When I’m not holding a camera, I’m writing about them!
Professional Documentary Style Photography
I’m a documentary style photographer, who started shooting professionally some ten years ago now. Since then, I’ve been commissioned to photograph around the world. I shoot in a relaxed documentary style, telling a story, rather than creating conventional ‘staged’ photos. When I’m not holding a camera, I’m writing about them!
The Fujifilm equipment provides everything I need to capture discreet, unobtrusive photographs. My documentary style of photography captures the everyday lives of people and records snapshots of how and where we live.
My other passion is shooting and developing film. I have a growing collection of both 35mm and medium format cameras. Film photography is incredibly rewarding; it slows down the process and forces me to think more about the composition of each frame; it also requires a different set of skills than digital photography.
The camera included pre-programmed settings for portrait, landscape, night portrait, macro, and sports, despite its simplistic description.
Only a few months ago, I purchased my Minolta at a cancer charity shop in my local town. I paid less than £10 for it. I took the below photos using it, with a roll of Kodak Portra 400. I scanned the images with a Canon 8800f.
Minolta announced the Dynax 40 in 2004 as a basic consumer-level 35mm film SLR. It was marketed as the Dynax 30 in some countries. It was also known as the Maxxum 50 in some other countries. All done to confuse us, I’m sure!
The camera included pre-programmed settings for portrait, landscape, night portrait, macro, and sports, despite its simplistic description. Aside from these convenience options, the photographer can select aperture priority, shutter priority, or fully manual mode. Amazing technology for such a basic entry-level camera.
The flash is synchronised at 1/90sec, and the shutter speeds range from 30 seconds to 1/2000 seconds. Aside from the main flash, the camera has a little pop-up flash also.
It was usually sold with the AF kit lens 28-100mm f/3.5-5.6, which I got. It’s a little soft on the edges, but nothing I can’t crop out in Capture One.
Herbert was in charge of overseeing all acquisitions for ARCO Plaza, the newly completed twin 51-story office towers in Los Angeles which served as the new business’s corporate headquarters.
I’ve not written about a photographer for a while, so I chose Herbert Bayer, as he has been on my radar to research for a while. He had an incredibly interesting life, achieved so much and left an amazing legacy. He was an Austrian and American photographer but was also an accomplished graphic designer and architect who lived from April 5, 1900 until September 30, 1985. Until his death in 1985, he was a key figure in the creation of the Atlantic Richfield Company’s corporate art collection. He is not the typical photographer I follow, but his achievements and truly outstanding.
In Linz, Herbert worked as an apprentice to the artist Georg Schmidthammer. He became intrigued by Walter Gropius Bauhaus after leaving the workshop to study at the Darmstadt Artists’ Colony. Walter Gropius appointed Herbert as the director of printing and advertising. Herbert had studied at the Bauhaus for four years under masters such as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and László Moholy-Nagy.
Herbert had devised a clear visual font that used all-lowercase, sans serif typefaces for most of the Bauhaus publications. Several typographers at the time, like Kurt Schwitters and Jan Tschichold, experimented with the design of a streamlined, phonetic-based alphabet. Between 1925 and 1930, Herbert created a geometric sans-serif Proposal for a Universal Typeface, which only existed as a design and was never cast into physical type. These designs are now available as Bayer Universal in digital format.
At the first significant Bauhaus exhibit in Weimar in 1923, Herbert met photographer Irene Bayer-Hecht. They married in 1925, divorced in 1944, and had a daughter, Julia Alexandra in 1928.
Herbert left the Bauhaus in 1928 to become the art director of Vogue’s Berlin bureau. He stayed in Germany for longer than the majority of his colleagues. He developed a booklet for the Deutschland Ausstellung, a tourist show in Berlin during the 1936 Olympic Games, in which he praised life in the Third Reich and Hitler’s rule. However, Herbert’s work was included in the Nazi propaganda exhibition ‘Degenerate Art’ in 1937, prompting him to flee Germany. He travelled extensively through Italy after fleeing Germany.
Joella Synara Haweis, the daughter of poet and Dada artist Mina Loy, married Herbet in 1944. In the same year, he also became a citizen of the United States.
Herbert moved with his family to Aspen, Colorado in 1946. He was hired by industrialist and visionary Walter Paepcke, who promoted skiing as a popular activity. Herbert’s architectural work in Aspen included co-designing the Aspen Institute and rebuilding the Wheeler Opera House, but his commercial posters helped to brand skiing as witty, exciting and glamorous.
He created his ‘fonetik alfabet’, or phonetic alphabet in English in 1959. It had no capital letters and was sans-serif.
Herbert later met an eccentric oilman and visionary ecologist Robert Anderson while living in Aspen. When Anderson arrived in Aspen and spotted Herbets ultra-modern, Bauhaus-inspired home, he strolled up to the front door and introduced himself. It was the start of a long friendship between the two men, and it was the catalyst for Anderson’s insatiable desire to collect contemporary art.
With Anderson’s eventual formation of the Atlantic Richfield Company, and as his personal art collection quickly outgrew his New Mexico ranch and other homes, ARCO soon became the world’s largest corporate art collection, under the critical eye and sharp direction of Herbert.
Herbert was in charge of overseeing all acquisitions for ARCO Plaza, the newly completed twin 51-story office towers in Los Angeles which served as the new business’s corporate headquarters. He was also in charge of developing the ARCO logo and all corporate branding for the company. Anderson also commissioned Herbet to construct a huge sculpture fountain to be put between the dark green granite towers prior to the completion of ARCO Plaza. Anderson loved the name ‘Stairway to Nowhere’, yet he didn’t think the Shareholders would get the joke, so he proposed it be renamed Double Ascension, and it still remains between the twin skyscrapers today.
ARCO’s art collection increased to approximately 30,000 items countrywide during Herbet’s leadership, which was handled by the Atlantic Richfield Company Art Collection staff. ARCO’s collection was eclectic, encompassing a wide range of media and styles, including contemporary and earlier paintings, sculpture, works on paper. It also included signed photographs, as well as tribal and ethnic art from many cultures, as well as historic prints and artefacts, all of which were displayed throughout ARCO’s 60,000 square foot facility.
Sadly Lord Brown, the then-chairman of BP, personally ordered the liquidation of ARCO’s art collection three years after the firm was acquired by BP in 2000. Christie’s and LA Modern Auctions both sold it off.
After his death, Herbert made arrangements for a collection of his paintings to be donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which had been stored in ARCO’s conference centre in Santa Barbara. The pieces had previously been loaned to the Denver Art Museum. In 1979, he was made a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The MIT List Visual Arts Center is one of the many public and private collections where Herbet’s art can be viewed today. Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks, an environmental artwork in Kent, Washington, was developed by Herbert.
Lynda and Stewart Resnick, philanthropists and entrepreneurs, contributed $10 million to the nonprofit Aspen Institute in 2019 to establish a Bayer Center on the Institute’s Aspen Meadows site, which Herbet built. The Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies will have exhibitions, instructional events, and the goal is to give instruments for the preservation and study of Herbert’s work in general.
Its rumoured that a Bronica Medium format camera from the 1960s, was used on the Apollo mission – it can be also converted into a digital camera – not that I can see why you would want to do this. I love the classic analogue look film creates.
I’ve been shooting with 35mm point-and-shoot film cameras for most of my life. I remember as a boy sitting with my dad in his loft, watching him develop his rolls of 35mm film. So I have a long affiliation to film. However, when I had the opportunity to acquire a Bronica, a Medium format camera, which I found in a local Charity shop, I jumped at the chance – for me Medium format is the next obvious step. After all, the image quality of Medium format cameras is a major advantage; whether they are film or digital!
As you may know, the 120 film size has traditionally been used in Medium format photography. It’s much larger than the 35mm film format I grew up with. It is the foundation of modern digital photography today. Similarly, the sensors in Medium format cameras are much larger than the 35mm full-frame standard. One of the other advantages is most older vintage lenses can be made to work on new digital cameras, as a full-frame sensor is roughly the same size as a single frame of 35mm film.
Medium format cameras aren’t just known for their image quality; they’re also known for being ‘system cameras.’ This means instead of a single camera body, they are modular, made up of different pieces. This is what enables the conversion of old obsolete Medium format film cameras to digital. As different lenses, viewfinders and digital-backs can be fixed to most Medium format systems – depending on your preferences. I prefer the waist level prism viewfinder. To me, it adds a more classic and authentic field of view.
While there are certain specialist digital Medium format cameras, such as the Fujifilm GFX 50R, Medium format film cameras can easily be converted into digital cameras. This is done by simply replacing the 120 film magazine on the back with a ‘digital back’; all thanks to their modular construction. This is simply a digital sensor that fits into the space where the film holder used to be.
Its rumoured that a Bronica Medium format camera was used on the Apollo mission – it can be also converted into a digital camera – not that I can see why you would want to do this. I love the classic analogue look film creates.
Some camera manufacturers like Fujifilm, have added more megapixels also, as much as 100MP in some of their models. Fujifilm have even used larger sensors, creating an even greater image resolution. The 51MP GFX50S for example is approximately 1.7x bigger than a full-frame sensor they originally made. You get much bigger and better quality photographs using a Medium or Large format camera, compared to 35mm film.
Images taken using a Medium format camera differ slightly from those captured with a full-frame or a crop sensor camera. Most photographers agree the images look so much better, yet I’m sure the average person just viewing say your holiday snaps would notice little or no difference.
Medium format cameras do have the disadvantage of being big, heavy and sometimes fragile. They also get lots of attention, most times I’m using it someone will approach me, and ask questions about it. One disadvantage, is they do have a much slower burst rate, and less advanced focusing technology. This I understand could be restrictive in some circumstances.
Medium format cameras are mostly used in advertising, portraits and fashion photography. But I use them more for Landscapes, as the slower style of shooting and depth of field, works better for my style, than say faster Street photography. A Medium format camera is used to shoot the bulk of magazine covers today. When working in a studio, image quality is obviously so crucial. A Medium format camera’s image quality, such as its sharpness and depth of field is a massive benefit.
I must stop waffling and dribbling over my passion for Medium format camera. I’ll post some images and write more about my experiences with my Bronica Medium format camera soon.
Fortunately, one of Fujifilm’s goals was to make digital Medium format photography more accessible
Sadly I don’t own a digital Medium format camera. I do however own a Bronica, which is an analogue (film) Medium format camera. Bronica went out of business in the late ’90s, due to the popularity of digital. However both formats produce stunning images; but I appreciate I can’t really compare digital and analogue…..
Fujifilm was a latecomer to the digital Medium format market, yet they have not only caught up with their competition but have established themselves as a front-runner, thanks to their comparatively frequent product launches. Fujifilm’s GFX Medium format system was launched in 2016 with the GFX 50S, and since then, they have released four more versions – way more than any other brand.
Fuji, if you’re reading this, any chance I could borrow one?
Fortunately, one of Fujifilm’s goals was to make digital Medium format photography more accessible and announced their first camera would be available for less than £10,000. However, with the latest GFX 50 S ll body-only priced at just £3500, the secondhand value of their previous models has crashed. This did have a good impact on the Medium format market as a whole, and has made the older Fujifilm bodies particularly affordable; for some! I’m still going to have to stick with my X-series cameras!
Fujifilm has two options really, a 50MP or 100MP model. If 50MP is sufficient, you can choose between a DSLR-style body in the S series or a flat-topped rangefinder-style in the GFX 50R. To put this into perspective, my X-Pro 3 is ‘only’ 26MP. In either case, you’ll get a Medium format camera with current menus and none of the lags or sluggishness that most other used Medium format cameras have. Whether you choose 50MP or 100MP, you’ll get superb image quality, as well as amazing and varied colour adjustments that allow so many Fujifilm photographers to shoot JPEG-only.
Fujifilm GFX50R is perhaps the best Medium format camera for the money. I like its size, small lens and the fact it has a flip-out back screen. Something the X-Pro3 does not have. Let’s also not forget the 3.69 million-dot viewfinder. Some say the autofocus isn’t as fast or as accurate as more recent models, and the sensor’s read-out speed makes the silent mode unworkable for fast-moving subjects, but the image quality looks excellent and the camera is, like all Fujifilm cameras, simple to use.
As enticing as the GFX 100’s 100MP is, the GFX 50R looks like my favourite among the versions most likely to appear on the secondhand market right now. I appreciate the interchangeable viewfinders and handling of the GFX 50S, but the GFX 50R’s smaller proportions make it a better fit for my street, travel, documentary style of photography. One of the biggest reasons I got an X-E4 as a backup to my X-Pro3. The GFX is also well-suited to studio work and pretty much any other type of photography really; albeit its flat top means it doesn’t look as stylish as the GFX-50s. I hope that makes sense?
The Shinkodo Works built its first handmade Bronica prototype in June 1956
If you follow me on one of my social media sites, you’ll know how excited I was when I discovered an old Bronica Medium format camera in a local charity shop.
Zenza Bronica was based in Tokyo, Japan, and was a maker of vintage Medium-format film cameras and photographic equipment. In the Medium-format camera market, their single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras competed with the likes of Pentax, Hasselblad, Mamiya and others.
Originally the Zenza Bronica name had been a popular Japanese luxury goods brand. They specialised in the production of decorated personal accessories, such as metal cigarette lighters and cosmetic compacts and watches. This was way before the introduction of the first of what would become a dynasty of Zenza Bronica cameras in 1959.
For many years, Bronicas were the workhorse photographic film cameras used by professional photographers until overtaken by digital photography. Bronica cameras are still widely used by both professional and advanced amateurs today. The 120 size film is also still being made, owing to its superior image quality, compared to smaller 35mm films.
Zenzabur Yoshino, the company’s founder and source of the Zenza Bronica brand name, was the third son of a Japanese rice trader family. From an early age, Yoshino had enormous respect for the technology used by other world-famous camera manufacturers, such as Leica, Contax and Rollei. Yoshino dreamt of creating a high-precision interchangeable single-lens reflex modular camera system, using his own design. This was partly due to his fascination and increasing frustration with the limitations of the cameras produced at the time. Yoshino’s dream would require a significant investment, which he self-funded, using his family’s transportation business. His passion for photography started with the opening of a modest camera store in Tokyo’s Kanda area. Yoshino’s camera business, as well as his extensive knowledge of premium foreign equipment, was a major hit with Japanese photography aficionados. They bought and sold luxury Leica and Contax cameras – these were also popular with US Army servicemen stationed in Japan after WWII. This provided the financial foundation for his business.
Yoshino authorised the Shinkodo Works to commence research and development of the Bronica prototype camera on January 17, 1952.
The prototype was a ‘Yoshino Flex’, a modular camera. The Shinkodo Works built its first handmade prototype in June 1956, and by the time Yoshino’s eighth prototype camera was perfected in October 1958, the development costs had topped 200 million Yen, a massive sum at the time! The final prototype, known as the Bronica Z film camera and bearing the name ‘ZENZA BRONICA’, debuted at the Philadelphia Camera Show in March 1959. It received incredible reviews by industry press, leaving a long-lasting impression of being the world’s best camera. The Bronica Z modular camera system, later renamed the Zenza Bronica D and successor Bronica’s, were instant successes in the deluxe camera market worldwide. They used large Medium format film and high-quality Nikkor lenses supplied by the then Japan Optical Industries Ltd. The Bronica D was Japan’s first response to the Swedish Hasselblad cameras, outperforming them in key technological areas.
Bronica’s design success attracted famous professional photograohers, from the photographic world, including Burt Keppler, who met with Yoshino. Bronica did later develop their own optics and lens modules, including Seiko shutters in later camera designs, and owned the international patent rights.
Bronica was eventually acquired by the lens manufacturer Tamron Ltd. Bronica’s optical lens manufacturing was highlighted in 1998. Tamron released the RF645 rangefinder camera under the Bronica label in May 2000. Between June 2002 and December 2004, Tamron discontinued the brand’s single-lens reflex camera models (ETRSi, SQ-Ai, SQ-B, and GS-1) due to a loss of market share to digital photography and digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras.
Sadly Bronica’s final model, the RF645 rangefinder camera, was withdrawn in September 2005, therefore ending the brand’s existence.
The build quality is actually very good, remember it was only £70.
I have always been a bit of a glass snob, preferring Fujifilm’s lenses, or other prestigious brands like Voigtlander. However, with an almost endless stream of inexpensive third party lenses for Fujifilm cameras coming on the market, I thought I should swallow my pride and try one. So when I spotted the 7artisans 50mm f/1.8 lens on Amazon for less than £70 (about $95) I knew it wasn’t really the biggest gamble of my life!
The 7artisans 50mm f/1.8 is a manual prime lens, which on a Fujifilm X series camera is the equivalent to about 75mm full-frame. It’s very small, not quite a pancake lens. It does not need an adapter, which was something that appealed to me.
The build quality is actually very good, remember it was only £70. The focus ring is very smooth, but it does lack a ratchet-like aperture ring that clicks; something I dislike. But over time, I actually got used to it. The images had an amazing bokeh, created by the 12 circular blades I guess. I kept asking myself, if I didn’t know it was only £70, or had a different badge on it, would I have been so critical?
The lens is a little soft around the f/1.8 and f/2 mark, but it sharpens up a lot when I stopped down. Again, I think I’m looking for faults because of its price, but actually, it’s quite a sharp lens. There is some vignetting at all apertures, which I like, especially when I’m trying to create that ‘film like’ look to my images. I’ve yet to experience any flaring or chromatic aberrations but have not used it in harsh light. But….. I do struggle to focus quickly with this manual lens. I’m sure with practise I’d get faster. Also when photographing subjects more than say 8 meters away, I get home to find a lot of the shots are out of focus; but that could just be me. But, I keep telling myself, it only cost £70! So for me, the only two downsides are the lack of a clickable aperture ring, and focusing at a distance is a struggle.
This 7artisans 50mm f/1.8 is for £70 incredibly good value for money. If like me you’re used to shooting film on vintage lenses, you will be blown away by its quality and value for money. Is the Fujifilm lens better, yes, but this lens is around £330 cheaper than the Fujifilm F2, and I can guarantee most people looking at your images will never notice the difference.
A self-taught photographer, his first professional job was as an apprentice to Harper’s Bazaar photographer Tom Kublin.
Gian Paolo Barbieri (or Giampaolo Barbieri) is an Italian fashion photographer, he was born in born 1938.
Barbieri was born in the Via Mazzini in Milan, where his father operated a department shop. In the mid-1950s, he took part in amateur dramatics, founding “The Trio” with friends. At an early age, he was fascinated by cinema, and he photographed models in Rome in the 1960s, part of the social scene depicted in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita in 1960.
A self-taught photographer, his first professional job was as an apprentice to Harper’s Bazaar photographer Tom Kublin, who died twenty days after Kublin was hired. Vogue Italia, the Italian fashion magazine founded in 1965, featured Barbieri’s photos in 1963. Barbieri has also shot for Vogue in the U.S. and in France.
Barbieri had to choose the finest location for his shots and construct the haircuts, make-up, and jewellery. A good example of this is earrings constructed from table tennis balls painted in mother-of-pearl colours.
A few years later, Barbieri began working closely with ready-to-wear fashion designers. Seine collaborative partnership with Walter Albini led to an appreciation of stylists’ roles, and Barbieri’s collaboration with the fashion designer Valentino was responsible for many of the breakthroughs in modern fashion ad campaigns. Veruschka, Mirella Petteni, Jerry Hall and Audrey Hepburn are some of the models Barbieri has photographed. For Armani, Versace, and Ferré as well as Dolce & Gabbana, Pomellato, and Giuseppe Zanotti, Barbieri has worked as a fashion designer and stylist.
Barbieri became a travel photographerl in the 1990s. Barbieri’s work was exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Kunstforum in Vienna, curated by fashion photographer David Bailey.
Unlike most digital photographers, Barbieri does not alter his shots after taking them. A Reflex Voigtländer 35mm was one of his first cameras. Italian magazine Biancamano gave him the Biancamano Prize as Best Photographer for 1968. The German fashion magazine “Stern” listed him as one of its 14 best worldwide fashion photographers for 1978.