12.08.2022 David Geffin

Ecstatic Truths

David Geffin

My approach to both still and moving imagery is based on capturing the motion and emotion of the world around us. The moments that interest me most are the in-between instances, the fractional split seconds we often don’t see, let alone think about, or pay attention to.  

My strength lies in my eye, my vision and my ability to craft visual media that tells the story you want to tell.

I feel very honored and fortunate to work with a mix of amazing commercial, editorial, industry and private clients. 

For David Geffin, the honest and the manufactured are intimately linked – and there’s magic in the way these worlds connect

David Geffin’s portfolio is an impressively realized collection of photo and film. Awash with a wealth of styles and genres, it’s tied together with startling precision and beautifully conceptual designs. Peruse these pieces and you’ll encounter gorgeous fashion editorials, somber black & white street snaps, branded commercial work, and remarkable portraiture. It’s a dramatic anthology that spans the course of ten years, brimming with content that only an unfettered passion could create. Defining a primary approach proves tricky when dealing with such an assortment, but as we settle into an early evening Zoom call, an eloquent synopsis kick-starts the conversation.

“Candid beauty,” David remarks. “That’s what I always aim for.”

Heading up behind-the-scenes videos for our recent X-H2S launch, David worked tirelessly to deliver an insider’s glimpse into the nuts-and-bolts tenets of a typical Fujifilm project. Part-documentarian, part-DP – he’s an adept practitioner, but professional concerns aren’t the only things that stir and motivate this talented cineaste.

“I would categorize myself as a cinematographer – that’s largely what I do,” he clarifies. “But I’m also an avid stills photographer. Most of my work has been defined by that crossover.

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 and XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/50 sec at F4, ISO 800

Photo 2022 © John Haggerty | FUJIFILM X-T4 and XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/450 sec at F2.8, ISO 2000

“These days, I’m largely focused on video productions, highlighting the creativity of certain Fujifilm talent, and how new tools can facilitate and unlock potential. I want to tell stories, and get to the heart of their emotionality.”

For the past decade, a substantial chunk of David’s time has been concentrated in the fashion world. Documenting esteemed events and luxurious catwalks, he’s produced a breadth of high-end commercials, mesmeric in their implementation. On first glance, the imagery seizes – but peel back the superficial veneer and you’re left with the crux of David’s true objectives.

“I’m trying to find what lies beneath. I worked with those models to elicit genuine emotion – whether that’s laughter, flirtation, fun. Conceptualizing authentic frames is what I really enjoy. It’s why I entered this business.”

Referring to his New York start-up, David’s company is a successful enterprise in its own right, but ten years ago, the picture wasn’t so clear.

Following a year-long sabbatical from his London-based consulting firm, David decided to incorporate Geffin Media – a modest brainchild he’d been kicking around for a long time – on a whim. Traveling across the world with his then-wife, he observed a lack of fulfilment from the corporate world, and how a dearth of artistic engagement had stifled his true calling.

Photo 2022 © John Haggerty | FUJIFILM X-H2S and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/480 sec at F2.8, ISO 2500

Photo 2022 © John Haggerty | FUJIFILM X-H2S and XF18-120mmF4 LM PZ WR, 1/70 sec at F4, ISO 2500

“Until that point, my professional life had never been about the creative industries,” he remembers. “That year of backpacking allowed me to properly evaluate where I was headed. For all the clichés people associate with America, the ‘land of opportunity’ was a stereotype that proved true in my case. I was supercharged with this idea of setting up a photography and video production business, and it was here that I eventually found it.”

What began in a cramped Queens bedroom has transformed into a fully realized ambition. In a career of creative peaks and achievements, helming components of this X-H2S rollout was yet another highlight in David’s growing roster of accomplishments. A range of exciting creatives were recorded as they fashioned a hodgepodge of photo and video projects, logged by the watchful eye of David’s ever-present lens.

“I’m so grateful that I got to connect with such an amazing bunch. We’ve crafted something that’s meaningful, shining a light on those photographers and filmmakers who are emerging, yet haven’t had many opportunities to demonstrate their voices. Raising people up – that’s the goal. Underdog stories… I think they resonate with me most, because of how far I’ve come.”

Studiously constructed, X-H2S focuses the mind – fostering a deliberateness that relies on instinctive thinking. Compelled to intuit events in fractions of a second, David found himself deliberating why he creates images the way he does. This was a fantastic opportunity to figure out a question that had plagued and troubled him: just what exactly defined his style of featurette filmmaking, and would it perform in this context?

“I was contacted by Fujifilm’s Electronic Imaging Division last year. We spoke extensively about this release schedule, and the best way to manage the BTS materials. I was nervous, but I think that was just a demonstration of how much I cared.

“We agreed on an emotion-first approach… constructing the films around nuanced interplay. It had to be humanistic, and the narratives had to come first. It was here that I started thinking back to some of my earliest inspirations.

  • A man in a raincoat aims his camera at something out of frame
  • A man stands with a camera in a dusty field

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 and XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR, 1/200 sec at F2.8, ISO 800 | Photo 2022 © John Stambaugh | FUJIFILM X-H2S and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/100 sec at F2.8, ISO 800

“As a youngster, I’d watch movies, wondering what it would be like to get involved in building them. That was my dream – working in the visual medium, particularly with regards to filmmaking.

“Steven Spielberg was massive at the time. ET moved me to tears, and Jaws had such a visceral impact on my life. Being drawn into that story-centric, emotive universe was something I really enjoyed. Now, I’m the one eliciting responses for an audience, but creating the same sensations that roused my childhood self, all the way back then.”

X-H2S may be a hybrid camera, but its motion capabilities take precedent. Video is its most integral functionality, so this body was perfectly suited for David’s film-first interests.

“Being able to create various flavors of internal ProRes is crazy – especially for such a small, mirrorless rig. I did all of the color grading for these videos in Resolve, and the dynamic range was really impressive,” he says. “I didn’t run any noise reduction whatsoever. I just didn’t think we needed to – even in low light.

“The color science is insane, as are the 14.5 stops with F-Log 2. You end up with these amazing, high-quality pictures. It’s a misconception to think that you’ll need to engage in extensive post-production. You just have to make sure you’re exposing for shadows. The X-H2S is very filmic in that sense.

“All in all, it’s just a beautiful system. The condition of the image is fantastic, and when you pair that with good glass, it’s honestly superb.”

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 and XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/400 sec at F4, ISO 800

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 and XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/50 sec at F4, ISO 800

Using MKX 18-55mm and MKX 50-135mm, an improved rolling shutter made all the difference when operating in fast-paced environments, as did superior AF resources. Incessantly moving into different positions, David needed a system to allay his technical worries, but also enable the application of what mattered most: the implementation of his original vision.

“You want equipment that will do the heavy lifting for you, especially if you’re a solo operator on the move. It’s incredibly important, because it permits you to focus on what really counts – your artistic intentions. With this camera, there’s less of that jello effect when panning about in quick spurts. The autofocus is also really good. I didn’t detect any blurriness, or loss of overall quality.

“I don’t often use telephoto or wider zooms, but these lenses are fantastic. They gave us comprehensive coverage for absolutely everything.”

Filmmaking is subjectivity. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or documentary – the imprint of the artist is lastingly cast in the structure. In his 2010 essay, ‘On the Absolute, the Sublime, and Ecstatic Truth’, famed director Werner Herzog berated those bothered with ‘objective’ styles of documentary. For him, such a concept doesn’t exist. Instead, a superior method endures – one just as exciting and enthralling as the likes of David Geffin’s beloved blockbuster heroes. 

“The director or creator is coming from a particular place, even when it’s a light touch,” David concludes. “Like Herzog said, why shouldn’t this format pull on the heartstrings, or evoke emotion? That was my goal here, and it was X-H2S that helped me realize it.”

Photo 2022 © John Stambaugh | FUJIFILM X-H2S and XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, 1/100 sec at F2.8, ISO 800