7 minute read

A Dose of Nostalgia

The XF33mmF1.4 R LM WR offers street photographer, Derek Fahsbender, an alternate view – and finally helped him fall in love with the perfect 50mm focal length

Derek Fahsbender takes no time at all when asked what first inspired his passion for street photography. “New York City,” he exclaims.

“I grew up nearby and we spent a lot of time in the city. There was always a romanticism to the grittiness of it, and my mother never hid us away from that.”

Derek has more than just exposure to a vibrant lifestyle to thank his mother for. She’d take photos on special occasions, sparking his fascination for immortalizing moments.

“We had endless albums and shoeboxes full of 4×6 photos, all of me and my siblings. Being the middle of eight kids, many details of my childhood were lost in the mix – but looking at those prints was the easiest way for me to remember things. I’ve always loved the feeling of nostalgia,” Derek effuses.

His approach to image making does differ to his mother’s, though. And that of many other photographers, for that matter.

“Everyone refers to Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment. It’s the split-second that everything comes together, and that’s what you capture. Well, a lot of my work has been framed around the opposite – these fleeting, everyday moments that we forget.

“Over the years, I’ve discovered ways to bring feeling to these scenes,” Derek says. “You’re not just looking at an image, you’re having an experience.”

Much of his work comes down to a unique fusion of two distinct aspects: recalling every single memory, and the random nature of New York street life.

But there’s another unusual detail in Derek’s method – and it’s one that relies entirely on his tools.

“I was walking yesterday and saw a perfect moment. An older lady in the doorway of a restaurant, lit with this gorgeous, directional red and yellow light, matching her outfit,” Derek tells us.

“I thought, if I had a telephoto lens, I could just get the frame right here and now. But then I considered my approach and started questioning what makes images interesting to me. More often than not, it’s intimacy.

“I need connection in my process, whatever kind it may be. Standing five feet from someone and taking their portrait – there’s an innate emotion to that. If you can document anything of that from across a street, it’s not related to a shared experience as an image maker and a subject.”

In light of this meaningful process, it’s no surprise that Derek has opted almost exclusively for wide-angle lenses in the past.

“I had a phase where I’d work in a 24mm equivalent focal length and make portraits right in people’s faces – with their permission – because it was such an interesting perspective. For the most part, though, I’ve always been a 35mm equivalent fan. The FUJINON XF23mmF2 R WR didn’t leave my X-Pro3 for a very long time.

“It’s funny now,” Derek laughs, “but I always thought 50mm was a boring focal length. For me, it was never wide enough to fit in all of the environment I needed – and wasn’t long enough to give that interesting, compressed look. I saw it as an in-betweener that didn’t belong. How wrong I was!”

His interest was piqued by the XF35mmF1.4 R, a lens with a now legendary reputation, thanks to characterful rendering. But it wasn’t until he laid hands on this new addition – with its perfect 50mm equivalence – that Derek began enthusiastically using the focal length. It’s fair to say it was a hard-earned feat.

“When I got the XF33mmF1.4, I wanted to see if I could make frames that convey what the rest of my body of work does. That was the ultimate test.

“Of course, anytime you’re working on a project like this, you’re seeing what the lens can do. You want to get great images, but also really push it,” Derek continues. “I photographed wide open in low light most of the time.

“The out-of-focus parts of my images are always just as important as the in-focus areas. With a lens that can go so wide open and create such a shallow depth-of-field, they might even be more important. It’s all about the soft falloff, the shapes, the colors, and the way they marry together to frame the subject. This lens did it all beautifully.”

With such a keen eye for the detail of life, it’s no surprise that Derek was also enamored by the XF33mmF1.4 R LM WR’s massive resolving power.

“I often have a baseline of ISO 800 in daylight, and it stretches as high as ISO 10,000 at night,” he explains. “They’re not optimal conditions, and that’s when you really need a lens to have integrity. Even in these challenging circumstances, it produces an exceptionally clean image. It’s so nice to have freedom with your settings.”

Woman sitting on New York city rooftop with flock of birds behind

Photo 2021 © Derek Fahsbender | FUJIFILM X-T4 camera and XF33mmF1.4 R LM WR lens, 1/8000 sec at F1.8, ISO 160

Derek is a fan of the XF35mmF1.4’s bold character, but finds its new, shorter counterpart just a little more suited to his needs. He pictures a very broad appeal, too.

“The XF35mmF1.4’s imperfections were beautiful, and it does retain some of that magic – just in an even more technically sound form. It has a special look, but offers technical chops that put it on par with the very best lenses of today.

“You won’t find autofocus this quick and quiet in a character lens and, again, the resolution is so high, but in a very natural way. I’d say it’s almost a film-like sharpness, rather than something clinical and digitized. It has to be seen to be believed.

“Weather-resistance is another huge factor for me, because I love to make photos in the high drama of wind and rain,” Derek continues. “But, while the challenges of the street have certainly proved the lens’s worth, I can see it excelling anywhere thanks to technical sharpness. Creators rely on these elements much more with product photography, weddings, lifestyle, portraits, and beyond.”

All in all, the XF33mmF1.4 R LM WR has sparked a real love affair between Derek and what is, perhaps, the world’s most adored focal length.

“I wanted to feel the magic that everyone else experiences at 50mm. And I did! It was a beautiful change in my work, especially after a year of no photographic intimacy. It was nice to use a lens that’s made to get slightly closer than my typical wide-angle. I feel like it’s the perfect standard-length lens for seizing every moment in life, and I’ve never felt that way before.”

FUJINON XF33mmF1.4 R LM WR is coming soon to your nearest FUJIFILM Authorized Dealer. Learn more and read the full specifications here.

Find out more about Derek’s creative process and his experiences with the lens in this exclusive behind-the-scenes video!