Throughout the 20 years of my work as a documentary photographer I have used many tools to help me create stories about people, places or events that were happening within a certain socio-political background. For over a year now, along with a group of committed photographers I have been a part of the A-P-P (Archive of Public Protests) platform which collects images related to the escalation of protests in Poland after 2015. The archive takes a stand and provides a critical commentary on political decisions taken in recent years, which discriminate against various social groups, violate the constitution and the very foundations of a democratic state. It is a type of photography situated somewhere on the borderline between journalism and activism, it is not, however, trying to be objective. Photography in connection with the activity of civic movements, institutions and activists can be a tool of social change. Its persuasive nature can support the transformation process, stimulate a public debate and – ultimately – have an impact on political decisions. The reporter’s form of expression that I use in my A-P-P activities is based on a simple, easily accessible, figurative visual code.
With each new project I take on I try to fine-tune the tools as well as my visual language so as to best fit the project’s character and subject. On the one hand I try not to pay special attention to technological issues, on the other hand I am aware how the chosen tool could affect my working methods and the final form of expression. After many years of using large and medium format analogue cameras I began looking for a digital equivalent that would give me comfort of working in a variety of conditions.
The documentary nature of my work calls for mobility and compact organization of my gear. And the scope of uses for my gear is vast. While documenting the events related to political and social tensions in Poland, I am physically very close to protesters, therefore I often find myself in situations which are dynamic, unpredictable and at times even dangerous. Protesters clashing with the police, spontaneous escapes from police cordons or even the mere presence of a photographer in the crowd – all these call for an ability to react quickly and necessitate a certain minimalism in terms of a photography gear.
GFX 50R and GFX100S models serve those requirements perfectly. The fast-paced environment I work in often makes it difficult to precisely control the frame, and that is why I really appreciate the high resolution of the image, which allows me to obtain good quality files, even during radical image cropping. Thanks to a high resolution of captured images I am able to precisely reproduce details: gestures relevant for the captured moment or facial expressions of protesting people. The high-resolution imaging sensor of GFX100s perfectly fits those criteria. Moreover, in situations like that you should always hold the camera firmly in the hand, which is made possible by a very ergonomic hand-grip, especially on Fujifilm GFX100S. Another great advantage of GFX50R and GFX100S is their size. Both models are perfect replacements for portable large-frame analogue cameras I have been using so far. They are perfect for documentary work and in some circumstances they can handle fast reporter’s tasks. The GFX100S’s ergonomics is a really big improvement over the GFX50R. Fujifilm GFX50R has that quick menu access button located right under the thumb. Accidentally pressed, it can trigger unwanted changes in camera settings, thus interrupting the workflow and causing quite an inconvenience to a photographer while shooting. In the GFX100S that quick menu access button under a thumb has been removed and in addition to a well shaped hand grip, these changes really improved the overall camera ergonomics. I think it is one of the best camera body modifications in comparison to the GFX 50R.
Another commendable feature of both GFX 50R and GFX100s models are their tilt-screens. Perfect color reproduction, precise white balance adjustment in Live View mode and an ability to view the monitor from different perspectives and angles made me stop using the electronic viewfinder. In my opinion the image quality offered by EVFs is still insufficient compared to camera LCD monitors. A very important function of the LCD VIEW ONLY mode I often use is the option to disable the exposure preview, which proves especially handy in poor lighting conditions.
Another great feature of GFX cameras besides a large imaging sensor and a compact, ergonomic body, is the multidirectional tilting ability of the LCD monitor. Especially the LCD screen on the GFX100S, which additionally introduced the vertical axis tilt (for vertical shots), provides me with greater working flexibility and significantly enhances the ergonomics of shooting.
The Live View mode, although draining the battery faster, allows me to maintain eye contact with the subjects of my photographs. It is crucial, given the nature of my work. I can observe events taking place in front of the camera lens without being constrained to the frame of the viewfinder and quickly react to what is happening near the edges of the frame or even outside of it. Moreover, the fact that I don’t hold the camera close to the eye, eliminates, to some extent, the barrier between the photographer and the photographed person.
Whatever the conditions I work in, documenting events or shooting static landscapes, the speed and precision of the autofocus are among the most crucial features that translate to work comfort. Both of the large format Fujifilm cameras, the GFX 50R and the GFX100S which I have used so far perform very well in that regard, while the latter has a greatly improved focusing ability, which is especially useful when photographing street protests.
Compact build, portability, high image resolution and ease of use provided by GFX series cameras mean that I can solely concentrate on my creative expression, not hampered by technological complications. This is why I am so delighted to have discovered the design improvements of GFX100S over the GFX 50R model which I have been using for over two years now.