time researching the “best places to photograph”.
Why not?I prefer to be surprised by the places I visit and let them speak to me as I make my way into the unknown. Avoiding preconception of a physical location helps my process: I believe it helps me to create more honest images. Honest, because the final output reflects my own discoveries as opposed to try to emulate what I have seen others do – even subconsciously. This can be frustrating at times, but frustration is a part of the creative process which welcome with open arms. Much as necessity is the mother of invention, frustration can be the propeller of creativity.I found myself traveling in Mexico City, where I was able to enlist and schedule several dancers before my trip. I had a full schedule of shoots before landing. Yet, I had no idea where was I going to photograph. While the thought frightened me, it also motivated me. Throughout the trip, I relied both on the advice of my dancers and local Fujifilm X-Photographer Jaime Ávila who, out of his own initiative, pre-scouted a few places for me (thanks a lot, brother!).However, seeing is believing. In spite of their local knowledge and willingness to help, it is not until I am at the actual locations that I face the real challenges: Will this location work for me? How can I make this place my own? How can I translate it into my visual language? My mission is to make the dancer the protagonist. It’s my responsibility to feature him or her in the location while creating a narrative evocative of the city. I can only achieve this through patience and observation.
No matter where I am, I need to observe what makes each place unique. And, more importantly, what is unique to me at that particular moment in time. That takes time and some trial and error – that’s where patience needs to kick in.
You CAN’T avoid heavy traffic in Mexico City….so you used it to your advantage.
Mexico City is the largest city in the world with an immense population of 20 million. Instead of avoiding crowds, I decided to incorporate the fot traffic as a key element of this photograph.
Here in Mexico City, more so than architectural elements, the one thing that has caught my attention is its density. LOTS of it. There are as many people in the streets as there are cars. While the density initially felt like a hardship, I took the time to discover how to use it to my advantage – and more importantly, how to use the density to tell the story of my experience here. Instead of running away from it, I decided to place the dancers between congested areas of people and between heavy traffic lanes.
To my advantage, working with FUJIFILM X Series gear has been a great blessing in these types of situations. Surfing waves of people, I was carrying equipment so light that I was able to move easily through the crowds. Having lightweight gear and fast autofocus, I jumped in and out of traffic swiftly (and safely).
Also, I have used the lightness of my X-T2 in combination with its burst mode to create slow exposures in areas where there are a lot of people moving. The result is an image of a magnificently elegant dancer standing strong with a blurred sea of moving people. I rarely carry a tripod; these images were easily created handheld.
I have been using the tilting screen quite often to shoot from extremely low angles. Shooting from low angles often helps in diminishing visual background noise.
My journey in Mexico City started with many revelations about my own process and creativity. I found myself slowly unraveling the unknown with the help of X Series and a true sense of adventure and exploration…
Wandering the streets of Havana felt like I had hopped in a time machine and turned the dial back 50 years. Avoiding tourist areas at all costs always provides an interesting experience, and we did all we could to experience the real side of the city each day.My favorite part about Havana was the wide variety of subjects scattered throughout the city. It seemed as if every corner I turned there was something new, whether it was a Dalmatian contently sitting on a gritty front porch or a bike taxi that seemed to ride by just in time for perfect light, it seemed as if there was always something that caught my eye.I particularly enjoyed shooting the neighborhoods that surrounded the capitol building, Capitolio. I did just about everything in my power to capture the lifestyle of the locals with this interesting structure in the background. From persuading locals two stories above to give us permission to shoot from their balconies, to running behind cars, to playing soccer with local kids to get their approval, I took all measures to capture various perspectives of the Capitolio with fresh subjects in the foreground on each occasion. Thankfully I had a wide variety of range of FUJINON glass to pair with my X-Pro2 and X-T1; the XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS and XF10-24mmF4 R OIS were my go-to lenses for these photos.Another one of my favorite locations in Cuba was Barrio Chino, or China Town. This area was very unique and boasted what I called the Cuban version of New York’s iconic Flat Iron building. I immediately loved this spot after catching an incredible golden hour that saw the sun light up the surrounding area of the building with a warm, glowing light that made for some of the best shots on my X-Pro2 XF10-24mmF4 combo from the trip.One of the most noteworthy elements of Havana are the many random puddles that form throughout alleys that provided mirror-like reflections of the colorful cityscapes, classic cars, and great city vibes. The locals would stare at me in confusion when I would stop traffic to kneel down and use the tilt-screen on the X-T1 XF10-24mmF4 combo to capture perfect angles of the glassy puddle reflections.As I was composing a reflection shot with my X-T1 on an overcast afternoon among a vibrant alleyway, my cousin called for me and told me I had to stop whatever I was doing and see how beautiful a baby was down the street. My first instinct was to continue to try and get my shot as that sounded a little off, but I got up and quickly walked around the block to catch the little girl and her father just before they were going to enter a home. The young dad had his daughter in his arms, and we she turned around she looked like something out of a National Geographic cover. I had never seen eyes like hers. They had a bright aqua tint of blue that could be seen from a block away. He kindly let me snap a few photographs, and I every time I looked into my electronic viewfinder of my X-Pro2 and I couldn’t believe how stunning this little girl’s features were. Cuba is full of surprises… this experience was a sure reminder of that.I’ve never really been an advocate of guided tours under any circumstances. Cuba is one of those destinations that only has so much information that can be found online. In order to experience and capture it properly, you can’t really have a comfort zone. You have to be willing to put yourself out there with a positive and friendly vibe and hope for the best in most instances. We were even invited into a family gathering for drinks in a broken down backyard after approaching a couple locals in hopes of entering their compound to find something interesting to shoot. I lost count of the amount of complexes, homes, and lots we entered (all after asking what seemed like owners or tenants). These were the best memories, and provided some of the best perspectives that will be extremely difficult to replicate.One hot afternoon the sunset was quickly approaching, and we were determined to find a rooftop vantage point to capture the moment the light brought warmth to the tattered cityscape of old Havana. After entering a building and passing by locals on each story, all with wide smiles of confusion but acceptance on their faces, we made it towards the top floor. When I looked down, there was the unique spiral staircase I had ever seen. I captured an organic image of the staircase with my X-Pro2 XF10-24mmF4 combo and we made for the roof. Unfortunately there are not very many tall buildings in Cuba; making it a bit difficult to get a great view of the sun setting on the water with the cityscape in the foreground. I completely forgot about the shot I had anticipated when several kids entered through the roof and showed us their pigeon traps, introducing us to some of their birds. I had never seen anything like this, and it really made me appreciate how a simple lifestyle brought joy to these kids. There were no iPads, no PlayStations, it was all about going out and having fun with the neighborhood kids like the old days.Growing up, I’ve always loved the game of soccer. I’ve played my entire life, and jumped in on just about every pick up game we came across. Towards the later end of the afternoon we decided to check out a neighborhood called Citio just outside of Havana. Apparently this neighborhood was extremely dangerous for tourists, and upon entering all eyes were on us. After passing by a few young kids playing soccer, I hopped in passed the ball around with them. The ball they had might as well have been a rag… it was completely trashed and lopsided. I offered to buy the kids a new ball, and the look on these kids’ faces was something I’ll never forget… we walked almost 2 miles looking for a store that was open. Along the way, the kids seemed to know all the other youngsters in the area, and our group grew with every few blocks we walked. When we finally found a store with someone inside, we begged the tenant to open her store for us to buy the ball for the kids. My friend Joon and I each bought them a ball that were less than $20 USD each, but it may as well have been a brand new MacBook Pro for these kids. They couldn’t believe it and were so excited to get out and play with one another. Even though we skipped shooting for a couple hours, that was one of the best memories from our trip.In conclusion, I highly recommend giving Cuba a visit before it becomes increasingly commercialized. Your experience in the country is up to you. I spent the majority of my time in Old Havana in hopes of capturing an unseen photo, and there are tons of interesting places to see. I was lucky enough to capture my experiences behind my FUJIFILM X Series gear, which never disappointed once. With all the impromptu moments, seconds of good light, and organic situations the X-Pro2 and X-T1 paired with a wide variety of FUJINON glass executed everything I could have asked for.
I’m often asked, “How excited are you for your next trip?” The truth is, the anticipation for adventure never really kicks in until the abrupt lift off from the airport runway – signifying the beginning of a new chapter on my photographic journey.
After a 4-day long tour traveling with musical artist Marshmello through several states, we ended our final show at 3:30 AM in Las Vegas on a Sunday night. Immediately following the show I rushed up to my room to grab my bags and headed straight for the airport. After a 5:00 AM flight, I arrived at LAX where I met my cousin Haroon and childhood friend, Joon. Despite running on no sleep, we made our way to our connecting flight. A short layover and a several hour flight later, we arrived in Cuba.From the moment we exited the airport doors of Jose Marti International, taxi drivers lined the terminal swiftly coaxing the array of people to follow them to their cars. Being able to speak Spanish has proven valuable on many occasions, and helped us find a fair deal for such a late time of the night. The 30-minute drive from the airport to our apartment in the city of Vedado felt like Havana’s version of Tokyo Drift, lead by an aggressive local cab driver in his beat up old school car. Weaving through pedestrians, alleyways, and several animals we made it to our apartment in one piece. Upon arrival the driver insisted the price was higher than he had agreed upon, introducing us to our first taste of the local Cuban hustlers. After relentless persistence from the driver, we settled for a new deal and made it up to our apartment to call it a night. As I went to bed, I couldn’t wait to explore the city of old Havana, Habana Vieja, in the morning.Before I visit a new destination, I always do my research to ensure that I’m well prepared, know what to expect, and plan out locations to shoot. After taking our first cab ride in an old school car, or coche viejo, to Habana Vieja, I quickly learned that Cuba is by far the most unique country I’ve ever visited. The shock factor of wandering the post-apocalyptic streets of Habana Vieja made it nearly impossible to comprehend what I was seeing. The streets were lined with colorful decaying buildings guarded by locals who spend much of their day on their front porch observing their surroundings. From stray dogs to barefoot kids running through alleyways playing soccer to the cigar-selling hustlers on every street corner, the ambiance of the city was something you have to physically experience to believe.The most exciting aspect of this trip was the addition of my Fujifilm X-Pro2 to my X Series arsenal. After my first day with the camera, I immediately fell in love with the system. My favorite aspect of the X-Pro2 is the aesthetic of the body. The sleek, classic design avoided the intimidation of the locals when I kindly would ask for their portrait or to enter their residence. Whether the body was accompanied by the compact FUJINON XF10-24mmF4 R OIS, XF35mmF1.4 R, or the XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS, the camera always stunned the locals when they asked to see the images.While I did encounter a couple strict denials from potential subjects, the sketchiest moment of the trip took place when I noticed a very interesting opportunity for a photograph of a mother and her infant son. When I approached what appeared to be their home, I realized it was the gateway to an entire storage lot of bike taxis. Slowly making my way forward, I called for the attention of the mother to softly introduce myself and ask for permission to take a photo. As she shook her head no, a dog that looked like a hyena out of The Lion King on steroids emerged from the darkness and bolted towards me, snarling and foaming from the mouth. I took off, and after a few blocks I made my way back to meet with my friends, avoiding whatever plans the mutant dog had for me.As the day continued, we explored just about every neighborhood we hadn’t seen in the area. Thanks to my cousin’s strong sense of direction, we continuously encountered new people, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and a wide variety of subjects throughout the day. From the reflective puddles, to the daily life of the Cubanos, to the hissing hustlers of the streets, there were endless moments to photograph. We ended the day off along the seaside Malecón street for sunset. The array of classic cars, ocean views, and fisherman lining the Malecón made it one of my favorite spots in all of Havana. I was able to document the experience in all of its glory with the help of my X-Pro2 and FUJINON XF10-24mmF4 R OIS lens. After a very eventful first day in Havana, I could not wait to experience what the city would have to offer throughout the rest of the week.
Victoria Wright moved to Seattle from eastern Washington in 2007 to finish her degree and finally be in the city she loved. Inspired by her grandfather’s ability to create and share a beautiful moment with brushes on canvas, Victoria took an interest in photography early in life; however, she did not pursue it seriously until moving to Seattle and did not transition this passion into a profession until 2013, when social media began opening doors which allowed her to share with a larger audience.
When Instagram came to Android in 2012, Victoria experimented with mobile photography and began to connect with other users around the world. Her recognition on social media quickly grew and she helped build the Instagrammers Seattle community as a manager, organizing photo walks, charity events, exhibits, and more in the larger Pacific Northwest (PNW) region. She also began to have her mobile work shown in major exhibitions such as 100-50-1 in San Francisco as well as events and galleries in Seattle.Specializing in portrait, lifestyle and travel photography, Victoria’s goal has always been to create photographs that possess a thoughtful approachability, bringing the viewer into the moment rather than leaving them on the outside. She has worked with global brands including GAP, AMEX, Coach, and Airbnb, capturing people, places, and moments in time that others might overlook. In search of the next story worth telling, Victoria has traveled to and photographed many locations around the United States (including remote regions of Alaska), the mythical countrysides of Scotland (fairies and all), the endless landscapes of Iceland, and elsewhere, all while on assignment.This fall, she will be hitting the road and the skies again as she travels through New Mexico, Utah, Texas, and then back to California to finally visit Yosemite National Park for the first time. Next summer, she is planning to reconnect with her European roots on a trip to Lithuania — her first trip back since moving to Washington when she was only two — with her father, a man whose model of unquestioning generosity and inspiring drive to work hard have helped her find her own path.Victoria will of course be traveling with her Fujifilm camera in tow. After purchasing her first X Series camera — the X-T1 — Victoria knew she had found the perfect match. The ease, flexibility and photo quality of the X Series quickly won her over and she recently moved to the X-T2, though her T1 remains close by.Living in the PNW, Victoria never shies away from bad weather, especially while on the road, and the X Series allows her to brave the elements without worrying about her gear. The cameras are compact for easy travel, the lenses are sharp and fast, and the Wi-Fi capability makes remote uploading and shooting incredibly easy, including the ability to adjust exposure, aperture, ISO and other settings right from her phone.More than anything, Victoria admires how well Fujifilm listens to its photographers. Through both software and hardware updates, she has found that the X Series continues to improve in ways that truly benefit photographers. The X-T2, with updated 4K video capabilities, impressive Autofocus functions, and a Vertical Power Booster Grip that allows for brilliantly fast continuous shooting, is no exception. It is safe to say that Victoria is excited to see what lies ahead for Fujifilm and she can hardly wait to get her hands on the GFX 50S. The new G Format sensor is definitely going to shake up the world of medium format photography.
Photography is art. Whether you’re capturing the soul of another in a portrait, or the essence of our world in a landscape image. What you capture on a sensor is reflective of how you perceive our shared environment. A camera, in other words, is akin to a painter’s brush. Perhaps this is why we place so much importance on our tools. We want to wield a brush that will help us achieve what we see in our minds. I love the analogy of a painter and a photographer especially when considering the use of Fujifilm for one of my brushes.You see, one of the reasons I bought into the Fujifilm X System was because of how I thought it’d allow me to obtain a certain aesthetic. Sure, I loved the retro look, the portability, the easy access of essential controls, the fact that it was supremely sharp; but there was more to it than these common Fuji-loves. As an artist I draw a lot of inspiration from the work of old masters. I find their aesthetic as timeless and powerful. The use of light and contrast in their paintings to be awe inspiring. I wanted to achieve with my camera and lens something close to what they were able to produce with a brush and canvas. Enter the tools I prefer to wield for a master aesthetic: the X-T1 and X-Pro2.Fujifilm’s X-Trans APS-C sensor has a few advantages in regards to capturing light. One of the largest advantages is how well it can get everything in focus when compared to one of its full-frame counterparts. A crop frame essentially increases your depth of field while you are also able to bring in more light to the sensor with an equivalent aperture and focal length. Why is this an important factor, even for portraits? Because having your scene in focus allows your viewer to get a better idea of the entire area your subject is in. A story can unfold before your viewer with better ease. Of course, you can achieve a deep depth of field with larger sensors, but you’ll lose out on light and sometimes even enter into diffraction issues depending on your scene. I’m sure some of you are wondering, “but what about the bokeh?!” Sure, bokeh can be nice for a headshot and even in environmental portraits. Bokeh offers a great way to force a viewer to look at the subject. Though, I feel as though there is a stronger element to draw attention to a subject: light. Breaking out of the bokeh-mold you’re able to expand upon your use of light. The X-Trans sensor also has an oddity about it that I have not found on a Bayer patterned sensor: it produces sharp images that have an almost a brush stroke feel to them. Some will point out that it is due to my processing an image in Lightroom and Adobe’s refusal to really figure out how to sharpen an X-Trans sensor. There could be some truth to that and from what I’ve read online, most people aren’t impressed by this interaction between camera and processor. I, however, enjoy this look and use it to my advantage. The images produced by a Fujifilm sensor seem to come together in a different manner than my images from other sensors.Since I am a large fan of natural light I really love cameras that are able to take what I throw at them in terms of needed dynamic range. With Fujifilm, I love how easily I’m able to bring down the highlights and get a nice overall exposure. This puts me shooting my exposure a little to the right more often than I’m used to, but it’s great to be able to see a clean sky in my images. There is also the DR setting which gets baked into the RAW files and even allows some more pushing of the files if need be. This is especially useful when using harsh lighting.There you have it, some of the greatest reasons of why I love my Fujifilm cameras and why they are able to capture the moments I love.