Fuji X-T3 — Connecting to my Past and Exploring my Present
About 6 months ago at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic I bought my first camera. A Fujifilm X-T3. In the grand scheme of cameras it doesn’t do anything particularly unique. You point it at something, hit a button and it captures the scene as as digital file. Its a camera. That’s what it does. The big surprise for has nothing to do with the camera’s capacity to create images but instead the camera’s capacity to create change in me.
Like many others during the pandemic I was looking for hobbies and activities I could enjoy and like many others I picked up photography. I looked around at various manufacturers’ cameras and the various styles. I looked at all the usual suspects like Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax but when I came across the Fuji X series something clicked in my brain. All the other DSLRs and even mirrorless offerings looked like equipment out of a sci-fi movie. They were big, dark-grey and black with plastic grips laid over smooth wind-tunnel formed curves. They were sleek and stealthy pieces of engineering mastery. Then I saw the X-T3 and it took me back to the moment I stared in fascination at my grandfather’s old Olympus OM-1 or Nikon FM2. It had a magic that is rather difficult for me to describe. It looked less like an object from the world of engineering as it did from the world of art. I felt that the camera wasn’t designed just to take photographs but as a companies love letter to the art of photography itself. As I did my research on the camera I would learn that I was not alone in this feeling. Fuji fans were an avid bunch and they shared my sentiment and heard the siren’s song. One fan and content creator extolled the X-T3 but also Fuji as a company with a soul.
I purchased the X-T3 within 48 hours.
I’ve been shooting on the X-T3 for about 5 months now and I am impressed with its resolution and features and all of the other things that make it a great camera but even more than that I am surprised at the effect it has had on me. Photography isn’t a complicated concept or art form at its core. You see a moment and you capture it in an image. I see a horse. Click! I now have a picture of that horse. It isn’t that hard. I even got into a discussion with a friend early on in my picture making journey about the artistic merit of photography given that anyone can click the button in the same scenario. I didn’t have words to describe it but I knew there was something about it that felt artistic and more than just a technical feat. I didn’t have words for it until a few months later and these were only validated recently.
Photography isn’t about clicking a button and capturing a moment. My friend was right. That is a rather simple feat. Photography, for me, is about capturing in a picture what gave that moment meaning to you. Other forms of image making incorporate a suspension of disbelief. When you see a portrait of Louis XVI you know that the artist probably made him a little taller and corrected the colors and cleared up his skin. Is it accurate to the monarch’s likeness. Yeah, why not. But you know it isn’t him. When you see cinema you know that there aren’t actually large robots tearing through LA. You also know that the celebrities on screen have carefully manicured lives and that even their real lives aren’t really all that relatable or “real” to you. Photography though has the ability to through exposure, depth of field, lighting and blur tell the story of a moment exactly as it was capturing it for all time or by adjusting these factors capturing the moment somewhere in between was it was and how it felt to be there. For me this ability to put someone else in my shoes has been profound.
I recently shared some photos from a photography trip I took in Virginia online. Most of the time social media can feel much like the playground experience. Walking around, looking for someone to connect with but usually just shouting into the vacuum of space. This time though a friend posted not about the content of the photos but the mood they evoked. In the comment she said:
Your photos have a cool gloomy feel that inspire questions and stories. Fascinating point of view
I have always felt on the margins. I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up. At recess, I would float from one group to another and see what they were doing. Other times, I would just walk around and think about what was going on in the woods behind the school and dream up adventures for myself beyond the ghastly walls of my prison school. I enjoyed these times but it wasn’t uncommon to have them interrupted by the bullying of other kids. They just didn’t see the world the same way I did. When they looked at the woods they saw trees. When I looked into the woods I saw elves, trolls, kingdoms of insects negotiating their land rights in a desperate bid for ladybug sovereignty. As I grew older daydreams and stories didn’t go away they just changed context from the playground to the classroom. I was so bored of the mundane routine. Who cares about the train leaving Chicago at 55 miles per hour when the ceiling tiles are out of place! Who moved it? Why did they move it? Are they still up there waiting to pounce! This is no time for math!
It may come as no small surprise that I was soon diagnosed with ADHD.
Even into my working life the daydreaming continued and the stories never stopped. I even got an art degree to try and learn to tell some of these stories. The refrain continued. Those around me constantly echoed the same questions with the same puzzled look.
“What are you looking at?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re in your own little world”
I’ve tried to create art in the past to explain to people what I see and think about but it never really comes through. This is why I started taking photographs and why I purchased the X-T3. I could for the first time put someone elses eyes in my head and say “See! Do you get it now? Isn’t that amazing? The world is full of stories!”. Photography gave me a way to express all of the thoughts and feelings I had about a place and time and share it to those around me.
Though I never shoot self-portraits photography makes me feel seen. When someone sees my photo of a lonely armchair sitting abandoned in a kudzu-covered shack on an clouded rural highway I hope for a minute they will feel what I felt looking at it. In the moment it was just interesting lighting and dust but as I think about the photo and why I took it I hope that they will in someways connect with a part of themselves that feels boarded up and locked away.
My own imagination has always felt familiar but also lonely. Over the past 5 months with the XT3 I have found that photography can be more than just taking a picture. It can be more than making a photograph. It can be, for me, a moment of connection with people. For 1/125th of a second, I can open my mind and invite others along on the adventure.