29.03.2023 Alex Frederickson

Double Vision

Alex Frederickson

Alex Frederickson is a self-taught artistic and documentary photographer who was born and raised in the UK to German speaking parents and now lives in the mountains of Austria.

As a former psychiatric nurse, she has a real love for her fellow human beings and a deep interest in real life with no contrivance.

When the laws surrounding photographing strangers on the street were tightened, Alex began to express herself via the anonymity of intentional camera movement (ICM) and in-camera multiple exposure (ME) and developed a fascination with presenting an alternative view of reality. As Alex is hearing impaired, her perception of the world is already based on how something feels and what began as necessity, soon became her passion. She views her Fujifilm cameras as an extension of her creative self, allowing her to take the physical representation of a scene and turn it into visual poetry, be it the shimmering dance of ICM, the mystery of ME or detailed and in-the-moment everyday life.

Alex’s artistic prints adorn the walls of homes and businesses from Salzburg to Sacramento and Feet Under the Seat, the book she published in 2022, which tells the stories of strangers on a train during the coronavirus lockdown of 2020 via photos of their feet, is in its second print run.

Alex loves to share her knowledge and view of the world with others via workshops and interviews and has been a guest on The FujiCast and The Photowalk.

Extending beyond the boundaries of a single frame, Alex Frederickson has discovered beauty and meaning in multiple exposures. Now, she guides fellow image makers towards a space where technique and artistry meet

Upon first glance, Alex Frederickson’s double exposures may appear to be familiar depictions of life, but closer inspection reveals a great deal of depth. Within her frames, details intersect in impossible, dreamlike ways, individuals are frozen in a liminal existence, and the world itself appears mirrored. Multiple exposures are more fascinating still – impressionistic and filled with sharp abstractions.

Like many journeys, Alex’s path to artistic fulfilment was not without tribulation. Born of adversity, her images stand testament to the power of growth. Beauty can overcome hardship.

“When I moved to Austria, I began teaching English, and eventually wrote a book about my experience as a psychiatric nurse in the UK,” she begins. “In 2015, when refugees began flooding in from Syria and Afghanistan, I became involved – and a number of magazines asked me to write about those experiences.

City rooftops in Salzburg, Austria | Photo 2023 © Alex Frederickson | Average | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

“Some people were very much against the refugees’ presence here, and soon a lot of that hatred was directed at me personally. It plunged me into a hole. Writing had always been my fallback – my way to express how I was feeling – but suddenly I was unable to write a single word.

“I’d made a few images to accompany articles, so I had a little old DSLR. I decided to pick this camera up and take it into the forest. It was the first time I’d ever created photographs for the sake of it,” Alex continues. “I was in such a state when I got there that I thought I would explode with anxiety. But, with every shutter click, I found myself relaxing a little bit, so I stayed in the forest for an hour and a half. I found myself asking, why have I never done this before? And that’s how, as I always say, I didn’t find photography – it found me.”

Quickly, Alex discovered the perfect means to expand her knowledge of manual settings, in the form of FUJIFILM X-T2.

Wooden memorial plaque built upon by a snowy landscape scene | Photo 2023 © Alex Frederickson | Bright | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

“All the essential controls are on the camera body, not in the camera’s menu settings, so I began exploring what happens if I move the shutter speed here and the ISO there. For a while, I was photographing the scenery around me, but I knew that street photography, or more specifically people, were my real interest.”

Multiple exposures, like her broader photography, took a place in Alex’s life after tragedy. Following the death of her beloved dog, Alex looked out upon an uncertain world.

“I took my camera and went to the station in Salzburg. As I looked around, I didn’t feel things were distorted like intentional camera movement – the world was clear, but all over the place. I questioned how to depict that feeling, then remembered my camera was capable of multiple exposures. Honestly, I’d never been interested in the technique before, but I created an image of the train tracks crossing over right there. When you look at it, you realise people are waiting for a train that can never arrive.”

Naturally, multiple exposures are more technical than a single frame – but not dauntingly so. Within X Series bodies, the process is intuitive. While at the SHOOTING SETTING menu, select MULTI EXPOSURE then choose a blend mode. It’s the first of a few significant choices.

Neukirchen am Grossvenediger, Austria. Afternoon sun on a tree trunk, combined with man walking through a darker part of the forest | Photo 2023 © Alex Frederickson | Dark | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

“There’s a choice of Additive, Average, Dark and Bright. It’s all about light,” Alex explains. “You can combine a maximum of nine photos. In Additive mode, light will just be added and added. It’s a difficult mode, because you have to underexpose each frame a lot to get anything usable.

“In Dark mode, you start with a bright background, then any darker sections of subsequent frames will overlay that heavily. Bright mode is the opposite – it prioritises lighter areas of the frames over any dark sections.

“With Average, the camera will automatically give you a nice balanced image. One thing to consider, though, is that all the layers will show. Nothing is blocked out. All you need to do is make sure the image isn’t too busy, so it’s a good mode to start with.

“Whatever you choose, stick with it for an hour or more. You’ll begin to look for – and find – subjects that complement your mode, which is far better than being pulled in four possible directions,” Alex adds.

City rooftops in Salzburg, Austria. I am careful to show the sky with no overlaps in order to retrain some semblance of order and make the viewer look more closely | Photo 2023 © Alex Frederickson | Average | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

Thankfully, typical photographic considerations remain constant through multiple exposures. Alex’s detailed street scenes demand aperture priority, to create a deep depth-of-field. FUJIFILM Film Simulations are also beneficial, as ever.

“Another technique I use is a larger number of exposures,” the photographer continues, noting a second important consideration. “At a location like Salzburg’s Getreidegasse, there’s a wall of people – a mass of bodies. Individuals aren’t even visible any more. To reflect that, I’ll find a nice composition and make up to nine almost imperceptibly different exposures. They’re chaotic, but when you look closely, you can see every individual detail is sharp.”

Alex is in tune with her vision, but experimentation – particularly with such a refined technique – is the only way to develop. There’s no substitute, though final practical tips may help avoid hard lessons.

The bustling Getreidegasse in Salzburg’s old town, busy from morning to night much of the year | Photo 2023 © Alex Frederickson | Average | FUJIFILM X-T4 and FUJINON XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

“If I could go back to that very first outing, I’d create a backup,” she concludes. “If you photograph NORMAL+RAW, the camera will combine the images to give you a JPEG output, but all the individual exposures that built that JPEG will still be there.

“I would also advise ensuring your camera’s AUTO POWER OFF mode is set to OFF, so that in-between the base and any subsequent exposures, there’s no time pressure. Yes, I need more spare batteries than I would otherwise, but that’s better than rushing the creative process.

“Truthfully, there’s nothing I wish I’d learnt earlier because I never want to stop learning. To me, it’s all a process. Let’s keep trying new things. I don’t want a shortcut to anything, the process gets you where you want to be.”