Interview with Luca Bracali

Camera: X-Pro1 Lens: XF14mm F2.8R Exposure: 1/30sec  at F4, ISO 1600
Camera: X-Pro1 – Lens: XF14mm F2.8R
Exposure: 1/30sec at F4, ISO 1600

Renowned photographer Luca Bracali likes to travel light – and he finds X-series cameras perfectly suited to his nomadic lifestyle

Based in the tiny city of Pistoia in Tuscany, Luca Bracali is a man with a mission and international reach. Now aged 48, he’s spent the last 25 years of his life shooting, filming and documenting our planet in all its glory, and often works up to 15 hours a day. His obsession with travel is so consuming that it extends to his family: when his youngest daughter was ten years old she’d already visited 30 countries, accompanying her father as he captured images of every sort of creature from lions on the savannah to bears in the American wilderness.

Taking his first black & white photo at just six years old, Luca has always been creative, bursting with ideas since he was a child – but a gift of a 50mm F1.2 lens from a photography professor got him hooked. After high school, Luca started work as a photojournalist following car and motorcycle events. “My first assignment was a motocross race,” he laughs, “and I still remember the words of my director who told me: ‘Luca – not so bad, but to get a good picture out of your roll we need to stitch together two frames: one for the front wheels, the other one for the back wheels…’”

Camera: X-Pro1 LENS: XF14mm F2.8 R Exposure: 30secs  at F4, ISO 640
Camera: X-Pro1 – Lens: XF14mm F2.8 R
Exposure: 30secs at F4, ISO 640

Renaissance man

While learning the ropes Luca drew inspiration from the great Renaissance painters, studying their mastery of light and form and combining this with the attention to detail and observation that the young photographer learned from his father. “Caravaggio was the great master of light,” he says. “The challenge for me now is discovering something new or looking at something in a different way – perhaps from an eye-catching perspective, or using the evocative and hidden brushstrokes of light.”

Luca earned his stripes as a motorsport photographer, then moved onto fashion and beauty before discovering that travel reportage was his real passion. Since then he’s published three books (with a fourth on the way soon), won four international photo prizes and had nearly 20 exhibitions of his work in museums and galleries. “A few years ago I was employed by Rai 1 (a major Italian TV network) as a director – and the environment, nature and the Arctic region are my main topics,” he says.

Nowadays Luca’s motivation is to travel across the planet to “discover its infinite beauty and using the power of photography to wake up people’s consciences.” The photographer is passionate about conservation, and his wide-ranging portfolio is testament to his self-appointed mission.

Camera: X-Pro1 LENS: XF14mm F2.8 R Exposure: 1/500sec  at F10, ISO 200
Camera: X-Pro1 – Lens: XF14mm F2.8 R
Exposure: 1/500sec at F10, ISO 200

Travelling light

Luca travels with such frequency that he’s away from home at least once a month, and the Fujifilm X-Pro1 has found a place in his camera bag. In fact, it was his nomadic lifestyle which first attracted the photographer to the Fujifilm X-Pro series of cameras. “With the new airline regulations you cannot travel carrying so many kilos,” he said, “but I still needed quality.” Luca is self-described as picky, and prior to switching he was on the lookout for a mirrorless camera that fulfilled the following criteria. “It had to be lightweight, with a sensor and an algorithm able to produce hi-res and quality images comparable to the best reflex camera and, in some cases, maybe even better,” he said, so the X-Pro1’s class-beating performance was an ideal choice. Luca was also impressed by the camera’s workings, and found an emotive link to the cameras and pictures of his earlier years. “The camera’s X-Trans sensor with unconventional array gives me the pathos of film photography with more depth of colour shades and reduces the moiré effect,” he continued. “Also, the Velvia style picture that’s selectable by the Q-button interface is one of my favourite custom colour settings – it reminds me of the vivid and bright tones of the film I preferred and used until 2003.”

Though the X-Pro1 is Luca’s camera of choice, he’s also had an advance look at the new X-E2. “I found it a really surprising camera,” he says. “There are a lot of very interesting features: the first one that comes to my mind is the panoramic setting. You can take a superb 180° picture, which saves a lot of time in post-production. It also enables the image stabiliser function during video shooting, and the buffer is large and fast enough to let you take burst pictures easily.”

Camera: X-Pro1 Lens: XF18-55mm Exposure: 1/125sec  at F11, ISO 200
Camera: X-Pro1 – Lens: XF18-55mm
Exposure: 1/125sec at F11, ISO 200

Telling a story

During Luca’s many adventures he’s famously travelled to every continent and used nearly every form of transport, so asking him to select a single shoot that stands out from the rest is – as he puts it – “like asking a mother of ten children: ‘Which is the best?’” Luca is fond of all his images, but singles out a shot taken in the northern-most territory of Canada as perhaps one of the most memorable. “I waited for almost six hours at -11°C standing with my nose and fingers frostbitten until that little snowy cub woke up,” he said. “The interaction between mother bear and pup lasted only five seconds but that shot, of one of the most endangered animals on earth and the icon of a slowly vanishing world, was really worth all the sacrifice.”

Despite Luca’s abilities at seemingly all genres of photography, there’s a few he’s not so keen on.

“Wedding and still-life photography are not my favourite genres,” he says. “I like catching people in the most natural way and showing their real expressions, motion and lifestyle – and in my experience, weddings are the opposite. Still-life images are also anything but natural: you don’t get to play with natural light, searching for it where a second can be different from the previous one. When you’re in a studio with good technical knowledge and equipment, you can almost make miracles happen!”

Camera: X-Pro1 Lens: XF14mm F2.8R Exposure: 18secs  at F2.8, ISO 3200
Camera: X-Pro1 – Lens: XF14mm F2.8R
Exposure: 18secs at F2.8, ISO 3200

Luca’s advice for those keen for a life as a travel photographer acknowledges the difficulties that lie ahead – but it’s not impossible. “Unfortunately this sector has become very challenging, due to the high cost of travelling and the fact that almost everything has already been seen and photographed,” he admits. “The only way to work now is having a great idea and creating a project which stands up alone – or having a partner or sponsor to cover your travel expenses.”

Besides taking great pictures, Luca suggests that new photojournalists and documentary makers remember that the story is of equal importance to the shots themselves. “Beautiful pictures are too easily taken,” he says. “The story makes the difference and your work unique, impossible to buy from a stock agency that’s full of tons of beautiful single shots.”

With most of the world under his belt already, what could possibly be next for this adventurous photographer? “Everything – I don’t know – it’s something I’m also keen to discover,” he says excitedly, before packing his bags and heading off to the USA, Fujifilm X-Pro1 in hand, to capture new documentary work in the country’s national parks. He’ll also be blogging this new experience for Fujifilm, so keep your eyes on their Facebook page and watch this space…

Visit Luca Bracali’s website here

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Interview with Alex Lambrechts

Internationally-renowned photographer Alex Lambrechts insists on excellence – so naturally he uses X-series cameras

Alex Image 1
Camera: X-Pro1 Lens: XF 35mm f/1.4R
Exposure: 1/500sec at f/6.4, ISO 250

Photographer Alex Lambrechts will turn 40 later this year, but seems to have lived more lives than most people have had hot dinners. When reading his biography for the first time you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s been a horrible error at the proofing stage, resulting in a mash-up of the life stories of seven, maybe eight individuals – but this is all Alex. He’s achieved excellence in martial arts, running his own training school at the age of 19 at the same time as setting up and managing several bars and restaurants in Sydney, before slipping into the mysterious world of personal protection and joining the private security details of several Hollywood A-listers and international businessmen. In the nineties Alex switched paths again and rose to the top as Creative Marketing Director for British American Tobacco – a modern-day Don Draper of sorts – before returning to his restaurant roots and a career behind the scenes of several high-profile eateries. He attends the Cannes Film Festival every year and runs private parties for discerning individuals – past clients have included Quentin Tarantino, Naomi Campbell and Paris Hilton – and amongst all of this, he’s also found time to become an internationally-renowned photographer. He’s making the rest of us look very bad indeed.

Alex image 2
Camera: X100S Lens: Fixed 23mm
Exposure: 1/400sec at f/8, ISO 640

A man of the world

Born in Uruguay and raised in Australia, Alex lived in London for the past ten years but is currently to be found in New York, where he’s quite sure that he’s found the ideal space for him at this time in his life. “This is definitely where I want to be at this stage in my career – I think I will be here for some time,” he says. “I do travel all over the world for work though and photography is great like that – you can just pick up your gear, jump on a plane and go!”

Having first picked up a camera in earnest at the end of 2009, Alex is a relative latecomer to professional photography – but as he grew up amongst his parents’ photographic printing labs he found he had years of experience to draw upon. “I was using 35mm SLR cameras from a very young age,” he explains. “I left photography for many years, until four years ago when I started shooting friends at parties I was hosting in London.” At this stage, Alex was shooting with rangefinders and larger, bulky DSLRs – but by his own admission he prefers the smaller rangefinder-styled cameras such as the Fujifilm X100S. Nowadays he shoots with various cameras, depending on the assignment’s unique requirements – but his favourite and most-often used camera is still the X-Pro1. “I love this camera,” Alex enthuses about the Fujifilm CSC.

“I try to use it first at every opportunity. I’d say I use it on every job. But it’s not only about cameras for me: the lenses are really important. If I have a big job on, I have the usual spare lenses – always prime lenses, I’m not a fan of zooms. How [the lenses] behave, what kind of unique qualities they have – this is usually what I think about before [I think about] which camera. And the X100S has the perfect lens built in,” he smiles.

Alex image 3
Camera: X100 Lens: Fixed 23mm Exposure: 1/500sec at f/8, ISO 400

A lifetime of inspiration

Lambrecht’s varied career has influenced his image-making by providing him with a wealth of references to draw upon when approaching a new commission. “Everything I have done in my life comes into play when I pick up a camera: my ability to be vigilant and observant, looking for nuances in everyday life, looking for subtext, knowing how to work with brands – it’s all of invaluable benefit,” he says. “I think it definitely gives me an edge when working in teams and especially when working with clients, as I understand their requirements on many levels.”

As you’d expect from someone with a background

in top-end corporate marketing, Alex is a keen follower of the creative fields – particularly art and fashion – and is currently experimenting with more physical forms of artistic expression. “I’m currently experimenting with painting, combined with my street and documentary photography,” he hints. “I have a couple of galleries which are eager to show and sell my work here in New York, however I haven’t released this to the public yet, so that’s as much as I can tell you about that until the launch…”

Alex image 4
Camera: X-Pro1 Lens: XF18mm f/2 R
Exposure: 1/125sec at f/5.6, ISO 640

Shooting the Big Apple

New York is a city that’s hard to resist, and every corner seems to present a new photographic opportunity – so it’s no wonder that Alex is choosing to spend his time indulging his love of street photography. He’s just one of many Fujifilm-using photographers enjoying the fast-paced hunt for the “decisive moment”, but tends to keep his pure street photography for himself as a break from his day job pictures. Alex’s moody black & white street work is filled with emotion and impact, and the X100’s diminutive size yet powerful performance makes it ideally suited to this demanding type of picture-taking where travelling light is the name of the game. “I shoot street photography every single day,” he says, “especially here in New York. My street photography is a very personal project for me and I am extremely critical of my own work, and set strict standards for myself. I shoot a lot of commercial work so it’s nice to have [street photography] that I can do completely on my own terms. I follow my own rules and I don’t expect others to understand – I am definitely my own harshest critic!”

Alex’s interest in street shooting spills across into to his approach to all his image making, with his biography describing his characteristic style as both ‘raw’ and ‘street’. “I tend to add a little more subtext [to my images] than your typical fashion photographer might – I like to have a fly-on-the-wall feel to my photography whilst not being voyeuristic… trying to stay true to the subject matter,” he says. “I guess my images convey my style better than I can describe it – it’s natural for me, and I tend not to think too much about it. I want the viewer to be drawn in and gradually work out the various messages encoded both intentionally and intuitively.”

Alex image 5
Camera: X-Pro1 Lens: XF18mm f/2 R
Exposure: 1/250sec at f/4, ISO 200

Secret of his success

Alex now works with many commercial clients who love the engaging, emotive imagery that he can create, such as the vividly striking shoot for children’s fashion line That’s Not Fair, all of which were shot on the X-Pro1. Yet when pushed for advice, it transpires that the secret to his unique photography doesn’t actually rely on Alex’s many lives-worth of experience: for those looking to try their own hand at creating portraiture like Lambrecht’s, the photographer has these simple pointers. “Spend time getting to know your subject and shoot them as they are, without imposing too much of your own experiences and preconceived notions into the image. That’s the challenge,” he says.

Images from Alex’s shoot for “That’s not fair”:

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